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Where there is no vision: No more cutting and pasting a way to prosperity for this hermeneut

15 Apr

Why do so many hermeneuts get it wrong? Take, for instance, the distinction between exegesis (analysis of a text) and its application. Application to what? To life? Often “application” requires mutilating the context of a passage and applying it to the mutilator’s life.

Example: Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” What do many preachers do with this half a proverb – the likes of 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. Believers love it to pieces. Why do you think Christianity is growing so fast in many countries; in Nigeria and South Africa, for example. Envision your vision; see yourself well, see yourself with a good job, new car, the mortgage paid off. See yourself hounded and beaten for the faith; or for just being a drip – hmmm. It’s easy to catch these preachers with their hermeneutical pants down; if you really want to really. It’s not difficult to know where to look. Just read the bits before and/or the bits after the tasty morsels that these preachers feed you. Example: we return to the “vision” bit in Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It has a context. Read the next bit in the verse: “but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” “Perish” in the KJV is not a good translation of the Hebrew פָּרַע para`. A better translation of Proverbs 29:18 is “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”The Hebrew word for vision is חָזוֹן chazon (wrongly transliterated in the Blueletterbible as chazown (North American English pronunciation). Possible meanings of this word are 1. vision (in ecstatic state), 2. vision (in night), 3. vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication).

Chazon in this verse means being able to grasp what God’s word emanating from the prophet’s mouth (not the vision God gives you) is saying about God’s law. If you take God’s law to heart by keeping it, you will be blessed. A word out of context has a dictionary (lexical) meaning but no useful (pragmatic) meaning. A word without a context is connected to nothing – in the real world – only to a dictionary.

Pastors, please, no more cutting and pasting your way to sermons and books – and prosperity.

Be blessed. Now plant your seed. Phones are now open.

Related posts:
Out of context: Where there is no vision
The revelamce and vision of the Bible

 

Archibald Alexander and how we come to faith: Thank God that he never depends on human understanding to bring us to faith

11 Apr

bography:

Have been listening to several podcasts on the Arminian aberration of the kissing cousins, foreknowledge of God, predestination and how a sinner comes to faith. The latest trio of podcasts by “Designofprovidence,” critiquing the Arminian view of predestination – this time from the “Eastern Othodox” author, Matthew Gallatin.

http://designofprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/03/podcast-matthew-gallatin-and.html
http://designofprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/03/podcast-matthew-gallatin-and_26.html
http://designofprovidence.blogspot.com/2014/04/podcast-matthew-gallatin-and.html

This prompted me to reblog this post.

Originally posted on OneDaringJew:

God can use a crooked pencil to write straight

From the moment that Jesus entered his public ministry, people were divided. No surprises there; the human condition by nature is partition. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes:

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas [Peter]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

In this article, I speak of Calvinists and Arminians. There is a sense in which the person “follows” Calvin or Arminius but…

View original 3,188 more words

Pirate Christian Radio: Plundering galleys of drivel

10 Apr

 The world laughs at Christian sermons. And I don’t mean every Tom and Dick in the world; I mean the world “system.” There are many sermons that Christians should also laugh at – in the sense of Psalms 2:44 “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” These are effluent sermons volubling (lubloo – Russian for “I lurv”) from the mouths of people like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren; sermons on how you can have a beautiful life  and wife, and lose weight like Daniel. And plant your seed (in my garden. easy gro, bro) – because in so doing you are honouring God. If you want to have a good laugh in both senses of the word, and learn what the Bible really is about, share a barrel of  fun and rum with Chris Rosebrough.

Picture 30You deserve a rose, bro.

Faith and repentance: two sides of the same coin

8 Apr

Which comes first, faith or repentance? Here is John Calvin”

“Now, both repentance and forgiveness of sins – that is, newness of life and free reconciliation – are conferred on us by Christ, and both are attained by us through faith. As a consequence, reason and the order of teaching demand that I begin to discuss both at this point. However, our immediate transition will be from faith to repentance. For when this topic is rightly understood it will better appear how man is justified by faith alone, and simple pardon; nevertheless actual holiness of life, so to speak, is not separated from free imputation of righteousness. Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith. For since pardon and forgiveness are offered through the preaching of the gospel in order that the sinner, freed from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of vices, may cross over into the Kingdom of God, surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without betaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance” (Calvin, Inst. III.iii.1).

Calvin says above “Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith.” I wonder, though, whether the Bible states that repentance follows faith. On this matter, here is Sinclair Ferguson

“Any confusion is surely resolved by the fact that when Jesus preached “the gospel of God” in Galilee, He urged His hearers, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15). Here repentance and faith belong together. They denote two aspects in conversion that are equally essential to it. Thus, either term implies the presence of the other because each reality (repentance or faith) is the sine qua non of the other” (Sinclair Ferguson, “Faith and Repentance”).

That seems more like it: faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin.

“Jerusalem Jerusalem” – John Piper’s tender (?) word to Pharisees in the parable of the prodigal son

7 Apr

The question I examine here is “What has the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) got to do with Jerusalem Jerusalem?” The parable is not about church discipline and reconciliation, as in Stephen Davey’s “In Pursuit of Prodigals: A Primer on Church discipline and Reconciliation.”Jesus addresses the parable to the pharisees. The two sons in the parable are both Jews. The elder son represents a pharisee, the younger, a publican, a sinner. For Charles Spurgeon, the parable’s central focus is the younger brother – his sin, his misery, his penitence, his restoration (reconciliation, salvation). Here is Spurgeon:

Though it be true that all sinners are a great way off from God, whether they know it or not, yet in this particular instance, the position of the poor prodigal is intended to signify the character of one, who has been aroused by conviction, who has been led to abhor his former life, and who sincerely desires to return to God. I shall not, then, this morning, specially address the blasphemer, and the profane. [the elder son in the parable]. To him, there may be some incidental warning heard, but I shall not specially address such a character. It is another person for whom this text is intended: the man who has been a blasphemer, if you please, who may have been a drunkard, and a swearer, and what not, but who has now renounced these things, and is steadfastly seeking after Christ, that he may obtain eternal life. That is the man who is here said to be, though coming to the Lord, “a great way off.”Once again, there is another person who is not intended by this description, namely, the very great man, the Pharisee who thinks himself extremely righteous, and has never learned to confess his sin. You, sir, in your apprehension, are not a great way off. You are so really in the sight of God; you are as far from him as light from darkness, as the east is from the west; but you are not spoken of here. You are like the prodigal son, only that instead of spending your life righteously, you have run away from your Father, and hidden in the earth the gold which he gave you, and are able to feed upon the husks which swine do eat, whilst by a miserable economy of good works you are hoping to save enough of your fortune to support yourself here and in eternity. Your hope of self-salvation is a fallacy, and you are not addressed in the words of the text. It is the man who knows himself lost, but desires to be saved, who is here declared to be met by God, and received with affectionate embraces.”

What about the elder son? The parable is not only about the younger son but the elder son as well; after all, the elder son represents the pharisees whom Jesus is addressing. As Robert Leroe points out in his “The prodigal sons.”

