A Christmas sermon: Mary, the mother of the Saviour. God’s mothering something bigger in you

Many pastors use the Bible as a springboard to leap into their seeker-driven cesspool of self. In the next three posts, I discuss three of these sermons, two of which come from Chris Rosebrough’s podcast “Fighting for the Faith,” and the third from one I heard in a church a little while ago. Here is the first one from Kory Cassell. I give verbatim highlights. My comments appear in square brackets. The sermon begins after the first hour of the podcast (“A sound membrane is bulging,” December 14, 2014).

Cassell’s text for the sermon is Luke 1:26 – 33:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, fyou will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and gyou shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God iwill give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

At minute 15 of his podcast, Rosebrough gives a foretaste of Kory Cassell’s sermon entitled “Name your Nazareth.”

Rosebrough – With a name like that [for a sermon] there is no way to rescue the sermon. It’s not going to be an exegesis but a narcigesis, reading your own self into the biblical text, which is pretty much what we’ve heard from every seeker-driven “Christmas”sermon we have heard on “Fighting for the Faith.” [There are hundreds of these on “Fighting for the Faith”].

The sermon begins at the one-hour mark. I start at minute 19 into in the sermon. [Cassell’s key word is “send” (Greek apostolo). His message is that every Christian is an apostolo, is sent. How does that fit into the text he is using? And what are Christians sent to do?]

Cassell – My father has sent me on a mission. [Using his earthly father as a springboard to his heavenly Father].

Rosebrough – What has this got to do with the Christmas story. Let’s take a look again at the text he is preaching from Luke 1:26. [Rosebrough quotes the text]. Who is this about? The arrival of none other than the Son of David, the King, Jesus, the Messiah… the one whom we should be listening to. And you’re focusing on the Greek word apostolo (send), and now you’re changing from [the text] being about Jesus to we’re all to have a special sending from God and all be purpose-driven. The purpose of pastors is to preach the word.

Cassell – When it says that you’re sent, it comes with certain things implied there. The first thing is that there is a purpose, everybody say purpose [garbled “*&$$$£”]. What is my purpose? …When you have a purpose, you are sent. Say purpose [“$%$$£$%$^”]. This implies there is a choice. Everybody say choice [“C3$*@S”]. As human beings we do have free will …”

Rosebrough – Actually no. The scriptures say that when it comes to the things of God we are born dead in trespasses and sins. God is the one who makes us alive.” [He quotes Ephesians 2] “

[1] And you were dead in 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 whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so 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 a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We are born, says Rosebrough, with a bound will [Luther’s “Bondage of the will”], no free will [to choose Christ].”

Cassell – When I get up in the morning, God has sent me with a purpose to serve my community. Am I going to go? There’s a purpose, there’s a choice, say choice [“^&%$$”]. God the creator of the universe has sent you to your family, to your workplace… My Father believed in me, he trusted me.

Rosebrough – So God believed in us. Isn’t the call of scripture for us to believe and trust in Christ? All this is based on his bunny trail of the word “sent.” He’s not actually exegeting the text at all.

Cassell – And there is something about knowing that the creator of the universe believes in you and he trusted that you are capable.

Rosebrough – Where in scripture does it explicitly say that God believed in you. [Nowhere. Where does it say so implicitly? Also, zilch].

Cassell – The first thing we see here [in Luke 1] is that Gabriel was sent. We serve a sending God. Everybody say sent [“s£%$$$”]. He was sent to a village of Nazareth. Everybody say Nazareth [“£%^*()£££$”]… Nazareth was overlooked, nobody looked at it… undervalued, insignificant. God sent Gabriel to this insignificant place. This raises the question: “What place in our lives…what is that space in your life that feels insignificant, overlooked and undervalued?

Rosebrough – NO! This is not how you read the Bible. This is not about you. It’s not about God sending your undervalued, insignificant Nazareth in your life. This is the story of the announcement and the birth of the saviour of the world.

Cassell– The first thing we have to do if we want to find God’s favor is to name our Nazareth.

Rosebrough – Was that how Mary was able to find God’s favor? What kind of nonsense is this?

Cassell – God sent Gabriel to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, say Nazareth [“%£££%$$$”], to Mary. He said “Greetings oh favoured one. You have found favour. Everybody say favour [“Flavour” or something?].

Rosebrough – She found favour long before the angel showed up.

Cassell – Where did Mary find favor? In [Audience pips Cassell – “*^z££$$*^@!”]. In Nazareth. An overlooked and undervalued place. That is where Mary found favor.

Rosebrough – Was it because she was in Nazareth or was it because she found faith? Hebrews 11 says, without faith it is impossible to please God.

Cassell – So where do we find favor? In Nazareth.

Rosebrough – We find favour in Christ.

Cassell – He [Gabriel] said “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” What does that tell us? What God wants to do in you and through you is so much bigger… [Bigger than what God has done through Mary – conceiving the Messiah, God made flesh!]

Rosebrough – This has nothing to do with what God wants to do in me and through me. This has everything to do with what God did in and through the virgin Mary for me.

[That’s one sermon that should have been smothered at birth. But I’m sure it has a purpose]. 

Related: The seeker- and shikker-driven church

 

Holy Whore

Jeff Benner writes:

“When we use the word holy, as in a holy person, we usually associate this with a righteous or pious person. If we use this concept when interpreting the word holy in the Hebrew Bible then we are misreading the text as this is not the meaning of the Hebrew word qadosh. Qadosh literally means “to be set apart for a special purpose”. A related word, qedesh, is one who is also set apart for a special purpose but not in the same way we think of “holy” but is a male prostitute (Deut 23:17). Israel was qadosh because they were separated from the other nations as servants of God. The furnishings in the tabernacle were qadosh as they were not to be used for anything except for the work in the tabernacle. While we may not think of ourselves as “holy” we are in fact set apart from the world to be God’s servants and representatives” (Ancient Hebrew meanings by Jeff Benner, Ancient Hebrew Research Center http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_holy.html).

So, holiness in a Christian means living in the world but not of the world; part of the world but set apart from the world (system). “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou should take them out of the world, but that thou should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14-16).

And the relationship between the Christian and God? The Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so is never apart from God. But also never a part of God. The Bible’s main focus is on who God is; on the God who is (YAHWEH). Although the scriptures are mainly about God, they totally FOR you; for all – without exception, For their salvation or their damnation.

When you think the Gospel is the raw material God is using to write a Gospel about you, you are apart from God. A whore (qedesh – qadesha). “You shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 23:17).

Related: “Stop awhoring with the enemies of Christ unless God wants you to.” http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/stop-awhoring-with-the-enemies-of-christ-unless-god-wants-you-to/

The seeker- and the shikker-driven church

Narcissism and alcoholism have this in common; they focus heavily on self. They differ in that the former always, by definition, from beginning to end, centres on the love of self. Alcoholism, in contrast, often has its roots in the hatred of self.

Now, consider the explosive success of “seeker-driven” movements, which attract swathes of new converts to “Jesus, my provider.” Seeker-driven preachers/pastors – for example, Joel Osteen and Rick Warren – use snippets of Bible to illustrate the stories they tell about the great plans God’s got for your life. In other words, they substitute exegesis for narcigesis, In passing, there are only two great plans that God’s got for your life – heaven or hell.

If I were a preacher and could – I’m only saying; I know I can’t or shouldn’t – choose between a seeker-driven congregation or a shikker-driven one, I’d go for winning friends and people under the influence (ambiguity intended) rather than influence friends and people with the seeker-drivel that is such an insult to the Gospel.

rabbi-wine

Shikkker – Yiddish for “plastered.”

P.S. What is the Gospel?

1 Corinthians 15:1-5

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.

 

Sloth in the digital age

You can’t be irredeemably slothful if you knuckle down to read this excellent piece. For one, it shows you have not totally acceded to the sorrow for spiritual good and so lost all desire for excellence.

The Seven Deadly Sins in a Digital Age: 4. Sloth
ARTICLE BY W. BRADFORD LITTLEJOHN NOVEMBER 2014

Here are the first two paragraphs:

When we come to the subject of Sloth in a Digital Age, the diagnosis might seem obvious, if a tad moralistic. We are all familiar with the couch potato glued to the TV screen, or the teenager who neglects his homework for video games, or her homework for Instagram. In the modern world, we are taught to work only for the sake of attaining leisure, and digital media have become our favorite source of leisure. The vice of sloth, then, we deem, is the sin of laziness, of failing to be as productive as God calls us to be.

For all its apparent familiarity, though, perhaps none of the traditional vices is so unfamiliar to us as Sloth. Indeed, our English word is quite insufficient; the actual Latin name for the vice is acedia, a word for which there is really no good translation. Aquinas’s formal definition of the vice–“sorrow for spiritual good”–will probably only confuse us still further. But let us try to unpack it. “Sloth,” says Aquinas, “is an oppressive sorrow, which . . . so weighs upon man’s mind, that he wants to do nothing” (ST IIaIIae Q. 35 a. 1 resp.). More specifically, it is “sorrow in the Divine good about which charity rejoices” (ST IIaIIae Q. 35 a. 2 resp.). “Sorrow” here means less an active sadness and more an apathetic lack of love and joy, above all, a lack of joy in God, a disposition that is deadly indeed.
– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/the-seven-deadly-sins-in-a-digital-age-4-sloth.php#sthash.Bm4XcT32.dpuf

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.

 
 
 

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?

bography:

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 –…

View original 212 more words

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

Hinduism

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).

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.” http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2014/11/its-about-to-break.html

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.”

ENDNOTE

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).

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”).

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panis_Angelicus

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.
Amen.

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.
Amen.

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).

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.

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 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.

wpid-2014-09-15-20-30-38-707697381.jpeg

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.

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 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.

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).

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?

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.”

Luther

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.

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.

Shook

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.

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.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=713141945251

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.