Here was the best of homes. The father has both compassion and wealth. He loves his sons and is concerned for their happiness. Both sons are far from home–one geographically, both spiritually. To both He earnestly, tenderly calls: ‘Come home, come home, you who are weary come home.’”

John Piper’s “A Tender word to the pharisees” focuses on the elder son:

This Sunday I preached at Watermark Church in Dallas under the title “A Tender Word for Pharisees.” There are not many tender words for Pharisees in the mouth of Jesus. Mainly his words to Pharisees are tough, even terrifying (see Matthew 23). The most moving words of tenderness for Pharisees are in Luke 15:25–31, the words of the father to the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son… The father says, “All that is mine is yours” — Verse 31: “My child, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).

There is a massive inheritance coming. And the father only hints at the condition: “Child . . . all that I have is yours.” Jesus leaves unsaid the possibility that the elder son will remain forever on the porch with the slaves, rather than sit at the table of mercy as a grateful child, a son. He leaves unmentioned what he said in Matthew 15:11–12, ‘Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.’ Not here. Not in this parable. Here it is all tenderness toward the Pharisees. The message of the parable ends with tenderness to both brothers: Come in from the foreign country of misery, and come in from the porch of hard-earned merit. Both are deadly. But inside is the banquet of grace, and forgiveness, and fellowship with an all-satisfying Father.”

And now to Jerusalem – where I shall argue we have no business. In the last few minutes (36:42 ff) of his sermon (on youtube here). Piper says:

Four chapters later, in Luke chapter 19, verse 41, Luke says , “When Jesus drew near to the city, Jerusalem, he wept over it saying (Piper is reading – not sure whether the actual verse), ‘would you [then he looks up], even you have known the day of peace, and now it is hid from your eyes.’ In other place [I think he means 'in other words." Piper is looking at his audience with arms outstretched] I would have gathered you like a hen gathers her chicks; he’s looking on Jerusalem filled with pharisees and people saying crucify him, crucify him because he’s wrecking our legal system of merit.”

if Piper had not taken is eye off the page, what would he have read in Luke 19:42ff after breaking off after “would you?”

41b And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Nothing here of tender pleading at all. Also nothing about hens and chicks, mentioned by Piper. For these, we need to back track to Luke 13:34 (in italics), which I quote in context:

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that ea prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Piper said earlier “There are not many tender words for Pharisees in the mouth of Jesus. Mainly his words to Pharisees are tough, even terrifying (see Matthew 23).” True. Indeed, in Matthew 23 there are a half dozen “woe to you scribes and Pharisees,” followed by our returned from AWOL hen and chicks. (The hen and chicks also appear in Luke 13, quoted above).

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Note “you are not willing” in the above passage. James White mentions instances where Arminians quote the above verse to buttress their case that Jesus, the failing Messiah (failing because, they say, he sovereignly set himself up to fail out of respect for human free will) is longing for sinners to come to him but they don’t come because they are not willing, which, they say, proves that it’s up to you whether you come to Christ or not Here is how some Arminians quote the verse: 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered YOU as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”

I have, like James White, heard on several occasions the mutilation of “your children.” Woe is and to me, I never took note of the names of these Arminian recalcitrants. I never thought, though, to hear a Calvinist, in this instance, John Piper, misquote it. But slips happen. If only Piper had not lifted his eyes off the text – to increase the poignancy of the moment, perhaps? – he would’ve seen that he could not have used the text in front of him to exemplify Jesus’s tenderness towards the Pharisees. Maybe his eyes, Piper being a good reader, were streaking far ahead of his voice, and when he saw what the passage actually said and saw himself heading in the wrong direction – I’m not saying he panicked – he sensibly continued at lib. But look where such ostensible sensible liberties led him. Recall the passage Piper began to read “Would you…” and then abandoned – Luke 19:42 ff:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

In the above passage, Jesus is not longing to gather the Pharisees/leaders like a hen gathers her chicks; he is longing to gather their children but they are not willing to allow their children to come, and consequently are condemned by Jesus.

In conclusion, in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus does have a tender word for the Pharisees, but exactly the opposite attitude in the “O Jerusalem Jerusalem” passages. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father saw the son far off. In Piper’s sermon as well, there was something far off.

So should this booboo make me, or you. write Piper off. Don’t be a klutz! He’s one of my favourite preachers and a very good theologian.

Christianity Today’s “Tragic death of Fred Phelps.” Stop draining the life out of the blood of Christ

22 Mar

The latest issue of Christianity Today, carries the article “The tragic death of Fred Phelps,” The first sentence, short and crisp – you’re toast, reads “Death is always a tragedy.” What! Then no more singing in church those idiotic songs “You’re my greatest treasure” and “I want to be where you are” – that is, dead.

What is a tragedy. It is an event that ends in despair, no hope, lost for eternity. Don’t Christians today know that, feel that in their tripes? Now here’s an avoidable tragedy: Christianity Today refrain from talking such tripe and draining the life out of the blood of Christ, which so many Christians accuse Fred Phelps of doing.

A question: Does God hate people? I was surprised to hear Al Mohler expressing himself about God’s love in a similar vein to the above writer: God loves everybody. In his You Have Been Warned—The “Duck Dynasty” ControversyMohler says:

“In a statement released before his suspension, Phil Robertson told of his own sinful past and of his experience of salvation in Christ and said:

‘My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.’

Those are fighting words, Phil. They are also the gospel truth.” Fighting words? God loves all humanity?  Hates no one?  Sweet thought but not so? Here is  Matt Slick  on the question: 

Does God hate anyone? The answer is yes.

Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”
Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

“Are these verses, asks Slick,  hard to read? Do they make you feel uncomfortable? They should. God hates sin. But, He does not punish sin. He punishes the sinner. Sin cannot be tied up and thrown into a fire. It cannot be put in a box or glued to a stick. It is rebellion. It is rebellion in the heart. It is breaking God’s Law. Sin occurs inside the heart and mind of people. Therefore, God must punish the sinner. Why? Because He is both Holy and Just and the person who sins offends God. God’s Holy and Just character will not allow Him to ignore this offense.

Slick concludes:

“The sobering fact is that God is so holy and righteous that He hates the sinner (Psalm 5:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Hos. 9:15). Some say that we should say that God only hates the sin but loves the sinner. But, the above scriptures speak contrary to that. But it is also true that He is love (1 John 4:8). It is better to accept the love of God found in Jesus than to reject it and suffer His wrath.”

What then does John 3:16 mean when it says “God so loved the world?” It certainly does not mean “God loved the soooooo much….” It means “God loved the world (not Mars) in such away that he gave his son so that those believing in him will be given eternal life. And – the next bit – those not believing are condemned already. I wonder if “enough already” was originally coined by a Jewish Arminian.

In one of the writer’s sentences (repeated below) in the Christianity article, the Apostle Paul’s “us” refers to believers, not the “world,” not even to the US.

“They (The Phelps family) followed an angry god who hated sinners, not the God who sent Jesus who “proves His own love for US in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).

As for the writer’s  “Tell someone today that God loves them,” that’s at best Arminian confusion. As for the reason given “Do it because the world will talk about a man who hated in the name of “God”: So God may not really love the one you’re deceiving? Such a plan is arguably worse than telling Tom, Dick AND Harry that “God has a great plan for your life.” Health and happiness?

James White’s Greek: Trip over your letters and destroy the world

21 Mar

First a little linguistics. The science of linguistics distinguishes between competence and performance. Competence refers to knowledge of a language, and performance to its use. Sometimes a competent language user may – aware or unaware – slip on his performance of sounds, spelling, grammar or vocabulary. The difference between a competent and incompetent language user is that the former, when becoming aware, can correct the mistake. The incompetent person. In contrast, cannot corect the mistake, which means that he doesn’t know the language (adequately). If, therefore, a person makes a mistake in writing or speaking, we should not conclude that the person is incompetent, namely, doesn’t know how the language works. The mistake might be a performance slip, and not an indication of incompetence.

On his “Dividing Line” yesterday, James White was in telephonic conversation with Ijaz Ahmed. One of the issues dealt with was the incident where White had slipped up in quoting from memory an excerpt of biblical Greek. Ijaz Ahmed had previously posted the following graphic and article on his blog

james white greek 1

The day after James White’s debate with Br. Zakir Hussain (details here, audio stream here, or right click ‘save as’ to download here), James released an article conceding to his clear ineptitude, inability to respond to well founded research and lack of basic comprehension skills. By basic I mean not being able to find a word and correctly identify its meaning, even after having used a computer to search for it (even though he’s a self claimed expert on the Greek language). I really must question not only his basic comprehension skills, but his lazy and hypocritical attitude as well. Ask a 3 year old Muslim to recite 7 ayat from Surah Fatihah and they would be able to do so with perfect pronunciation (tajweed), which I can demonstrate as being possible here and here, ask James White to repeat something he’s done several thousand times and he can’t.” 

Ijaz Ahmed’s understanding of how language works is parlous. “Reciting” sounds or letters by itself is not what is meant by knowing a language. And so, reciting them well does not mean the reciter knows the language well. Indeed the reciter might not have the foggiest idea. That little three-year  old Muslim hasn’t, of course, a clue what’s tripping off his tongue. This is true of the majority of Muslim adults as well because although they can recite Arabic, they don’t have a clue about Arabic grammar or what the words mean. Think parrots. The difference between a parrot and human “reciters” is that parrots don’t have minds; well, not human minds. But, says many Muslims, that doesn’t matter, because the sounds (phonemes) and the letters (graphemes) have a power in themselves to bring you closer, if not to Allah, to submission to Allah’s will.

As with Muslims, so with Jews, specifically non-Israeli Jews. ”When I was called to the bima (platform), relates Avram Yehoshua from the US,  to read the haftara portion (the portion of Scripture from the Prophets that the bar Mitzva boy reads), I chanted it melodically and without mistake. The only problem was that I had no idea what the Hebrew words meant or what I was doing, except that today I would ‘become a man.’ 

In passing, I wonder whether the Muslims didn’t get the idea from medieval rabbis that the Arabic letters and sounds in the Quran having divine properties. 

In his his “Handbook of Rabbinical Theology: Language, system, structure”(Brill Academic Publishers, 2002), Jacob Neusner says “The saying of the words [of the Mishnah], whether heard meaningfully by another or not, is the creation of the world?” Jacob Neusner and the grammar of rabbinical theology (5): the creativity of the rabbinical mind.” The explanation of such an unintelligible statement (to those outside traditional Judaism) is found in the Kabbalah, a core text of the Oral Torah. According to the Kabbalah, the very individual sounds (phonemes)/letters (graphemes) of the Torah contain deep meanings independent of the meanings of the words they spawn. Rabbi Glazerson, in his Philistine and Palestinian” (1995) says: The deeper significance of the letters and words is discussed extensively in the literature of Kabbalah. It is a subject as wide as all Creation. Every single letter points to a separate path by which the effluence of the divine creative force reaches the various sefirot (”spheres”) through which the Creator, Blessed be he, created His world,”

And Moshe CordoveroHalachah [Jewish law] obligates the reader to read the weekly portion, twice in the original Hebrew and once in the Aramaic translation, and this includes even seemingly meaningless place names (underlining added) such as Atarot and Divon (Bamidbar 32:3 Numbers” 32:3)…The spiritual concept of each and every letter contains a glorious light, derived from the essence of the sefirot [spheres]…each letter is like a splendid palace, containing and corresponding to its spiritual concept. When one of the letters is pronounced aloud, the corresponding spiritual force is necessarily evoked…these spiritual forces inhere not only in [the vocalized letters] but also in their written forms.” Moshe Cordovero’s Pardes Rimonim [Garden of Pomegranates] , Sha’ar Ha-Ottiot [Gate of Letters], Chapter 1).   (See my Letters of Hebrew fire – the depth and death of meaning). 

White, stumbled over his Greek letters, and that, says Jiad, I mean Ijad, makes him no NT scholar. We can be thankful though that he was speaking Greek, not Hebrew (or Quranic Arabic?), and so the world did not come to an end.

Unbelief: The stench of death to death

16 Mar

In his “Belief in Jesus: Its Barriers and Blessings John Piper talks about sad news (perdition) and glad tidings (salvation). He gives three conclusions that turn the sad news into glad news.

Piper’s text is John 12:37-42

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[h]
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Piper has three conclusions:

1. God is sovereign over all belief and unbelief. He knows exactly how to plan both of them in ways that exalt his sovereignty and preserve man’s accountability. And therefore he is never thwarted in his plans by anyone’s unbelief. Nor is he ever prevented from saving his own (John 10:16; 6:37).

2. The root of unbelief points to the glory of Jesus Christ. He is the radiance of God’s glory, but he is meek and lowly. The root of unbelief is to love the glory of man (the centrality of man, the praise of man) and not the glory of God (the centrality and supremacy of God). And that is exactly backwards. When we love the glory of God above the glory of man, we will not reject Jesus, but believe on him.

3. The text of this message and the entire story of the public ministry of Jesus points us to the cross where he will die. He was the glory of Isaiah 6. He was the unattractive suffering servant of Isaiah 53. And therefore (because of both) he was rejected by men and destined for the cross — and for the salvation of the world. This is what God planned in the unbelief of Israel.

What I want to mention most of all is part of Piper’s opening prayer.

“I don’t want to be the instrument of anyone’s hardening tonight, I don’t want to be the aroma (added: “stench” is more appropriate) from death to death. I tremble at the prospect of consigning anyone to destruction, to bringing them to the point of decisive unbelief through exposing them to the brightness of the glory which they hate.”

Staggering.

Piper’s m3 sermons have transcripts.

The gift: The reward of suffering

27 Feb

I examine the meaning of gift and reward and their relationship to salvation. The key motifs are based on the italicised portions in John 6.