Twisting God’s word: Forgiveness and the sin nature: Adrian Stanley, Helmut Thielicke, Joel Osteen; and Rabbi Hirsch to the rescue

 

Many modern preachers attempt an “original” twist to a biblical passage and in so doing twist the original meaning. They feel the need to please themselves and their audience. And they – preachers and audience – adore it because it’s all about “you.” Truth be told, the Bible is about God in Christ, not about you. It’s often difficult to tell whether these preachers/pastors know or care to know what the original says.

I examine a few mutilations of God’s word where i focus on forgiveness and the sin nature of the human race. I examine three Christian views: Adrian Stanley, Helmut Thielecke and Joel Osteen followed by the Jewish view of Rabbi Hirsch, which puts these Christians to shame.

Adrian Stanley

Adrian Stanley uses the word “leverage” to describe to “forgive” sin. The verb “leverage” has the metaphorical meaning of “to exert power or influence.” In the second video of the Louie Giglio series “God is so great,” Andy Stanley says the following: ” “He will have leveraged your sin for his glory’s sake. He (God) will not be undone.” This means, according to the dictionary definition of “leverage,” that God will have exerted a power or influence over a person’s sin for His glory.

Stanley uses the term “leverage” repeatedly.

As creatures, Andy Stanley says, who were created with more potential to reflect His glory than anything else in creation, it is our role, it is our duty, it is our opportunity to reflect the Glory of God who invites us to call Him ‘Father’” even as a race who has abused the privilege of our freedom. It means that in the middle of your wealth, your pain, of gain of loss… you can ask God ‘how can this be leveraged for your glory.’”

And:

At the end of the day, we can say ‘God, if you can leverage sin for your glory, certainly you can leverage this (my life’s situations), and I make it available to you. It’s for your glory. It is for your glory. It is for your glory.’ And when that happens life begins to make sense, for suddenly we are living our lives in the context of life, which is the glory of God – the Father.”

Stanley continues:

At the end of the day, we can say ‘God, if you can leverage sin for your glory, certainly you can leverage this (my life’s situations), and I make it available to you. It’s for your glory. It is for your glory. It is for your glory.’ And when that happens life begins to make sense, for suddenly we are living our lives in the context of life, which is the glory of God – the Father.” (The “New Model” of Evangelism: Has God also leveraged forgiveness out of his vocabulary? http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/the-new-model-of-evangelismhas-god-also-leveraged-forgiveness-out-of-his-vocabulary/). I’m not sure whether “leverage” is intended as a synonym, a euphemism or an evasion.

If God can “leverage” our sin, stern, as Stanley says, he can certainly “leverage” my life for his glory. But why does Stanley not use the very biblical and term “forgive”? Is he catering to his hip sheep? After God forgives people – who, without exception, were previously dead in sin – God promises to “leverage” their lives, that is, believers are his workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). The process of salvation starts with divine grace and has its practical outworking in good works. Ephesians 2:10 describes this process. Here is this verse in context:

Ephesians 2:1-10

1 And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:–

4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey)

Helmut Thielicke says (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,” Zondervan, 1997, p. 175):

When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41).

An important question to address in the above paragraph is: “What is the attitude of a “guilt-laden” person toward God. Does it follow that if you feel guilt that you feel more than mere remorse, that you feel repentance? I don’t think so. “Guilt” is the human condition; but, so is pride. Guilt – except in rare conditions such as psychopathy – begets remorse: “I feel, really and honestly, bad about this or that.” But  repentance is a different mental state altogether, namely, its about longing for forgiveness and falling on your knees before a holy God and pleading for mercy. “Woe is me, for I am undone” (Isaiah, 6:5).

When Thielicke speaks of a “person”, and the “man underneath”, he seems to be talking about anybody who feels guilt, which is the whole human race (except possibly psychopaths, and even there we are not sure what they feel). And there lies the problem with Thielicke’s portrait of sinful man.

Thielicke’s Jesus and Thielicke’s human being are not the people described in the Bible. The Bible says the opposite: Jesus did not see “through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath,” because the real man underneath was not only superficially grimy, he was filthy. The “real man” of the Bible is totally depraved in his very nature.  Everything in the Bible glorifies God and abases man. God saves men and women not because deep down they are good, but in spite of the fact that deep down they are evil. He chooses to save them – for one reason only: because He wants to. The natural man despises such a God. Many professing Christians do so as well. But that is the God of the Bible. God floods the whole Bible – but not everyone – with mercy, and “I will show mercy to whom I will” (Romans 9:15), and its got nothing to do with you or me.

(See Why do you call me good?)

Joel Osteen

At church service I attended, the preacher began by holding up his Bible and telling us that Joel Osteen holds up his Bible before all his sermons. I blurted out: “Then he puts it down and that’s the last we get of any Bible.” 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. Immediately after the words “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 he obviously does not hold dear – well, certainly not up on the stage.

One of Osteen’s sermons is called “Programming your mind for victory” (You Tube link). The blurb on You Tube says “Let Joel bring hope to your life in a fresh, new way in this inspiring message that will remind you of God’s restoration power and His divine plan for your life, even in the midst of difficulties and pain. Let this message inspire you that even through difficulties, God has a plan to strengthen and prepare you for an exciting, expansive….”

… eternity? Not a chance in hell.

In this presentation, Osteen uses, predictably, the terms “software,” “hardware” and “virus.” I said earlier that I’m not sure whether Adrien Stanley’s “leverage” is intended as a synonym, a euphemism or an evasion of “forgiveness.” What I am more sure about is that when Osteen uses the terms “hardware,” “software” and “virus,” he not only evades the true picture of fallen man but mutilates it. Here is a transcript of the relevant part of Osteen’s sermon ( aired on Pirate Christian radio) with Rosebrough’s interjections.

Osteen

You can have the best computer ever made but if you put the wrong software in it, it’s not going to function as it was designed. All of us have had to contend with computer viruses. They get into the computer and contaminate the software. They’re slow, you can’t access the files. The hardware is fine, the problem is the software..

Rosebrough

This is the Pelagian heresy. If you were suffering from cancer but didn’t know, went to doctor, he examined. he said take some aspirin and see me next week. The following week, I feel worse. Doctor: “Come in and we’ll do another examination. External. You look fine.” Make an appointment at another doctor. does full examination. you’ve got cancer. if nothing done you could die. a bad diagnosis will result in the wrong treatment. is the reason why there there is so much evil, armies, police officers, sins in our own life . Reason for this is that you were born dead, dead in trespasses and sins. No one is good. Total depravity, original sin. We are born in bondage to sin, to the devil. When it comes to God, No one has free will. It is God who has to unbind us. Ephesians 2:1 – We are by nature children of wrath. not born morally neutral, not good. inherited a broken nature from Adam. Only solution is Jesus. Osteen is going in the direction of denying original sin.

Osteen

“Somehow the inside’s got messed up, now the software is contaminated. In the same way he stepped back and said another masterpiece. , your hardware is perfect, the right size, the right nationality, you have the right gifts. Not only that, God put the right software in you. from the very beginning he programmed you to be healthy, victorious, creative.

Rosebrough

That’s a weird list. focussing on success here and now. but the fruits of the spirit is self-control etc. Osteen is on about earthly success. We are to pursue holiness, take up our cross.

Osteen [my comments in italics]

Your original software says you can do all things through Christ. [Olympic swimmer, brain surgeon, very very rich, never sick?]. He programmed that whatever you touch will prosper and succeed. He programmed the head and not the tail, lend and not borrow, victor and not victim. You were programmed to live an abundant, victorious faith-filled life. that is how your creator designed you [Not you, but Adam – before he fell]. But the reason why we don’t experience this abundant life….

Rosebrough 

…is because we are born dead in trespasses and sins.

Osteen

…..is because we have allowed viruses to contaminate our software. We think, “I’ll never be successful, I’m not that talented,” I’ll never break this addiction, I’ve had it too long….

Rosebrough 

Addiction here is a euphemism; here he is talking about sin.

Osteen

….I’m slow, clumsy, unattractive; nothing good is in my future, because our software is infected, we go around, low self-esteem, not believing for dreams to come to pass….

Rosebrough 

Not believing for dreams to come to pass. Where does the Bible say that?

Osteen

…not expecting anything to turn around. There’s nothing wrong with you….

Rosebrough 

There’s nothing wrong with me! We’re born dead in trespasses in sins.

Osteen

… like a computer, you’re not a mistake. One of the best things we can learn to do is hit the delete button. When negative discouraging thoughts come attempting to contaminate your software, that thought says, “You’ve seen your better days; its all downhill from here. That’s a virus trying to keep you from your destiny. …my software says, ‘the path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter.’

Rosebrough

Whose righteousness are we to pursue? Romans 3 – righteousness comes from God. There is nothing wrong with you according to Osteen. Pelagian. All about the here and the now.

Comment

The term “software” in computer speak refers to information, which is non-physical. “Hardware,” in contrast, refers to the physical device that processes the software. The software-hardware analogy Osteen uses can be confusing. Osteen, I presume, is not contrasting physical with spiritual, but spiritual with spiritual. For Osteen, the spiritual “software” is what you imbibe into your spirit – the grime, the guck, while the spiritual “hardware” is synonymous with God’s blueprint of you; Thielecke’s (above) “God originally designed and meant [you] to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath.” “Flesh” in scripture often refers to fallen human nature:

Romans 8:5-8

5 They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: 7 because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: 8 and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Osteen captivates but is, at best, not captive to the Word of God. The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh 4 (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), 5 casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

In contrast, Osteen is indeed succeeding in reprogramming the minds of his narcissistic admirers sucking on his infernal lollipops as he leads them down the broad path of destruction. Osteen and his followers have missed the mark, but not the beast.

Rabbi Hirsch

Let a Jew teach Osteen a thing about how to reconcile to God, which Osteen has no clue about.