 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” …60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offence at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

In this passage, it is clear that the reason why a sinner comes to (believes in) Christ is because the Father has (previously; in eternity) given the sinner to the Son. And if you do come, you will be given eternal life. We see the same promise in John 17:6 –  “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” This promise was decreed from eternity: Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

Every whosoever is familiar with John 3:16 – “God so loved the world 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The word “whoever,” or “Whosoever,” evokes for the English speaker the melodramatic notion “whoever chooses to believe.” A better translation, is “God loved the world in such a way that he gave his son, that those believing in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Here is Matthew Henry on John 3:16: “Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God’s love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world!”

And the “Pulpit Commentary”:

The Divine love is the sublime source of the whole proceeding, and it has been lavished on “the world.” This world cannot be the limited “world” of the Augustinian, Calvinian interpreters – the world of the elect; it is that “whole world” of which St. John speaks in 1 John 2:2. “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Calvin himself says, “Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.” (See Commentaries on John 3:16).

The “world’ in 1 John 2:2, contrary to the Arminian view above, comprises those that were given to the Son before the world began (John 6:37-44 above), not those in the world who are those not given to the Son before the world began; as it says in John 17, Jesus does not pray (intercede) for the “world” (the non-elect) but only for those whom the Father gives him, gave Him from eternity. These consist of the disciples Jesus was praying for in John 17 as well as those who will come to believe in the future. The “all”  in 1 Timothy 2:4 cannot refer to everyone without exception, for at least two reasons:

  1. Many are not saved, which means God would be a massive failure, making nonsense of Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

2. The import of the “given” verses in John 6:37-44 and John 17 discussed above.

Yes, Calvin says God loves (with a saving love) the human race, not animals, not any other kind of being. This does not mean every individual, but only those who were given: from the Jewish nation and the “nations” (Goyim – Gentiles); those who formed “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

Salvation, the whole process – those the Father gives to the Son, regeneration, repentance and faith, sanctification and glorification – is of the Lord. Therefore – as I recently read in an Anglican Purpose Statement, “we cannot save ourselves and salvation is through (my italics) Christ and Christ alone.” Don’t, however, be deceived. Because this statement is from an Anglican view, therefore an Arminian view, it does not mean that salvation is “of the Lord” (Jonah 2;9) alone, that is by Christ ALONE. What Anglicans, in general, mean is that there is no other external (outside oneself) entity by which one can be saved. The typical Arminian belief is that God is only a possible saviour, and therefore the Father is unable to give you to the Son unless he foresees that you will grant him permission to do so. So, Christ is the possible saviour, and has a great plan for your life – unless you have other plans. Can there be such a person as a real saviour, a saviour who doesn’t depend on the hand he is dealt, and if so, who is this amazing being? You, of course. That is the logical outcome of the Arminian position – praying on his knees for God to change people’s hearts but on his feet defending their “God-given” right to change it themselves.

In the John 6 passage above, we saw that sinners are the Father’s gift to the son. The next question is: Was there anything good (righteous) in those specific sinners that influenced the Father to give them to the son? By “good” is not meant loving kindness, but primarily acknowledging and bowing before Christ as Saviour and Lord – out of which flows loving kindness. No one, in the natural, therefore sinful, state wants to confess Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3).

Therefore, you can only want to come to Christ, to see his kingdom, if he puts that desire into you. How do you get this desire. It should be simple (to understand) but often is not: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3). So, before you can believe, you need to see, and before you can see, you need to be born again. Here, in contrast, is the Arminian view: “I see Christ, then with some help from his indispensable grace I open my door to him, and then believe. Next, I ask Him to regenerate me (make me born again). The unregenerate puts the cart before the horse. Who cares, as long as there is a cart and the horse; we’ll find out in heaven what comes first!

I move on to the second part of my title: reward.

In Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?. I examined the following verse in the song “How deep the father’s love for us.”

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory

This verse is saying that the reason why the Father turned his face away was because of the great pain he felt at crucifying his son. Pure conjecture, and sentimental conjecture at that. A mystic, though, could very well be better informed.

Previously, I argued that the Father gave a definite number of sinners (the elect) to the Son as a gift, which, I should add, was predestined from eternity (Ephesians 1). Believers are the Father’s gift to the Son. Or more accurately, The Father, by His wise secret counsel, gave sinners whom he elected to salvation to the Son. Consider this gift in the light of “reward.”

Here is another verse from the song above, “Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?. This verse mentions the Son’s reward:

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart

His wounds have paid my ransom.

What is Christ’s reward? The first line of the verse tells us that saved sinners feel unworthy to share in Christ’s reward. What can this reward be? An extra thousand cattle on an extra thousand hills – spiritual cattle on spiritual hills, if you like? More glory than He had before He came to earth? No, because Christ cannot have more glory than he had before he came to earth: John 17: 4 “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Here is an excerpt from Paris Reidhead’s sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” regarded as one of the best sermons of all time, and rightly so. The emphases are his:

“I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in Hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear THROUGH THE OVERLAY OF THIS HUMANISM! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying “Someone come teach us”, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.

 There alone in my bedroom AS I FACED GOD HONESTLY WITH WHAT MY HEART FELT, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The Heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to Hell, not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN! And because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its’ way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this, “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM!!! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM!!! I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”

I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of Hell for me. But He deserved the heathen. Because He died for them. My eyes were opened. I was no longer working for Micah and ten shekels and a shirt. But I was serving a living God.”

When I heard this last paragraph, I thought: “Paris, you’re wrong. Doesn’t John 3:16 say, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life.’ But here you are saying that God (the Father) so loved His son, that he gave Him these lovers of iniquity to become his adopted brothers and sisters. And the way the Father chose to do this, you would agree, Paris, was to unleash his wrath on His Son (with the Son’s full cooperation), the wrath these lovers of iniquity deserved What love is this! Indeed.

Here is a very moving excerpt (a short YouTube clip) from Paris Reidhead’s “Ten Shekels and shirt” about the reward of Christ’s suffering. The first 20 seconds show an excerpt from “The Passion of the Christ,” which is not the main reason for the excerpt’s poignancy.

What then can the Saviour’s reward be? Well, if he has saved you, then His reward is you, innit? The ones the Father gave to the Son, gifted to the Son, “the ones believing” (translated infelicitously as “whosoever”) in John 3:16, are His reward – the reward of His suffering. If we are born again, and consequently united to Christ through faith, “it should rejoice our hearts: for Christ herein has his rewards for his suffering.” (Jonathan Edwards). Isaiah 53:10 – “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” (See Jonathan Edwards, “For His sufferings, God promised Christ the reward of seeing sinners saved”).

What motivated God to create the world, asks Mark Talbot (“When the stars disappear: Why do Christians suffer” – Christ the Center podcast, minute 50). One way to answer this is to say that God the Father loved the Son so much that He created the world in order that he might gather a people who would in fact become his Son’s bride and praise His Son forever throughout all of the eschaton (consummation). That’s the end of the story.”

And the end of the reward’s suffering. Not only the end of their suffering, but the latter’s intent.

Why should I gain from His reward?” No, rather “Why make me, this unclean thing (Romans 3:13-18), his reward?”

“Brainy quotes” from Thomas Aquinas: There’s nothing like a good sleep, a hot bath and a glass of good red wine

18 Feb

Here are a few Thomas Aquinas quotes from Brainy quotes followed by my comments. How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.” Does this “we,” refer to everybody without distinction, including atheists, agnostics and materialists? Surely many people of Thomas’s day, as of any day, hate God. If Thomas is not referring to atheists, is he referring to Muslims and Jews? Consider Jesus’s words: John 14 6. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

In verse 7, Jesus says “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” Thus, after the advent of Jesus, the God that the Muslims and Jews want to know, or think they know, is neither the Son of God (Jesus) or God the Father, and so, not the Christian God. As far as Thomas’s “madly in love” with God, although true Christians love God, many of these are not madly in love with Him. Thomas was genuinely in love with God; though today the phrase “in love” used about God often appears in schmaltzy boyfriend- girlfriend church songs.

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”

There was at least one exception where this remedy would not have worked. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). And what about someone who had just lost a child to sickness or murder; and the many other situations. Or, to return to the Bible: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Would a good sleep, a nice hot bath, and a glass of claret dissolve that worldly sorrow? Maybe what Thomas really said was: Some sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” Here is an example from Jewish life. Jewish mothers often have a lot of tsorres (sorrows), which may be nothing more than the kitke burning in the oven. I doubt whether all the bath salts in the world could wipe away that sorrow.

Kitke

Kitke

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”

In my teaching courses I was taught that a great motivation to learning something is being interested in it; and if you love it, you’ll want to learn even more. Biblically speaking, love of God and knowledge of God are two sides of the same coin – unless you’re a mindless mystic. It is true, though, that we can get lost in love, where our minds freeze up – which can be good for you.

The things that we love tell us what we are.”

And the things that we hate? Do the things that we hate tell us who we are not? Of course not, and Thomas would, I think, agree. Surely it is things that we both love and hate that tell us who we are – and who we ae not. Be careful though: John says: I love Church. Does that tell us that he loves church? No, he might be lying. Ok, then; John doesn’t only tell us he loves going to church, he also goes a lot. So does this mean that he loves church because he never misses a Sunday? Hint: his wife loves going to church, and he loves her; or wants peace at home.

How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know?”

When you knock a star over its head, it doesn’t  see stars, bravely stagger to its feet, rip off its rolex, and punch you in the jaw.

It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.”

You said it Thomas, I feel much better now. I’d feel even better perhaps if I didn’t – like children – take play so seriously. Anyhow, why worry, as Thomas does and many Catholics don’t,  about all this serious biblical and doctrinal stuff. Let us 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)

Apologetics: What’s the use!

16 Feb

In his article on the use of apologetics, “What’s it all for?”, the author holds the view – confusing to many – that “I am definitely an apologist and in the same breath say that there can be no objective proof for the existence of God.” Some hold the view that apologetics is useful, others the view that there is no objective proof of God’s existence, but very few would hold to both views. The author writes:

Apologetics was never really or initially about proving God to someone who did not believe in God to begin with. It simply wasn’t. It has evolved into that kind of thing, and along with it, it has become an cyclical exercise nearing futility. Rather, apologetics is about the process of critical thinking about the way we already make sense of reality and the universe. It is the process of checking ourselves (as theists) to make sure that we are thinking about our understanding of God correctly and accurately. And it works most of the time. It actually does provide a logical framework based on our existing worldview that demonstrates our beliefs about God and religious truth are accurate.”

So, the author maintains, you are not going to convince an atheist that God exists, definitely not that a personal God exists, and certainly not that the being of this personal God is a trinity of persons. Apologetics is of most use in a theist-to-theist discussion. As Greg Koukl puts it, all he is doing in his “Stand to Reason” ministry is putting a stone in someone’s shoe. Make that a burning cinder, and I’ll agree.

However, continues the author, that does not mean “I think apologetic conversations between a theist and an atheist is entirely useless. But the point cannot be to show that the atheist ought to believe the theist is right. That simply will not work. Rather, the point ultimately is to apply a critical analysis of the argument itself. The atheist will point out logical errors in the arguments because they cannot have any kind of confirmation bias to disregard them. However, the theist has to keep in mind that the atheist will also point out perceived errors based on the assumptions the theist does not share. That’s where the theist has to be able to recognize where the atheist are coming from so he/she can discern which objections are valid and which ones are not, because from the atheist’s perspective, they are simply not going to be able to tell the difference.”

What can be very useful for theists in discussion with atheists is to get atheists to think about their thinking, which, in a nutshell, is what philosophy is all about. At the end of the the Backpack Radio episode “Thinking about thinking,” the presenter slips in the most significant remark of the whole episode: Christianity is foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 1 and 2), and that without regeneration (being born again – John 3) – no matter how clear your presentation – no one can come to believe in Christ.

Having said that, logical argumentation, as the writer of “What’s it all for?” said above, can be very useful in showing atheists the inconsistencies they hold. For example, in Backpack Radio’s subsequent episode, James Anderson discusses “worldview.” He relates an anecdote about someone who used his book What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions, in his apologetics class. The book is written in the form of a flow chart. The first question Anderson asks is “Do you believe in absolute truth?” If you say yes, you are directed to a specific section of the book; if you answer no, you are sent to another section. Anderson tells of someone who went through the book with non theology students In answer to the question “Do you believe in absolute truth?” about 90% said no. This answer led to a related track of the book. At the end of their journey, most wanted to change their minds.

Conclusion: thinking about thinking, that is, philosophy, will definitely not save you, but it can certainly get your unbelieving knickers in a knot. And if you’re riding furiously towards Damascus, that knot might be the (unguaranteed) means that God uses to pluck you off your high horse. As Anderson said, world views seldom change, but this change may occur under a crisis (death-beds generally excluded). Ultimately it is a work of the Holy Spirit – who, of course, never fails in what He wants to do. The fact that God never fails in what he wants to do is something the Calvinists on this page, if not most Christians, believe?

God uses different means for different people. One of these may be apologetics. What it ultimately comes down to is that No one can know God without His voluntary condescension (Westminister Confession of faith), in a word his grace, which by itself is sufficient to save – through faith, both divinely generated that turns a sow into a cat:

“Try and teach a sow to wash itself, and see how little success you would gain. It would be a great sanitary improvement if swine would be clean. Teach them to wash and clean themselves as the cat has been doing! Useless task. You may by force wash that sow, but it hastens to the mire, and is soon as foul as ever. The only way in which you can get a sow to wash itself is to transform it into a cat; then it will wash and be clean, but not till then! Suppose that transformation to be accomplished, and then what was difficult or impossible is easy enough; the swine will henceforth be fit for your parlor and your hearth-rug. So it is with an ungodly man; you cannot force him to do what a renewed man does most willingly; you may teach him, and set him a good example, but he cannot learn the art of holiness, for he has no mind to it; his nature leads him another way. When the Lord makes a new man of him, then all things wear a different aspect. So great is this change, that I once heard a convert say, “Either all the world is changed, or else I am.”(Charles Spurgeon, “All of grace”)

Draining the colour from the blood of Christ

9 Feb

Nathan Betts in God’s final word writes:

“The cross of Christ shows us the enormity of evil that needed to be dealt with but it also shows us a God that cares. The theologian, N.T. Wright beautifully calls the cross, “God’s no to evil”. [ N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (Harperone, 2008), 87]. In the cross of Christ we see that God is not distant from suffering or evil but one who got involved in the problem. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ tells us that the real evil we see around us is not the end.”