Open almost any “Introduction to Judaism” book, says Rabbi Hirsch (Can a Reconstructionist Sin?) or consult almost any commentary to the High Holiday mahzor, and one inevitably finds the explanation that the Hebrew word het (sin) means something like “missing the mark” — as if life were no more than a game of darts. Our moral and relational failures receive a soothing bromide of reassurance: We need only try harder next time, with hope that we’ll hit the target more often. The operative concept is that we need to be reassured, rather than reassessed.”

Hirsch continues:

But without first engaging seriously in a deep moral inventory, how can we honestly move forward in life? Without the courage to descend into the depths of our failures, how can we presume to ascend in pursuit of our better self? As the Reconstructionist mahzor states, “reducing sin to the status of an almost inadvertent error hardly seems tenable in the light of our awareness of the horrors of which humans, individually as well as collectively, have proved capable. The concept of sin, in fact, seems more, rather than less, important as we move into the 21st century — not for what it tells us about God, but for what it suggests to us about ourselves.” (My italics). (See Sin in Adam and his descendants and how to reconcile to God: Jewish Orthodox and Jewish Reconstructionist views).

I italicised the phrase: “the horrors of which humans, individually as well as collectively, have proved capable.”  I suggest that Hirsch has not got to the heart of sin. The horrors of which we humans are capable – horrifying as they are – are only the symptoms; the products of our sin nature, our original sin nature that we inherited from the father of the human race, Adam. Most Christians and Jews deny that Adam was a single man  and many Christians and all Jews reject the doctrine of “original sin”, namely, that we are all born with a sin nature that we inherited.

What does sin “nature” mean? Lewis Johnson explains (I have transcribed this from one of his messages):

One of the reasons why people have such a shallow view of sin is because they have not been taught to think rightly about sin. If you ask a man whether he is a sinner, he understands you to mean that he is a great flagrant outbreaking transgressor against the principles of morality that are found in the Bible. If you tell him that he is a great sinner in the sight of God, he thinks you are accusing him of being a blasphemer or a perjurer or a thief, an adulterer or a murderer. But without any of these forms of outbreaking forms of sin there may be a deep and damning hatred of the word of God in that man’s heart.”

But we must go deeper. Why do the unregenerate hate the word of God? Because of unbelief. Every sin is a failure to respond to the word of God. This is clear in the Tanakh (Older Testament) as it is clear in the Newer Testament, where God’s word is manifested through another (single) man, the second (and last Adam), Jesus the Christ, or if you prefer the Hebrew,  Yeshua HaMashiakh.

If the only options for me were reverting to Judaism and following Osteen – pass me the chopped liver.

Non-humanist reflections on violence, death, human evil and the after-life

The problem of evil: People don’t understand the depth of human corruption

and are not eternally minded (Martyn Lloyd Jones)

Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria. Death, death, death; the world, teeming with death, violent death. It’s root? The Bible says the “inward mind and heart of man are deep” (Psalm 64:6b):

Psalm 64

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,

from the throng of evildoers,

3 who whet their tongues like swords,

who aim bitter words like arrows,

4 shooting from ambush at the blameless,

shooting at him suddenly and without fear.

5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;

they talk of laying snares secretly,

thinking, “Who can see them?”

6 They search out injustice,

saying, ‘We have accomplished a diligent search.’

For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

The Bible also says, contrary to the “world” and “prosperity” preachers, that those who place their hope and faith in a better world are deceived:

Hebrews

13 These (Old Testament saints) all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).

What have atheists-materialists-humanists to say on the matter? Stephen Hawking says the belief that heaven and an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story for people afraid of death.” For Hawking, there is nothing beyond the last flicker of last brain cell. What counts he says is making good use of our lives by “seeking the greatest value of our action.” (See The downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 in light of Stephen Hawking’s “natural selection assumes natural rejection.”).

The Darwinian (materialist) worldview states that if it ain’t natural, it must be an illusion. In such a world, all human values are, can only be, the product of the brain, where the brain appeared by some unknown natural process called “chance.” Yet, many of these same people say that moral values such as “generosity,” “compassion,” “responsibility, “good, “evil,” “love,” “guilt,” “forgiveness,” “judgement” cannot be reduced to physics, chemistry, physiology. They believe in “the survival of the fittest,” which, by definition means might is not only right but unavoidable. In such a world only the strong, the powerful, the dominant, the ruthless survive.

You don’t have to be a materialist to think that life is often “nasty, brutish and short.” (Thomas Hobbes, “Leviathan”); those who believe in an after-life often also fall hopeless. Some of these like King David emerge stronger from the waves of depression, others, like Alfred Tennyson, sink deep into the slough of despond.

David – Psalm 42:

7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterfalls: All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. 8 Yet Jehovah will command his lovingkindness in the day-time; And in the night his song shall be with me, Even a prayer unto the God of my life.

Alfred Tennyson (“In Memoriam” of a friend who had died. In this work appears the famous “nature raw in tooth and claw”):

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,

And gather dust and chaff, and call

To what I feel is Lord of all,

And faintly trust the larger hope.

Thou makest thine appeal to me [the Lord]:

I bring to life, I bring to death;

The spirit does but mean the breath:

I know no more….

Who trusted God was love indeed And love Creation’s final law

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravin, shriek’d against his creed

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,

Who battled for the True, the Just, Be blown about the desert dust,

Or seal’d within the iron hills ?

O life as futile, then, as frail !

O for thy voice to soothe and bless !

What hope of answer, or redress?

Behind the veil, behind the veil.

Most materialists are “humanists.” There exist various definitions of humanism, Here is one: “…a commitment to the perspective, interests and centrality of human persons; a belief in reason and autonomy as foundational aspects of human existence; a belief that reason, scepticism and the scientific method are the only appropriate instruments for discovering truth and structuring the human community; a belief that the foundations for ethics and society are to be found in autonomy and moral equality (Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”

“Seventy-five years ago, writes J Gresham Machen, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies, was still predominantly Christian; today it is predominantly pagan. In speaking of ‘paganism,’ we are not using a term of reproach. Ancient Greece was pagan, but it was glorious, and the modern world has not even begun to equal its achievements. What, then, is paganism? The answer is not really difficult. Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties” (my italics). And that exactly describes humanism.

In humanism “man” is not only the measure of all things, but all things are measured for his pleasure, his enjoyment. For the natural man, joy means enjoyment, lots of it – enjoyment of freedom, enjoyment of job, of family, of friends, of sex, of sport, of holidays, of gadgets – and enjoyment of church! “Enjoyment” here does not merely mean amusements, thrills and diversions (French divertissement “entertainment”) but has to do with such things as the relationship between lifestyles and happiness. (See “Enjoyment of life lengthens life: Findings and consequences’” by R. Veenhoven).

Humanism contrasts with Christianity in the following ways: In Christianity, “salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always” (Monergism.com). In several Protestant catechisms, the first item is this: “Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The Christian glorifies God, which results in enjoying Him for ever. This enjoyment is the Christian’s ultimate happiness.

It all depends, though, what one means by “happiness.” “’Life,’ in the language of our Lord, says John Brown, implies happiness. When he calls himself, then, the ‘life-giving bread,’ he intimates that he is the author of true happiness; that he, that he alone, can make men truly and permanently happy” (John Brown, “True happiness and the way to secure it: Conversational discourse to the Jews – John 6:26-65″). (See my Happiness in humanism in Christianity”).

Contrary to what the odious “wealth and health” preachers say (they represent the majority of new Christians over the last few decades), Christian happiness comes through self-denial and suffering: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Not only does happiness come through taking up one’s cross, so does hope:

Romans 5

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Christ’s disciples do not seek their treasure on this earth:

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience…28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For most people, including, alas, Christians, who should know and believe better, “premature” death is a tragedy, especially when those whose life are “cut short” are children. We think of the children who died violently in Gaza, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and the Malaysian Flight MH17, and on and on. In the biblical worldview, God decrees all things such as whether and when we get born, and we die. Jesus says ““My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). And, as we read above in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Voltaire in his “Candide” whose setting is the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755, mocks verse 28 above:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

lisbon-earthquake-1755

Lisbon Earthquake 1755

This is not the place to examine the complexities of the question of how an infinitely good God causes/permits evil. What I will say here is this:

The question is how to reconcile evil in the world with God who is all good, all knowing and all powerful? From the start, we have to realise that we can never get a complete answer for the simple fact that God is God, and man is man. Some may think, ”I suppose you’re going to pull out the ‘mystery card.’” Well, regarding the deepest things of God, yes, they remain hidden; this, however, does not mean that the deep things of God are beyond our reach. In the Bible. there are many deep things of God that are accessible to those whom God gives the grace to understand. Many are those who, although good with language, haven’t a clue what the biblical words mean. This is so because it is the Spirit of God within the words that brings light. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Of two things a Christian is sure: God always fulfills his purpose, and all God’s purposes are good. So evil always has a good purpose. Out of evil God brings good. That is the biblical understanding of evil. There are  two major human failings  in the  problem of evil. People don’t understand the depth of human corruption and, which is a corollary of the former, are not eternally minded. 

There is much sorrow in the world. The Bible distinguishes between two kinds of sorrow: “… the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:18)

To return to the materialist world view: “The chief error, says Herman Bavinck, here [of a materialist worldview ] is a commitment to a religiously neutral scientific method, a goal that is impossible.” This attitude, Bavinck would agree, is more than an error; it is, the Bible says, a sin that leads to the second death (hell). Like many of us, I have been thinking a lot about the people on board the plane that was shot down over Ukraine. There were probably many materialists aboard.

Without faith Christ, all of us, no matter our physical infirmity – as with Stephen Hawking – will not escape the second death. “The bible, writes Richard Ganz, is meant to be a completely sufficient book for dealing with the nature and dilemma of man. It begins with the creation of man in Genesis 1 & 2. It tells us that man is created in the image of God. THIS is what defines man, not our psyche or unconscious, not our behaviour, not the universe. The Bible next moves to the fall of man in Genesis 3, which is the root of our problems. And then from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, its purpose is to show man’s redemption and man’s restoration in the image and glory of God, and what this means for our lives and the problems we face. We learn that every person on earth is undergoing a constant transformation that is one of two things: 1. Either you are being conformed to the same image as Christ, from glory to ever increasing glory, so that you become just like the Lord, or 2. you are in depravity and lostness and becoming more and more corrupt, and more and more lost. These are the only two options; and if we disregard this reality, then our worldview and how we deal with our problems and our lostness, will inevitably be off.”

Providence and Open Theism

When we moderns call someone pathetic, we usually mean “petty/deplorable/useless.” And by “ejaculation” people mostly mean a seminal discharge, and rarely a verbal outburst. Seminal ejaculations usually have physical passion as their immediate cause, while verbal ejaculations may have either or both physical and mental/spiritual passion as their cause. French does not distinguish between mental and spiritual; both are subsumed under the single term esprit. This French term can also refer to “wit” as in homme d’esprit “man of wit.” By no means, is it my intention – well, my main intention – to be witty.

In theology, there are many esprit errors. One of these is Open Theism, which in sum is God knows what’s potting now but not what’s and who’s going to pot. Or for that matter when I’m going to finish this sentence. Open theism reminds me of anti-Onanism. No not anti-Nominism.

“Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

Alas, open theists don’t want to spill their semen on the ground. They are becoming the rage. They have begotten another monster amongst many others such as Arminianism. All because they refuse or confuse the Providence of God. John Favel writes:

“I will cry unto God Most High: unto God that performs/completes (Hebrew gamar) all things for me.” Psalm 57:2.”

In the Hebrew, the above verse is numbered 57:3. The Jewish Mechon-Mamre version of Verse 1 says:
“For the Leader; Al-tashheth. Of David; Michtam; when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” The transliteration “al-tashchayt” is more accurate: Hebrew אַל-תַּשְׁחֵת. Flavel says more about this word later on.

“The greatness of God, continues, Flavel, is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. The Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth,” Psalm 47:2. The condescension of the most high God to men is also a profound mystery. ” Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly” (Psalm 138:6). But when both these [the Lord be high and his respect for the lowly]] meet together, as they do in this Scripture [Psalm 57:2 Flavel’s first sentence above]] they make up a matchless mystery. Here we find the most high God performing all things for a poor distressed creature. It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures and their most pernicious designs, to blessed and happy issues. And, indeed, it were not worth while to live in a world devoid of God and providence.”

“How deeply we are concerned in this matter will appear by that great instance which this psalm presents us with. It was composed, as the title notes, by David prayer-wise, when he hid himself from Saul in the cave; and is inscribed with a double title, Al taschith Michtam of David. Al taschith [tashchayt] refers to the scope, and michtam to the dignity of the subject-matter. The former signifies ” destroy not,” or, let there be no slaughter, and may either refer to Saul, concerning whom he gave charge to his servants not to destroy him; or rather, it hath reference to God, to whom, in this great exigence, he poured out his soul in this pathetical ejaculation, ‘Al taschith. Destroy not.’”

(John Flavel, “The mysteries of Providence” – Introduction).

In sum, I have ejected the pathetic heretical ejaculations of Open Theism and welcome the “pathetical ejaculations” of David, pouring out the providential pathos of  his soul.

Related: A Biblical case for Calvinism

The Straw that broke this camel’s back: Anyone want to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, please come forward

 

This story is about why I left my church. People leave their church for so so many reasons some of which are for so so reasons. I hope my reason is not of the second kind. Christians all agree that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5b). My reason, which shall become clear is related to the question “When is the Holy Spirit given to us; at regeneration (spiritual rebirth) or as a subsequent gift, unhappily called, I shall argue, the “Baptism in the Spirit?”

I was speaking to somebody who had got a teaching job at a “Word of Faith” (a “charismatic”) school. She said to me that she got the job because they needed somebody who was spirit-filled. Ergo, she fitted the bill. I’m sure that she was a competent teacher to boot.

What did she mean by “spirit-filled?” To answer that question, we need to know what the “Word of faith” movement means by this term. Here is a word of welcome from one of these churches: “Welcome to Word of Faith Fellowship Church WOFFC is a spirit-filled bible-believing and bible-teaching, non denominational church, teaching you how to be victorious …” What the WOFFC means by“spirit-filled” is stated in one of their central beliefs: “We believe in water baptism,  and in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from the new birth, in speaking with tongues  (Acts 2:4).  We believe that  these are available to all  believers.” (Word of Fellowship Church). The “Word of Faith” movement is part of the wider movement call the “Charismatic” movement.

I once belonged to an Anglican church whose pastor had “Word of Faith” leanings but it never got as far as Baptism in the Holy Spirit as distinct from the new birth. The pastor was replaced by a new pastor. His second sermon was entitled: “The marks of a true church.” One of these marks, he said, was the “Baptism of the Spirit.” He did not elaborate, so it was unclear what he meant by the term, which, of course, is a biblical term. During the next few months nothing more was said on the matter, and so we continued characteristically and uncharismatically as normal.

A few months later, a the end of the Sunday service, the pastor announced a workshop for the following Saturday morning to discuss the direction the church was going and to formulate what he called a “vision statement.” Alarm bells went off, I believe only in my head. One of the pastor’s previous sermons was entitled “What is your vision,” wherein he quoted the well-worn first half of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” The complete verse reads Proverbs 29:18 is “Where there is no vision [that is, prophetic vision] the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” “Vision” here is in the context of keeping the law, and nothing else. What do many preachers do with this half a proverb, for example, Adrian Stanley, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and the “Word of faith” people? They turn it into a sermon series or book on how to get a new vision for your life. This pastor did the same in his :What is your vision?” sermon. (See Where there is no vision: No more cutting and pasting a way to prosperity for this hermeneut).

During the following week, I emailed the pastor and asked him for an outline of the coming “Vision” workshop, which he sent me. The following points were to be discussed 1. “What is vision? 2. A picture of a preferred future. 3. The value of vision. 4.The quotation of half of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Point 3 “A picture of a preferred future” is probably directly or indirectly from Adrian Stanley’s writings on Leadership and Vision – “Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there” (Adrian Stanley).

These points were to be related to external issues:
1. The wider church, 2. Globally, 3. Regionally, 4. Within the country (South Africa), within the city, within the community.

I wrote the following back to him: This is what I shall say to you on Saturday. I see that the vision you’re going to talk about is directed to everything outside our church. About inside our church, do you have a clear picture of who show signs that they are not believers ( born again) or are babes in the faith. It seems to me that growing our church more in-depth is needed before looking for ways to grow in numbers and evangelise the world. Our church needs to be evangelised.”

He agreed that we need to look at growing the faith inside the church. Here are are some of the contributions from different members raised from our church’s “Vision” workshop. My comments are in italics:

One of the church members said, the early church was simple. Have courage and confidence, don’t fight with one another, help one another, be patient, don’t shoot anybody down.

It is very difficult not to rock the boat without “shooting anybody down,” that is without anybody getting sea sick, or worse, taking offense.

We now come to the nub of my topic (I recorded the audio of the workshop).

Elder: You’ve got to be spirit filled.”

Me – What do you mean by spirit filled?

Elder – You have to ask the Spirit to fill into your life. And accept him into your life.

Where does the Bible say you have to accept the Spirit into your life?

Me – What’s the difference between a spirit filled Christian and a Christian?

Church member – You have to be a proper Christian.

Me – So a real Christian. That’s obvious.

Elder – If you accept Christ into your life, then you are spirit filled.

Me – Why say spirit-filled? Just say genuine christian.

Elder – We are talking about people in this church.

Church member – Nominal Christians.

Me – So, not true Christians. What I’m worrying about is that the church is going the way of Word of Faith movement. The charismatic movement, where the filling of the spirit and the baptism of the spirit is considered as a distinct experience, I believe that for you (addressed to the same elder) it is because you speak in tongues and I think this is so for the pastor and for the (Anglican) church he originates from. This church has become officially a branch of that mother church. (Our church, which was struggling financially, was taken over by this charismatic mother church). What I’m worried about is that we are going to get this idea that there are Christians who are born again, which the Bible says can only be done through the holy spirit – you can only be regenerated through the holy spirit, you can’t do anything, you’re dead in your sin. So it is through the holy spirit that you are born again. If you are born again you are going to love Christ, you’re going to follow him, you are going to obey his commandments. He’s the lord of your life. And you are going to want the spirit to nourish you continually. If you don’t want that, it means you are not born again. So we do ask for an increase of devotion in our lives. Increase my faith. Lord I need more of your spirit. We pray for a filling like that. 

Church member – That’s what the elder means.

Me – Then please just say, be a proper Christian, that like “are you spirit-filled?” Somebody once said to me that the reason why she was employed at a Word of Faith school was because they needed spirit-filled people there. You know what that means for them? It means the charismatic church; you have to have an extra baptism, a baptism of the holy spirit. But you don’t mean that do you (to the Elder), do you? You don’t mean the baptism of the holy spirit. Extra after you’re baptised? 

Elder – I think we need to be a spirit-filled guided church. 

He avoided a direct answer.

ME – Alright. As long as we understand our terms. You don’t mean what the word of faith people mean? You have a baptism of the spirit as something separate from your conversion. You don’t mean that?

The elder kept (thinking of his?) mum.

Church member 1 – In this exercise we want to learn the word of God. To be filled by the spirit once I get going. I don’t think we need to be perfect.

Church member 2 – I think we all agree about that.

Church member 3 – Then we should say, let us be spirit filled, those who are willing. 

The pastor then speaks for the first – ad last – time.

Pastor – And we’ll take thought of your view.

ME (a stuck record) to Pastor – So we don’t mean baptism in the holy spirit. All we mean is somebody who is devoted to Christ. In other words born again. True conversion true repentance. Ok fine. Say it like that. 