The cross, says Wright, God’s no to evil. Is that what Wright gets from God ordaining/predestinating/decreeing the cross? “As you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” – Acts 2:23.

The verse says that God (the Father) ordained the crucifixion of Jesus. God didn’t – oh what a distorted, but all too human, notion – fit his divine plan of redemption into what he foresaw evil man would do, namely, crucify His Son. To think like this is to drain the two primary colours of redemption from the blood of Christ – his wrath and love.

There is no evil in God, there is no sin in God, but he ordained this evil, this sin. Why did God foreknow the cross? For the same reason he foreknows anything: it was part of his definite plan, his eternal decree. Yet lawless men are held accountable for this evil. That is what the verse is saying, love it, hate it. Most professing Christians blanch at the thought – naturally.

Our worship often smells nothing of God

8 Feb

There are so many songs sung in church that shouldn’t be. Lines such as “I’ll lay it all down again” (what’s this “it,” YOUR life!) and “I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo” are plain silly. (See Songs we should not sing in church).

Hugh Binning lived and died in the first half of the 17th century (1637 – 53). What he said about worship applies to all times and climes – whether it be of the formal or informal (no form?) kind”

“For the most part, our worship savours and smells nothing of God, neither his power, nor his mercy and grace, nor his holiness and justice, nor his majesty and glory; a secure, faint, formal way, void of reverence, of humility, of fervency, and of faith. I beseech you let us consider, as before the Lord, how much pains and time we lose, and please none but ourselves, and profit none at all. Stir up yourselves as in his sight for it is the keeping of our souls continually as in his sight which will stamp our service with his likeness. The fixed and constant meditation on God and his glorious properties, this will beget the resemblance between our worship and the God whom we worship and it will imprint his image upon it, and then it should please him, and then it should profit thee, and then it should edify others.”

(The works of Hugh Binning).

There is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling

5 Feb

The New Testament says in many places that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ is in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them.

 Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, says:

 “I hope that you have come to know Him, that you have been blessed with possessing the unsearchable riches of Christ. If you do not yet possess them, they are proclaimed to be received and enjoyed by you. Believe that, and believe in Christ in order to receive them. They are not revealed to be regretted or resented but to be seen and known and obtained by sinners. They are declared in order to be grasped, so that sinners like us may live, like Paul, in a perpetual state of humble wonder.”

Here is the Apostle Paul addressing the Ephesian believers:

Ephesians 3 - “16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Christians are those whom God has regenerated (has birthed again – spiritually) by his grace after which he gives the gift of faith and repentance. As a necessary consequence, God, who is both transcendent and immanent, comes to live in the believer. The word in verse 17 “dwell” means to have a rich experience of God – the Spirit of Christ – living in you. Paul, addressing the Colossian believers, says: Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”

It is possible to be a Christian and yet not have this rich experience of God dwelling in you. We see this in the famously often misunderstood passage of Revelation 3:20, even misunderstood by the great Puritan, John Flavel (1627 – 91), whose explanation “is Christ’s wooing voice, full of heavenly rhetoric to win and gain the hearts of sinners to himself.”

Here is Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The Messiah is not addressing unbelievers but the “churches,” therefore believers. John Stott also gets it wrong. He speaks of God standing at the door waiting for sinners to let him in:

Yes Jesus Christ says he is standing at the door of our lives, waiting.” (Stott is talking to the unsaved, those who are dead in sin, the unsaved – Ephesians 2). “He, continues Stott, is the landlord; he bought it with his life-blood. He could command us to open to Him; instead, he merely invites us to do so. He will not force and entry into anybody’s life. He says (verse 18) ‘I counsel you.’ he could issue orders; he is content to give advice. Such are his condescension and humility, and the freedom he has given us” (John Stott, “Basic Christianity,” Intervarsity Press, 1958, p. 124). (See God is knocking at the door of “woosoever’s” heart: John Flavel on Revelation 3:20).

“Sup” (with him, the believer) in Revelation 3:20 has the same meaning as “dwell” (Ephesians 3:17) and “dwell richly” (Colossians 3:167). This indwelling in the true believer, with its fits and starts, grows richer and richer. God doesn’t need unbelievers permission to come and dwell in them, because the last thing the dead (in sin) can ask or want Christ to do is open their graves. Here is Edward Payson‘s (1783 – 1827) “hierarchy” (my term) of “professors of religion” (Payson): 

 “Suppose professors of religion to be ranged in different concentric circles around Christ as their common centre. Some value the presence of their Savior so highly that they cannot bear to be at any remove from Him. Even their work they will bring up and do it in the light of His countenance, and while engaged in it will be seen constantly raising their eyes to Him as if fearful of losing one beam of His light. These he describes as the innermost circle. Others, who to be sure, would not be content to live out of His presence, are yet less wholly absorbed by it than these, and may be seen a little further off, engaged here and there in their various callings, their eyes generally upon their work, but often looking up for the light which they love.”

A third class, beyond these but yet within the life-giving rays, includes a doubtful multitude, many of whom are so much engaged in their worldly schemes that they may be seen standing sideways to Christ, looking mostly the other way, and only now and then turning their faces towards the light. And yet further out, among the last scattered rays, so distant that it is often doubtful whether they come at all within their influence, is a mixed assemblage of busy ones, some with their backs wholly turned upon the sun, and most of them so careful and troubled about their many things as to spend but little time for their Savior.”

Charles Spurgeon, in his “The former and the latter rain,” says “there is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.” Spurgeon’s point is that it is not enough to rest on the fact that your sins have been forgiven, that you have been saved. There’s much more: there’s knowing God; knowing more and more who God is, and in so doing building up the “inner man.”

Related: Martyn Lloyd Jones’ sermon Experimental [Experiential] Christianity

You fools! On the road to Emmaus

1 Feb

Jesus, on the day of His resurrection met two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The one disciple’s name was Cleopas; the other disciple’s name is not known. We meet two of Jesus’ disciples who embody the basic state of mind of the disciples on the day of the resurrection, of which they were ignorant. They were frightened and in despair. What a great disappointment it was to these disciples that the One they called Lord had become a public laughing stock nailed to a cross. All of them were ashamed of Him, had forsaken Him, had run away to hide. Here is a record of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on their journey to Emmaus:

Luke 24:13-28.

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.

15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

Let us read again the key verse 25: Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.