I had been pleading for clarity from the Elder and the Pastor on where they stood on the dividing line between “infilling of the Spirit” and “Baptism on the Spirit.” No luck. There was something amiss, if, not rotten, in the state of Denmark:

Horatio: He waxes desperate with imagination.
Marcellus: Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.
Horatio: Have after. To what issue will this come?
Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Horatio: Heaven will direct it.
Marcellus: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]

(Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91)

At the workshop, one of the members asked the Pastor whether members could start a Bible study at the church with me as the leader. The Pastor said yes. Two weeks later, we had our first Bible study session.

The following week, the Pastor phoned me and said he wants to meet with me at the church. We met a few evenings later. He said that he has decided that I stop the Bible study. I asked why. Did he receive any negative reports from attendees of the Bible study? He said, no, but he was thinking about the idea of me leading a Bible study and thought it would not be a good idea after all. I said, surely there must be a better reason. He said: You don’t hold to Anglican beliefs. I asked, which beliefs were those. He said, “You tell me what those beliefs are.” I said, “how can you ask me to tell you which beliefs you think I don’t believe in.” He persisted that I tell him what he thought I didn’t believe. I repeated, no you must tell me, not I you. He said: “You don’t believe in healing.” I said, of course, I believe that God heals. He said: “You don’t believe in the infllling of the Spirit. I said: Of course, I do. He said, you don’t believe in Pentecost. Of course I do; I believe in the incarnation, in the crucifixion in the resurrection, in the ascension, so why wouldn’t I believe in Pentecost. If you mean that I don’t believe Pentecost continues today, that is so, I don’t believe that. The Pastor said that I was wrong. I told him that as it was his church he had every right to do what he sees fit. The meeting ended on that note.

Recall that in the “Vision” workshop, the pastor did not show his cards even after I pleaded ad nauseam for clarity on the distinction between 1. “regeneration throught the Holy Spirit,” 2. “being filled with the Spirit,” which occurs throughout a Christians life and 3. the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” as a subsequent unique event after regeneration (taught by charismatic churches like the Word of Faith movement). A large number of Anglicans have become “charismatic.” My pastor was one of these.

What are these Anglican articles that the pastor says I had rejected. Recall, my pastor had accused me of rejecting “healing.” By that he meant the modern equivalent of the profusion of miracles in the New Testament. Although there is a great variety of beliefs among Anglicans, and Protestants in general – indeed among Roman Catholics as well – what is clear is that the articles of faith held by most Anglicans exclude the belief that the abundance of miracles of Jesus and the miracles of the Apostles (through Jesus), before and after Pentecost, occur today. These Anglicans are cessationists.

The pastor had few words to say in the “Vision” workshop on the “Baptism/Infilling” issue. In our meeting (above), it became clear to me that he was confusing “Baptism in the Spirit” (as a one-off second injection of power) with the “Infilling of the Spirit” (a continuous process in the Christian life).

I decided to quit my church, which grieved me because I had grown close to many of the church members. A few weeks later, I learned that another pastor was to take over most services. Things were looking up. I attended this new pastor’s first service. Being Pentecost Sunday, his sermon was on, good guess, Pentecost. Part of his sermon was on “tongues.” He said: “The bible says it (tongues) can be either a language of men or a heavenly language.” At the end of the sermon he prayed, “Please fill me with your spirit and give me the gift of the holy spirit.”

Didn’t he have the Holy Spirit, then. At the end of the service, he said, “Please come forward if you want to receive the gift of the Spirit.” If you think I was confused by the previous pastor, now, I lost my fuse. I thought, “For sure, I’m definitely outta here.” But I felt I still had to engage this pastor. I used to do this engaging during after-service fellowship, but I decided that it was too stressful for pastors/preachers (visiting ones included) immediately after a sermon, especially when it was rotten one. So I corresponded with them by email. I wrote the following email to the new pastor (who had said in his sermon: “Please come forward if you want to receive the gift of the Spirit”).

Harry (not his real name), here is a major difference between the “Pentecostal – Word of Faith” movement” (the previous pastor and it seems you) and the biblical view of the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This movement labels the event in Acts 2:4 as the “Baptism in the Spirit,” which it regards as a second and necessary stage in the Christian life. Acts 2:4, in fact, is about “filling” of the Spirit, not “baptism” of the Spirit.

Acts 2:1-4 Filled with the Spirit
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

1 Corinthians 12:13 Baptism in the Spirit.

“In one spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

This baptism in the Spirit is a one-off act of God that occurs at regeneration (being born again). The infilling of the Spirit, in contrast, is a repeated activity, as in Acts 4:8, 31; 6:5; 7:55.

Harry replied: “You have stated my position exactly. Baptism in the Spirit is a once-only event and being filled a present continuous. I was exegeting the text quite correctly, because that is what happened on the day of Pentecost. When I invited people forward to be filled with the Holy Spirit it was that exactly.”

He confuses “Come forward to be filled with the Holy Spirit,” which he did not say in the sermon (I recorded it) with “Please come forward if you want to receive the gift of the Spirit,” which he did say.

He confuses the “baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13 above), the gift of the Holy Spirit and the “infilling of the Spirit” (Pentecost). The disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit, when they were born again through this same Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the same as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Scriptures that speak of grace and faith as a gift are quite familiar (Ephesians 2, for example). There is also a scripture that explicitly says the Holy Spirit is a gift, which I quoted in my first paragraph: “… the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”(Romans 5:5b). Here is the context of that snippet in Romans 5:

[1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

To receive the gift of the Spirit is not the same as to be filled with the Spirit. Conflating the two has caused chaos (“charismatic chaos” – John MacArthur) in the Church. Also, I wonder whether you should invite people (to come forward) to be filled with the Spirit, as the pastor above did. It seems more biblical to pray to be filled as in Acts 4:24,31; 8:15ff; 9:17,31; Luke 11:13.

A serious matter. A divisive one? Absolutely. Divisive enough to look for another church or stay at home. I think so.

The Jewish heart: Why a Rabbi should not find it too hard to be a Calvinist

Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.

 The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

In his Consumer Alert! Yourphariseefriend (Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal) sounds the alarm against Christians, who consider religion like a financial transaction, a concept, he correctly says, the Jewish Bible does not teach. He makes a very important point that Christians should heed. My only criticism is that he lumps together the New Testament understanding of salvation with the majority Christian understanding of salvation (the transactional view of salvation). I shall argue that the true Christian view on salvation has much in common with the Jewish view, both of which have been at odds with major Christian movements since the resurrection.

Yourphariseefriend begins:

You may be wondering: What is a “consumer alert” doing on a blog that focuses on religion? Perhaps you never thought about it this way, but religion involves a transaction. There is an exchange taking place. The Christian missionary is encouraging you to give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.”

There is a price to pay; if not, there’ll be hell to pay. Yourphariseefriend continues: “The price you pay [the Christian says] is the devotion of your heart, the return you are promised is escape from the fires of hell and eternal bliss – after death.”

Yourphariseefriend’s aim in his “brief study” is (he writes) “to focus on those passages in the Jewish Bible that speak of the particular transaction that we are addressing in this article – giving the devotion of
your heart in exchange for a future return… One of the primary lessons of the Jewish Scripture is that the devotion of your heart is not yours to give away. It belongs to the God who created your heart in the first place.
Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 45:18, Jeremiah 10:16, Jonah 1:9, Psalm 86:9, 95:6,
100:3, Job 12:10, 35:10, Daniel 5:23 – are but some of the Scriptural
references to this teaching.”

It will be useful to look at these biblical references the rabbi has alluded to. But before we do so, we need specifics on the nature of this If-I-give-my-heart-to-you transaction so prevalent among Christians.

Some Christians say that you need to make Jesus, the Son of God, Lord of your life, which in effect means making God the Lord of your life. Whether you believe in a triune (three person – Christian) God or unitarian (one person – Jewish) God, the Rabbi’ point is that it is impossible to make God the Lord of your life owing to the fact that He is already Lord of your life. In this light, we read the scriptures the rabbi has referenced. I italicise the words that I believe are of import to the Rabbi: 

Deuteronomy 32:6 – Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?

Isaiah 45:18 – For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!):
 “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

 Jeremiah 10:16 – Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.

Jonah 1:9 – And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Psalm 86:9 – All the nations you have made shall come
 and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.

Psalm 95:6 – Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
 let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Job 12:10 – In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.

Job 35:10 – But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
 who gives songs in the night..

Daniel 5:23 – but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

 

What puzzles me is the rabbi’s assertion that “the Christian missionary” (that is, all Christian misionaries) uses the above scriptures “as an endorsement for the transaction that he is encouraging,” which, the Rabbi says, he is “not authorized to enter into.” I explain: Those Christian missionaries who believe that all scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos 2 Timothy 3:16), certainly agree with the above scriptures, which amplify God’s creative act “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1), the mother of all presuppositions. So, from the point of view of God as creator, sustainer and destroyer, everything we are and have, including our hearts, belong to God. The Rabbi is right: enough already with giving “your” heart to Jesus.

At this point, there is distinction that the Rabbi, indeed all Jews, miss, namely, not all Christians believe in this transactional view, namely “give the
devotion of your heart to Jesus and he is promising you eternal life in return for what you have given.” Granted this is the majority Christian view, for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Charismatic, and the masses of seeker driven movements. This leaves a remnant of Christians; a “stump of stump” (Isaiah 6) who, with the Rabbi, cry foul.

Why does this Christian remnant decry this transactional view? Let me answer with a rabbinical question: “How on earth can you invite Jesus into your heart? Where in the Bible does it say such a thing? In the Bible we do indeed see God pouring his love into unregenerated hearts, but when God regenerates a sinner, this involves no invitation from the sinner to God, but is a unilateral sovereign divine merciful call. It’s called amazing grace.If you ask God to change your heart, God has changed it already, because you would never want to ask such a question unless you had the desire to do so. Where did your desire originate? Not in you but in God, who  replaced your heart of stone with a heart of flesh: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 (Also in Ezekiel 36:26). There is only one instance in the scriptures where we read about the opening of hearts. And it’s not of human but of divine initiative:

11 … sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

 

 

What a Christian should be singing is not “change my heart, O God.” but “strengthen my heart,” in other words strengthen the “inner man,” strengthen my inner being to be more like You.

Christians of the sort the Rabbi is talking about love to sing:

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

You bet you’re the clay. The question is do you understand and accept what clay does? It lies. It’s a passive lump. I am pretty sure that if you sing this song devoutly, you believe that the Potter looked down the corridors of time and saw that when He would ask you if he could turn you into one of his pots, you would do so. Wrong, because clay, by its very nature, cannot ask the Potter to mould it. Once, however, the Potter has chosen you for one his pots, lo, a miracle: you, clay ass that you once were, get a voice, and now you can ask God to continue to mould you, embellish you, make you more beautiful. (See Change my heart, O God: Impossible: and frankly silly).

The kind of Christians the Rabbi is discussing are called in Christian theology, “synergists” (Greek “work with”), because they say God needs their cooperation to make him their Saviour and Lord. They are also called “Arminians” (after Jacob Arminius). The stump (Yiddish for stubborn) remnant of Christians are called monergists (Greek “work alone,” that is, God’s work alone). They are also called Calvinists. (See Calvinism and Arminianism for a fuller explanation).

Now you know why I am – and suggest it the best thing to be – a Jewish Calvinist. Thank you dear Rabbi Blumenthal for, if not coming to my side, taking my side on a core issue. It makes my heart feel good. If ever in your wildest you consider converting, you now know; “stump” is the way to go.

 

 

The prosperity and asperity of the Gospel: Strangers and pilgrims on this earth

John writes in his third letter to his beloved friend Gaius:

“I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers” 3 John 1, KJV). This greeting was normal for those times as it is for our times and all times. This “prosperity” simply means “best wishes,” which is entirely different to the “prosperity gospel.”

If I could ask what the “prosperity gospel” is in words of one syllable: “Why should you have to live rough and tough when God can bless you in all things? This false gospel says God has promised the believer prosperity not asperity (Latin – rough, harsh).

What is the Gospel about?

Galatians 1:3-4

Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father.

Repent, believe, trust and take up your cross and follow Christ to his death. And be raised to new life that brings Christ’s peace and joy.

Before we condemn this “prosperity gospel,” we should examine whether we do not fall into the same camp. Are we eternally minded, do we see ourselves as pilgrims on this earth, do we want more than anything to be with Christ now (in others words, the end of our earthly life), are we seeking with the great heroes of faith – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham – more than anything that better country?

Hebrews 11:13-16

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. 15 And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.

God has two plans for your life: Salvation or damnation. What about “God has a great plan for your life, release the creativity within you, God doesn’t want you ever sick, poor, stupid?” Those desires belong to this “present evil world” from which Christ came to deliver his own.

Want to be a good mechanic, clerk, lawyer, teacher, artist, theologian, husband, wife, artist, human being; but be these things as pilgrims on this earth.

My Gospel: Much ado about noting

 

There are fictitious stories and non-fictitious stories. French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, said that we tell stories because human lives need and merit to be told. Writing stories is one of the noblest employments of the mind and soul. Most good stories aim at knowledge and wisdom. This aim is most evident in life stories: biographies. For many professing Christians, most of the value of Bible stories lies in what they tell them about themselves, not what they tell them about God. Story, writes Leslie Leyland Fields, is all the rage. Everyone pants to tell their personal narrative or to give the Bible a simpler and more relevant plot. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea.” (The Gospel Is More Than a Story: Rethinking Narrative and Testimony). (See The Gospel is more and less than a story).

I’m reminded of Reconstructionist-Reform Judaism (most Jews fall in this category), which sees the Bible as man-made stories that bind the Jewish community together. Actually, it’s much more than about community. In a sense, the Bible is often less than about community; it’s about self.

You yourself, and I myself, says Martyn Lloyd Jones, are our greatest enemies. The 
curse of life is that we are all self-centred. We live for self instead of for God, and thus we are selfish, we are jealous, and we are envious. As Paul puts it, we are ‘hateful, and hating one another’ (Titus 3:3). Why? Because we are out for ourselves. Instead of living 
to God, in worship of Him and to His glory, we have all made ourselves [into] gods.” That’s, at bottom, the meaning of “total depravity”: we have made ourselves gods rather than God’s. (See Kinda Christianity”: The Bible as stories about ourselves; our gods).

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. 

Owing to the fact that Caussade is both a Roman Catholic and a contemplative, and a Jesuit,  it comes as no no surprise he writes in such an imaginative way; the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola’s “Exercises” (in imagination) are famous among Roman Catholics. Caussade’s drift seems  to be that unless the Gospel story is faithful to “my story,” it has little significance. Martin Luther would execrate such chutzpa. Many modern Lutherans would do likewise. There are other Lutherans, however, who would love Caussade’s idea of one person, one Gospel – a typical postmodern pursuit. For example, Walter Brueggemann does not consider theology and Bible interpretation a matter of certainty but of fidelity; fidelity to 1. the “divine office of creative imagination” (Ignatius Loyola?) and 2. to the “other.” 

For Brueggemann any interaction between 1. certitude, which he considers limited because it is restricted to a single meaning (univocity) and 2. fidelity, should be discarded. We should rather, as Jacques Derrida says, remain open to “an unlimited number of contexts over an indefinite period of time,” and thus to unrestricted interaction between suffering persons desiring to tell their personal stories. The biblical story for the imaginative is about always departing never arriving, unless it arrives at the front door of my singular story. (The postmodern pursuit: Always departing, never arriving). There are many Lutherans, thankfully, who have not taken this postmodern turn.

Compared to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our “Gospel” is much ado about nothing. If you don’t agree stop singing those silly songs, “It’s not about me Lord, it’s all about you-hoo-hoo-hoo.” Who again?

 

 

 

Let the Gospel that rips up and tears and cuts even kills sink into your soul

“Avoid a sugared gospel as you would shun
sugar of lead. Seek that gospel
which rips up and tears and cuts
and wounds and hacks and even
kills, for that is the gospel that
makes alive again. And when you
have found it, give good heed to it.
Let it enter into your inmost being.
As the rain soaks into the ground, so
pray the Lord, let his gospel soak
into your soul.”

Charles Spurgeon

Featured Image -- 7914

Theological Memeology: The Noble Pagan

bography:

As the writer explains so well, the reason why people are sent to hell – they don’t choose to go there – is because they love darkness.

Definitions: We all know what genes  are so we don’t need to wrangle  about that. And memes. If you said it’s about me me, look at me-me, you would not be far off the mark. Memes are bits of our social selves that we transmit through time and space. I think it was the evangelist Richard Dawkins, who coined the term “meme.” Now what does  the person who believes that life’s main purpose is transmitting his genes  and memes fixate upon? Yep, me-me.

“What was that you said, Richard Dawkins is an evangelist?”

For sure, he is.

Originally posted on KINGDOMVIEW:

photo 4.PNGHere’s our first meme to examine. Let’s think through the message and implication of that message.

In this meme we have what appears to be an Eskimo fishing while speaking to an unseen Christian priest/missionary. The Eskimo asks whether those who are ignorant of God’s righteous character and our moral rebellion against him would, in light of that very ignorance, be held accountable. The priest/missionary replies “No, not if you did not know.” The Eskimo’s response is the key to understanding the single point of the meme, “Then why did you tell me?” According to the rationale of the meme’s creator, Christians appear to hold to 3 contradictory beliefs: a) Those who reject the message of sin and the forgiveness provided by the cross-work of Jesus are eternally damned (i.e. go to hell), b) it is the Christian’s job to tell as many people as possible the message of sin and…

View original 745 more words

The Second Coming of Christ: Charles Spurgeon

bography:

On Spurgeon and the Second coming. I was moved – in my soul, and to read the book. On Kindle for a dollar/60p, or free as separate PDFs.

Originally posted on Scripture Thoughts:

I’m now reading through Charles Spurgeon’s “The Second Coming of Christ” (available on Kindle for 99 cents), a collection of seven lectures on several prophetic texts. Spurgeon himself observed that he rarely addressed the doctrine of eschatology, yet through the years he delivered quite a few messages. I have read some of his sermons on this topic, not in this collection, including sermons on the First Resurrection (Revelation 20) and about the future restoration of Israel – but these seven specifically relate to Christ’s Second Advent and are collected together in this work available in print as well as in electronic format.

It is Spurgeon’s textual style of preaching, in which he examines all the facets of a text itself and expands on those words, with excellent insights, application, and practical considerations.  The seven sermons look at the following texts: Revelation 1:7, Matthew 25:31-36, Acts 1:10-11, Romans…

View original 764 more words

John 6 and the Eucharist: The deception of perception

 

Transubstantiation (the change from one substance to another) is the Roman Catholic observation that if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, indeed, tastes like a duck, this does not mean it is a duck, that is, is “substantially” a duck but simply that it is “accidentally” a duck. Roman Catholic theology (Thomas Aquinas) uses the Aristotelian concepts of “substance” (essence – independent of the senses) and “accidents” (how things appear physically – to the senses) to explain transubstantiation. So, to get back to our duck, say you transmute duck substance into human substance, the latter won’t taste, smell, feel human, but will still taste, smell, feel duck.

The distinction between “sensation” and “perception” is useful: the former relates to one or more of the fives senses, the latter to how the mind-brain processes this sensation to create understanding. For example, I’m typing this on my Ipad. My wife says to me “Switch on the dishwasher.” She says it again. And again. And again. Then “SWITCH ON THE DISHWASHER!” I jump and run to the dishwasher, open it and start unpacking the gooey innards. When it comes to housework, I’m terribly switched off. The mellifluous tones wafting from my wife’s buccal cavity lambast my ears (I hear her) but I don’t listen (don’t pay attention, thus don’t perceive).