In the original Greek of the New Testament, there are different words for the English word “fool”, each with a different meaning, As a result, much of the richness of the original Greek is lost in the English translation of the NT.

Here are three examples: two from other parts of the Bible, and the third from our main text in Luke 24– the road to Emmaus text (v.25 above).

First example 1 Cor 4: 9:

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ.

Fools” for Christ in this context means that we are not fools in Jesus’ eyes but in the world’s eyes.

Second example: Math 5:22

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment….but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Here the word “fool” means morally worthless, dishonest , a crook. The Greek word for “fool” in this context is moros. If you call a person a moros in this context, you are pouring scorn on his heart and character, and according to Jesus, if you say this to somebody, you are in danger of hell fire.

Now let us go to the “fools” in our story in Luke 24.

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You fools! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.

Fool” in the Emmaus story does not mean morally worthless, dishonest , a crook as in our previous example. “Fool” in the Emmaus story means, “unwise”, lacking in understanding. And one should add that this lack of understanding is self-created, that is, one only has oneself to blame for this lack of understanding.

To recap: we have looked at three different ways the word “fool” is used in the Bible”

  1. a fool for Christ, which is good in God’s eyes.

  2. calling someone a fool, which deserves hell fire, and

  3. a fool who lacks understanding, as is the case of our two disciples on the Emmaus road.

Let us see how Jesus deals with these two foolish disciples:

Let us now retrace the steps of Jesus and the disciples and accompany them on the walk to Emmaus. We go back to the beginning of the walk: Luke 24:13-14

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.

What were these two disciples talking about?

  1. Everything that had happened to Jesus, namely, His suffering and crucifixion.

  2. They were also talking about what they had heard in the upper room from the women who had been at the tomb of Jesus. These women had reported seeing two angels that told them that Jesus has risen from the dead.

These two disciples – as was the case with all the other disciples who were with them at the time – “did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11).

15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

God was content to keep them in ignorance for a little longer.

Jesus then asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (v.17a).

Was Jesus asking them to reveal their thoughts? Obviously not. He knew exactly what they were thinking. He wanted them to talk.

The disciples then 17b. stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19a “What things?” Jesus, who is still in disguise, continues to pretend ignorance.

19b “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

They then tell the stranger (Jesus) how they had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel. But the saddest thing was that he was crucified instead. They also described how some of their women had been told by angels that Jesus was not dead but was alive. But when some of their companions went to verify their story, they didn’t see Jesus.

The Emmaus road

The Emmaus road

The disciples thought it ridiculous that Jesus could have risen from the dead.

The question is: “Why were the disciples so unbelieving that Jesus had risen from the dead?” Didn’t Jesus tell them very clearly before His crucifixion that he would suffer, die and rise again? Let us go to the relevant passage in Luke 9, where Jesus predicts His suffering, death and resurrection:

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life. 20 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christof God. 21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Mark’s Gospel contains more detail than Luke’s account of Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection. In Chapter 8:9 of Mark, As the disciples were coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration of Jesus, “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.”

One would think that these disciples were very familiar with people rising from the dead, for there were several occasions that Jesus had raised people from the dead, the most notable being the resurrection of Lazarus, who had been dead four days. One wonders what the disciples were thinking when these resurrections occurred. Did they also discuss on those occasions what rising form the dead meant, as they had done on this occasion we are referring to here, namely, after the transfiguration, when Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 8:9).

And then we read in Mark Chapter 9 that: Jesus “spoke clearly about this [His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter took Jesus to one side and began to scold him. Jesus turned and looked at his disciples. He scolded Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You are not thinking about the things of God. Instead, you are thinking about human things” (Mark 9:32-33).

We see that Jesus “spoke clearly” to His disciples about His suffering, death and resurrection. Peter scolded Jesus for saying that He was going to die. Jesus, in turn, scolded Peter, and called him “Satan”. (Where else in Luke do we read "Get behind me, Satan!"? In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:8).

Jesus must have been very disappointed in all of His disciples. When He rose from the dead, they still stubbornly refused to believe Jesus? As for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus had to go back to start from the beginning This time, Jesus does not only have to explain clearly to the two disciples– as He did before His crucifixion – he has to take them by the hand and walk with them through chapter and verse.

And so: Luke 24: 27…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Let’s look at one of the scriptures that Jesus explained to the two disciples.

Isaiah 53. The title of this chapter is “The suffering servant”.

3 He was despised and rejected—

a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.

He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;

it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,

a punishment for his own sins!

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.

We have left God’s paths to follow our own.

Yet the Lord laid on him

the sins of us all.

I chose this passage, because it sums up what the scriptures are about – and is also a summary of what Jesus probably said to the two disciples – namely sin, the wrath of God, forgiveness, the suffering and love of God. It contains all the elements of the Gospel. What is missing is the name of the suffering servant – Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53 is an accurate description of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. The staggering thing is that it was written several hundred years before the crucifixion. May we never cease to be astonished and thrilled by prophecy.

An interesting anecdote: The Jewish annual calendar of readings includes the whole of Isaiah except Isaiah 53.The Jews have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes to this devastating prophecy. They will say this is not true, and that the reason why they omitted Isaiah 53 is because the focus in that part of their readings is on consolation not desolation – not on suffering (servants). In Moshe Shulman’s http://judaismsanswer.com/haftorah.htm he argues:”There appears to be support for the view of the Rabbis, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Isaiah 53 does not relate to any consolations for the Jewish People. This is from the documents 4Q176, which is referred to as 4QTanhumin[5]. Scholars see this fragment as a collection of verses consoling Israel.”He says:… an examination of these(haftorah) passages we see that they give messages of comfort for the Jewish people in exile. However, no matter what the interpretation of Isaiah 53 one takes, there are no words of comfort for the Jewish people.(The desolation and consolation of Isaiah 53 in the Qumran scrolls).

If you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to read Isaiah 53 to a Jew without telling him that it is from the OT, he’ll assume you’re talking about Jesus Christ, and that the passage is from the NT. (Most Jews, or anyone else, whether religious or not, know enough about the life and death of Christ to recognize Him in Isaiah 53).

What is our understanding of the resurrection of Christ? Owing to the fact that we have the New Testament scriptures, we should have far less excuse than the two disciples on the Emmaus road. With our NT in hand, we have much more information of the resurrection than these two disciples. For example, besides Christ’s own words, we also have the eyewitness accounts of the many who saw Christ after His resurrection. So, if we were to ignore this evidence, we would be more than thick-headed; we’d be hard-hearted as well. God has much more time for thickheads than for hard hearts.

Here are some of these eyewitness accounts of the resurrection:

Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

Corinthians 15:3 What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would. 4 He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than 500 believers at the same time. Most of them are still living. But some have died. 7 He appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, he also appeared to me.

In the light of all these eyewitness accounts, we have far less reason to be like the foolish disciples on the Emmaus road who had forgotten what Jesus had told them before his crucifixion, namely, that He would die and rise again: They just weren’t listening: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” Luke 8:8.