Here are three biblical examples of misperception, all based on the same biblical excerpt from John 6, the “Bread of Life” passage. The misperception is the wrong reasons given why the disciples decided to no longer walk with Jesus (verse 66).

Example 1

When I was a Roman Catholic, this is what I perceived when I read this portion of John 6:

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

BLIND SPOT

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

On this reading, it is clear that the reason why the disciples chose to abandon Jesus was because he was commanding them to be cannibals. Verses 63 to 65 are missing, not in the actual text itself, but in the perception of the text. I shall progressively restore these verses in the next two examples.

Example 2

Let’s leave Roman Catholics and move on to Protestants. The majority of them perceive a little more, namely, verse 63: 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.

BLIND SPOT

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

What would the Protestant say is the reason why those who believed in Jesus (a false belief) abandoned him? Actually there are two Protestant answers – originating from two kinds of Protestants (I explain shortly); answers totally unrelated to each other. The first kind of Protestant will give the same answer as the Roman Catholic, namely, the cannibal reason. This kind of Protestant will add that Roman Catholics are blind, because they can’t see (perceive) that if Jesus was referring to his literal flesh, call it the “substance” of his flesh or skin and sinews or whatever you like, he would not have said “the flesh is useless.” In the third example, I introduce the second kind of Protestant; my kind.

Example 3

Example 2 describes the majority of Protestants. Alas, like Roman Catholics, their minds (perception) do not sync with their eyes (sensation). What did they (and the Roman Catholic in Example 1) not perceive? They did not perceive verses 64 and 65.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

The reason why Example 1 and 2 ignored verses 64 and 65 is because they are Roman Catholic and Protestant Arminians. 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.

Verses 64 and 65 (in bold above) mean that if people don’t believe in (come to) Jesus is because he has not granted them this belief. The “gift” of faith, is not the prospective beleiver’s gift to God but God’s gift to the prospective believer. This gift of faith of God does not mean that you can accept on your own bat whether you want to receive this gift, but that God frees you from the bondage of your radically corrupt will, which by nature, hates God (of the Bible). As a result. you accept this gift of faith with joy. In a nutshell, a person plays no part in his reconciliation with God; it’s all of God. All Roman Catholics and the majority of Protestants don’t believe this. As a result, they will define “no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” in such a way that it does not mean “permitted by the Father.” What I don’t know. The majority of Protestants are Arminians. These include Anglicans, Methodists and most Baptists.

Here is an example of grammatical cohesion, without which coherence suffers:

Peter, Paul and the latkes

Peter – I’m not going to eat with those Gentiles.

Paul – You hypocrite.

Peter – For that, you can’t have any of my latkes

Paul –  I’m ephing oph to Ephesus.

Latkes

Latkes

Question: Why did Paul leave? Answer: Was it because Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles or was it because of the latkes? I can’t be sure. There is, though, a language rule (of cohesion – words that link ideas together, for example, “this,” “because” and pronouns like “it.”) that says that first consideration should be given to what Peter said to Paul immediately antecedent to Paul’s “I’m ephing off to Ephesus,” namely, no latkes for Paul.

When we apply this rule of cohesion to our biblical text, it is reasonable to conclude that the followers of Jesus abandoned him at the least because of the last thing he said to them before they left: 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

It could be, though, that they abandoned Jesus because of any one or all of the things Jesus said, namely: 1. the hard saying “unless you eat my flesh…,” 2. “the flesh counts for nothing,” (duh, first he tells us to eat his flesh, then immediately afterwards says, “the flesh counts for nothing.” So which is it?). But perhaps they’re too dense to ask such a question) and 3. the last thing Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” “Come to,” of course, cannot mean anything but “believe in.”

To return to the grammatical notion of cohesion, which is the grammatical glue that makes coherence possible. A better example of this is Ephesians 2:8-9, owing to the fact that it is arguably the biggest bone of contention in the Calvinism-Arminian dispute. Also, Ephesians 2:8-9 is closely related to “no one can come to me unless granted by my father” (John 6:65 above). Here is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

William Lane Craig, like all Arminians, says that “this” in “and THIS is not your own doing, it is a gift of God…” cannot refer to faith because “this” is neuter while “faith” is feminine. Craig doesn’t know that “grace” is also feminine. I discuss this issue in depth elsewhere (See my The Calvinist Robot and the Arminian Zombie: Grammars of coming to faith and other articles on Calvinism and Arminianism. Recent posts appear first). My focus here is on cohesion. Sometimes a writer/speaker mentions several items but can only retain in short term memory (Freud’s “preconscious”) the last thing he wrote/spoke. So, when he says “this” he is, in his mind, pointing back to at least the last thing (the immediate antecedent) he wrote/spoke, which in our verse is “faith”: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

All English translations of this verse illustrate the grammatical rule that the demonstrative pronoun this (some translations have “that”) in Ephesians 2:8 automatically refers to, at the least, its immediate antecedent, which in Ephesians 2:8 is the noun “faith.” So, “that not of yourselves must refer to “faith.”

Which deception is more serious, the “substance-accidents” of the Lord’s supper or the belief that faith is the believer’s gift to God rather than God’s gift to the believer, which He plants in the soul he regenerates? I’m thinking.

“Word of faith” Baptism of the Holy Spirit: The invasion of every crook and granny

An Anglican studying for the priesthood told me that unless one believes in the “Baptism” of the Spirit as a necessary subsequent event to regeneration, one cannot be  true to the Anglican confession. If one knows anything about Anglicanism, the aforementioned view reveals an abject ignorance. The “Word of Faith movement” (Benny Hinn, TBN, etc) has invaded every crook and granny of the church. This movement fuses the “Baptism” of the Spirit and the “filling” of the Spirit. Result: mayhem.

Here is the major difference between the “Pentecostal – Word of Faith” movement” and the biblical view of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This movement labels the event in Acts 2:4 as the “Baptism in the Spirit,” which it regards as a second and necessary stage in Christian growth. Acts 2:4, in fact, is about the “filling” of the Spirit, not the “baptism” of the Spirit.

Acts 2:1-4 Filled with the Spirit

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all FILLED with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

1 Corinthians 12:13
In one SPIRIT are we all BAPTISED into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

This baptism in the Spirit is a one-off act of God that occurs at regeneration (being born again). The infilling of the Spirit, in contrast, is a repeated activity, as in many instances in the book of Acts:

Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!

Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 6:3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them

Acts 6:5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Be filled with the Spirit. But if you’re not born again, He must first baptize you.

Word, sacrament and sign in Luther and Calvin

There are many areas of Protestantism where Luther and Calvin are brothers, other areas where they are kissing cousins, and, alas, others where they are at loggerheads, if not at each other’s throats,  for example, baptism, the eucharist and confession. Here is a good article on words, sacrament and sign where Luther and Calvin bang heads.

“Why Luther is not Quite Protestant: The Logic of Faith in a Sacramental Promise.”

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2012/03/why-luther-is-not-quite-protestant.html

You’ll need strong faith in your noggin for this one.

Does the way to conversion of the head lie through a converted heart?

Andrew Murray Jr. (1928 – 1917) was the South African born son of Andrew Murray,  a Dutch Reformed minister and missionary from Scotland based in Graaff Reinet, South Africa, situated 160 kms from my home town in Port Elizabeth. My visit to the parsonage was a wonderful experience. It remains in the  same state today  as when the Murrays lived there. Andrew Jr., like his father, became a minister and missionary. He was minister in Wellington, Cape Province, South Africa from 1971 to 1906. I spent  five school years in Wellington, and whenever I walked to town, I passed his statue outside the church where he was minister. (School years after the Orphanage: Wellington). He was a prolific author and is widely read today in the Christian community.

 

andrew murrray use

Andrew Murray

 

parsonage murray use

The Parsonage. Now a museum

While Andrew and his brother John were studying theology in Holland, Andrew wrote to his father requesting that he and his brother finish their studies in Germany. What attracted them to Germany was August Tholuck (1799-1877) of Halle University, a brilliant orientalist. What attracted Andrew Murray to Tholuck, however, was not Tholuck’s knowledge of languages, but his pietism, which is a religious movement in 17ty century Germany that stressed Bible study and personal religious experience in reaction to the pervasive rationalism of the “Enlightenment”.

Here is an extract from Andrew Murray’s letter from Holland to his father in Graaff Reinet, South Africa:

“There is a plan that I have to propose to Papa. I cannot say that I am sure that it will meet with his approbation, but I mention it thus early that he may think about it and shall write more fully about it afterwards, and then he will be kind enough to give me an answer. In about two years from this date, which is all the time that it will be necessary for us to stay here, I shall be just twenty years old. The lectures here are such that it is almost impossible to get any good from them. What would Papa say to my, or perhaps both of us, then going to Germany ? It would likely be to Halle, where there are a great many excellent {both in head and heart) professors, at the head of whom stands Tholuck, a pious man, professor of exegesis, who is the leader of those who at the present time oppose the German neology [more on neology shortly]—at least as to what concerns the New Testament. From living being cheaper in Germany than here, the expenses of the journey would be compensated for by the difference in the living. About the same time the Cape students at Barmen would be going there so that perhaps we would be able to live still cheaper. The reason I have spoken of myself alone is that from the want of ministers at the Cape it would perhaps be necessary for John to come home immediately, and he would then be just about the age at which he could be ordained, while I think it very unlikely that in this stiff country where everything must happen according to rule, they would ordain me so young, little more than twenty. It would, however, be of course a very great advantage for him too. You will say, my dear Father, that is looking far forward. May God guide us in all our steps, and give us grace to do whatsoever our hand finds to do with all our might.”

 

tholuck 

August Tholuck

German neology is “a 17th century religious movement originating in Germany in reaction to formalism and intellectualism and stressing Bible study and personal religious experience.” (The Quarterly Christian Spectator, 1834, Art. X, p. 509, Google books).

Here is Tholuck:

“I have been young, but now am old. I have spent a whole lifetime in battling against infidelity with the weapons of apologetic science; but I have become ever more and more convinced that the way to the heart does not lie through the head; and that way to conversion of the head lies through a converted heart which already tastes the living fruits of the Gospel.” We are reminded of Pascal’s “The heart has its reasons that reason can never know” Le coeur a ses raisons que le raison ne connaît point.

If read in context, Pascal does not mean that God can only be known through the heart, but that He can be ultimately known only through  the heart. The modern meaning of “heart” in this context connotes spiritually discerned. In the Hebrew scriptures, however, “heart” refers to the whole being. Pascal’s “heart” is not the Old Testament meaning of “heart.” In Pascal the head reasons, the heart feels; in the Old Testament the heart is not merely the seat of the feelings but of thought as well, as in Deuteronomy 6:5 – And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃ [ve-ahavta et Adonai ( יְהוָה YHVH) elohecha b’chol l’vavcha [בָבְךָ YOUR HEART]oovechol nafsh’cha oovechol m’odecha].

The Greek of the New Testament introduces the mind as distinct from the heart: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart (kardia), and with all thy soul (psyche), and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind (dianoia)… (Luke 10:27). (See God seems distant in the midst of personal loss and suffering: When suffering comes to a head, strengthen it).

To return to Tholuck’s “I have become ever more and more convinced that the way to the heart does not lie through the head; and that way to conversion of the head lies through a converted heart which already tastes the living fruits of the Gospel.”

Tholuck 1. “the way to the heart does not lie through the head.”

There is an important sense in which the way to the heart must lie through the mind, as the scripture says:

[13] For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [14] How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” [16] But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” [17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-17 ).

The words preached are the divinely authoritative and declarative facts that have to pass through the ears into the head before it can reach the heart. Only after regeneration (being born again of God in Christ), however, will one’s mind be turned to and gradually renewed to grasp and obey the divine authoritative declarations embodied in “facts and statements, and assurances and promises and revelations in which God has told us all that we need know of what we are, of how we became such, of what He is, of what He has done for us, of what He is doing, of what He will do, not one of which could we learn from nature, for a knowledge of which we are totally dependent upon God’s statement, and of which we have no other personal knowledge than that what God tells us about them.” (“Thus says the Lord,” by James Petigree Boyce).

Theologians speak of notitia (facts), assensus (mental assent to these facts) and fiducia (faith/trust in these facts). The fact of the matter is that notitia will only be assented to after the mustard seed of fiducia has been implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit of God.

Tholuck 2. “that way to conversion of the head lies through a converted heart which already tastes the living fruits of the Gospel.”

This is so; conversion through the converted heart. (Conversion embraces regeneration, repentance, faith, justification and reconciliation to God). Someone may hear Gospel words but reject them as facts. As Tholuck says your heart must first be converted. What he means, I suggest, is that the human soul (heart) must first be regenerated, which is a sovereign unilateral work of God, wherein the soul, dead in sin, is raised to spiritual life, and in the process repents and is reconciled to the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ. Colossians 2 13″ And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (See also Ephesians 2:1-10).

 Andrew Murray’s life work was (as were his whole family’s) totally devoted to the study, meditation, dissemination, exhortation of and absolute surrender to the divine facts of God in Christ.

 

The blind tour guide to Israel

In the latest Christianity Today there appears the article “How we forget the holiness of God. There is much in it that is sound. There is one bit in the introduction however, that is misguided. It is what the writer’s guide in the Holy Land, Amir, told him.

The intro

A couple years ago, I visited Israel with a group of Christian journalists. We bobbed in the Dead Sea, ate “Peter fish” in Galilee, and ascended the desert fortress of Masada. We toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, prayed at the Western Wall, and sat amid Gethsemane’s twisted olive trees. But for me the highlight of the trip wasn’t a place. It was a person—our guide, Amir.

Amir was in his late 50s, stocky, with skin that looked like leather from leading trips through the Holy Land for three decades. At each site, Amir would seek out an isolated spot, gather us in a semicircle, and expound upon the historical and theological significance of the site. Sometimes he seemed more like a preacher than a tour guide.

I remember one talk in particular. With the Mount of Olives shimmering in the background, Amir described what he saw as the basic problem of the universe. “God longs to come down to earth to redeem the righteous and judge the wicked,” he said. “But there’s a problem.”

He leaned toward us and stretched out his arms like a scarecrow.

“His presence is like plutonium. Nothing can live when God comes near. If God came to earth, both the righteous and unrighteous would perish. We would all die!”

Amir said: “God longs to come down to earth to redeem the righteous and judge the wicked.”

That’s Rabbinism; Christianity is the exact opposite, which says: God longs to come down to earth to redeem the wicked (sinners, the blind) and judge the righteous (those who say they can see).

Romans 5:6-12
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

John 9:39-41
Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remains.

Luke 5:27-32
27 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. 28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. 30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

With regard to Amir’s “If God came to earth, both the righteous and unrighteous would perish. We would all die!”

The Bible says those who think they’re righteous are not; they’re desperately sick – sick unto death, the result of their radical corruption. Without the Father’s mercy (grace) and gift of faith in His Son, Jesus, the Christ, everyone without exception will be condemned; the unrighteous or those who think they are righteous.

Righteousness in the New Testament is given to believers in exchange for their sin, which Christ takes onto himself on the cross: 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Christians are called saints even before they have done anything. Everyone whom God brings to life from death – in sin, is holy (a saint). And good works? They are also gifts ordained by God: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Ephesians 2:1-10

1 And you has he quickened (raised to life), who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before ordained that we should walk in them.

This does not mean that Christians are robots; they are still required to work out the process of their salvation in fear and trembling. I say no more on the issue here, which I have dealt with in other posts.

Two conversions: the mind (NOTITIA) and the heart (FIDUCIA) of faith in Blaise Pascal

bography:

Many accuse Calvinists of being all logic and no fire. Without logic, you can’t understand what you read, and thus the Bible would be no more than a smothering smorsgasbrod of seeker-friendly maxims. True Calvinism, is “logic on fire” (Martyn Lloyd Jones).

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

If you’re a computer programmer, you’ve probably heard of the computer programme “Pascal.” If you’re also into physics then you absolutely must know about the pressure unit “Pascal.” And if you’re familiar with physics you must also be familiar with the Pascal’s mathematical theorem.

Blaise Pascal had two religious “conversions.” The first is connected to his study of Jansenism (1545–1563) which broke away from the Catholic Church after the Reformation and  the Council of Trent. Jansenism’s distinctive feature was its Augustinian doctrine that salvation is entirely of  God, which is summed up in Augustine’s famous “Grant what You command, and command what You desire” (Confessions 10, 29). The most important of God’s commands is to repent.

Matt. 4:17 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Mk. 1:15 – “Repent, and believe the gospel.”
Lk. 24:47 – “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name.”

View original 1,222 more words

The Times of Israel: How Christians are not fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah

bography:

I have just watched a documentary on the arms industry in Israel, which is the fourth largest in the world. How in heaven could the 1948 declaration of independence of Israel and the subsequent massive return to the “land” signify the return promised in the Bible? In this way: this return is for judgment, the preliminary to the return of the Messiah.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

In “TimesofIsrael” (26 Sept 2013), Eliezer Melamed writes on the festival of Sukkot (Booths) and how Christians are Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah. The Isaiah text referred to is “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” (Isaiah 61:5). The strangers Melamed has in mind are Christians. Here is Melamed’s story of Tommy, the Christian (my italics):

Tommy Waller

Recently, a troublemaker distributed libellous materials accusing Tommy Waller, an American Christian, of being a missionary. This despite the fact that Tommy has been actively recruiting Christian volunteers for Israel for ten years, and not a single Jew claims that Tommy or any of the thousands of people he has brought here have tried to undermine their faith. Therefore, I feel it is incumbent upon me to speak on his behalf. Out of an abiding faith in the uniqueness of the Jewish people and…

View original 3,858 more words

Hebrew for French sinners made easy

Are you French? Are you a sinner? You’re at least the latter, naturally. Now say you’re the former as well and want to learn Hebrew but find it impossible. Success in whatever, they say, is the best motivation to learn more. Here is a good way to get you excited about Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “sin” is pesha? There are more Hebrew words for sin, but don’t worry for now. If you’re French, pesha should remind you of péché (sin). Péché comes from the Latin pecco via the Proto-Indo-European verbal root *ped” (“to walk, fall, stumble”).

In Latin we have pēs, pedis (foot) and in ancient Greek πούς, ποδός (poús, podós). So pecco, péché, pous means, think of it like this, putting your foot in it.

The root of the Hebrew pesha means “rebellion.” Put all what we’ve read together, then you will see that when the Serpent rebelled in the Garden, God cut the feet off, literally, from under him, which made him not merely stumble but fall, and never to stand up again. 

Now that I’ve convinced you Hebrew is not so hard, you will want to make a go of it. You may stumble but not that you should fall.  If you’re a pastor preparing a sermon on the Fall and sick of tedious old  context, context, context, feel free to tap my roots.

“There is the menacing word pesha, “rebellion.” Why “menacing”? Because it is the killer-word. No matter how much we make an excuse for the fallen nature which prompts and effectuates actual sin, the fact remains that, in cases too numerous to recall, a choice was presented to us and we chose the path of deliberate, conscious, willful rebellion. We sinned because we wanted to.” “Stricken for the transgressions of my people: The atoning work of Isaiah’s suffering servant,” by J. Alec Motyer in “From heaven he came and sought her,” David and Jonathan Gibson.

Gibson photo page 35