What Jesus means by “He who has ears, let him listen” is “let him listen with “all ears”, with total attention, and let it sink in. In other words, don’t just acknowledge His words but receive it – deep in your soul.

We think of Paul’s scolding of the Corinthians. Even after the many visitations of the resurrected Christ, Paul had to admonish some of the Corinthians for their unbelief in the resurrection.

Cor 15:12 We have preached that Christ has been raised from the dead. So how can some of you say that no one rises from the dead? 13 If no one rises from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, what we preach doesn’t mean anything. Your faith doesn’t mean anything either.

The evidence goes into the head but not into the heart. The Emmaus disciples were fools of the head, not of the heart. It is the foolishness of the heart that is the greater sin.

The Sword of the Word may draw blood but the Word may still not penetrate the heart. The reason is that many do not have the stomach for truth. Their question is: “How can I fit Christ’s life into my life?” rather than “How can I fit my life into Christ’s life?” They don’t want the whole body of truth. Where can we find the whole body of truth? It is to be found in and through the broken body of Christ.

We have completed the walk along the Emmaus road. Let’s go into the house of the two disciples. Luke 24: 30-31: As they sat down to eat,he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Only when the Body of Christ is broken, and our hearts with it, can blind eyes be opened – by God.

The Christian’s haggis is Judaism’s poison: Christ in Messianic Judaism

30 Jan

Messianic Judaism” claims to be a Judaic religion, not a Christian one. I, with the Jew, consider Messianic Judaism one among many Christian movements/denominations. Messianic Judaism is not a uniform movement, so it would be more accurate to speak of Messianic Judaisms. One could divide Messianic Judaism into two large groups in terms of Unitarianism versus Trinitarianism. Both of these groups are monotheistic. In the former, however, there is one God (one divine nature/being) in one person (the Father – of human beings), while in the latter there is one God (one divine nature/being) in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, Unitarian Messianic Judaism (they would not use the term “unitarian” but simply call themselves “monotheistic”) sees Jesus as a creature of God, whereas Trinitarian Messianic Judaism sees Jesus as a person with two natures – divine and human, where his divine nature shares all the attributes of the Father, while his human nature is, by definition, a creaturely nature.

I observe that these two macro-Messianic movements generally have contrary beliefs about the salvific relationship between Christ/Mashiach and the Jew. Unitarians believe that faith in Christ is not necessary for salvation, while the Trinitarians hold that no one can be saved without faith in Christ. It is not difficult to understand the reason for these contrary views: if Christ is merely a creature (the Unitarian view), a messenger, it would be idolatry to believe in Christ when one should believe in God, the one true God. If, however, Christ is divine, that is, IS, then it makes total sense to say that if you reject faith in Christ, you will not be saved. The Bible is so clear that unless one is “in Christ,” one cannot come to the Father. The New Testament, especially Paul the Apostle, uses the term “in Christ” or permutations of it dozens of times. But then many Unitarian Messianic Jews don’t like Paul. Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ >dwells – through the Holy Spirit – in them. Ephesians 3:16 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” All true Christians have Christ dwelling in them, and they dwelling in Christ. (In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo. But, not yet).

The above is background to an email conversation that I, OnedaringJew, initiated with a Unitarian Messianic Jew (a non-Jewish one, as most Messianic Jews are), who is a long-standing friend, with whom I hadn’t corresponded for a few years. I add my comments (in italics) after each exchange. 

Me

Am I right in assuming that you still believe that the Son of God was created by the father. If so, how do you understand  John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The distinction between “only true God” and “Jesus Christ whom you have sent” is obvious. So why would I think that this verse could be used to substantiate the trinitarian position that “Jesus Christ whom you have sent” is not merely an emissary but also someone who shared the only true God’s nature – his divinity? I didn’t think that this verse could be used to defend the doctrine of the trinity. I suspected that my friend would home in on that part of the verse, and miss the other part, which I intended to use to defend the trinity – “… be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). My friend, predictably, replied:

Friend

That verse is not saying that Jesus Christ is God.

1.     The only true God

2.     Jesus Christ

It does not say “you are the only true God and Jesus Christ.” Can God send himself?

Yeshua is the son of God – so are you. Yeshua was born of man – so are you. Does that make you God?

Me

Since when is it eternal life to know “me” (OnedaringJew)?

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and One-very-daring-Jew.

I framed my question “Since when is it eternal life to know me” in response to my friend’s “Yeshua is the son of God – so are you; Yeshua was born of man – so are you.” Recall our verse: John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” My friend is arguing that Jesus is a creature like me. The verse says, though, that eternal life is to know not only the father but also to know Jesus Christ.” So, it would be blasphemy of any creature – moi, for example, to say “it is eternal life to know me.” So, if Jesus is a mere creature, he would also be guilty of blasphemy. 

Friend

Well said – but the verse does not say you are Jesus Christ. The verse says Eternal life = Know God Know Yeshua. It does not say know God who is Jesus Christ Jesus was born of a woman. Was God born of a woman? God IS.

Me

Jesus for you is a creature. The verse says that eternal life is only possible if one knows Jesus. Conclusion: eternal life is not possible unless one knows who you say is a mere creature – Jesus. Yet the verse states that it is not enough to know God through (the intermediary) Jesus, but 1. one has to know Jesus himself. 2. Do you believe that  a Jew who does not know – “know” includes  trusting in the one who said “before Abraham I am” to reconcile him to the Father – will have eternal life?

I received no reply to this last email. Unitarians (some “Messianic Jews” and other kinds of unitarians) are stuck with surely what they must see is a contradiction – of their own making, namely that eternal life only comes through knowing a divine being – the only divine being, yet – here’s the messianic rub – without knowing Jesus, the Son of God, one cannot have eternal life. Therefore, the Son of God must be a divine being/essence/nature. Recall that the person of Son of God – who irrupted into time and took on a human nature – in union with the person of the Father (and the person of the Holy Spirit) refer to the “only God.” If this is incorrect, then it makes no sense to say that eternal life is to know Jesus Christ.

As to my question, Do you believe that  a Jew who does not know – “know” includes  trusting in the one who said “before Abraham I am” to reconcile him to the Father – will have eternal life?; my friend kept mum; probably because most Unitarian Messianic Jews believe that devout Jews do not need to have faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. This is also the (non-)belief of many Zionist Christians who have a “dual-covenant” theology; for example, John Hagee. For Hagee, a Christian’s haggis is a Jew’s poison.


I leave my friend for another friend, the Jewish “YourPhariseeFriend,” where we shall see that the Jewish view of Jesus has much in common with the Unitarian Messianic Jew’s rejection of the divinity of Christ.

“Christians, says YourPhariseeFriend in his “Heart of a Relationship” contend that Jesus was a manifestation of God. They compare Jesus to the fire of the burning bush that Moses saw at Horeb (Exodus 3:4), to the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21), and to the Angel of the Lord that appears throughout the Jewish Scriptures (Exodus 23:20; Judges 6:12; Isaiah 63:9). This argument is rooted in a misunderstanding of the relationship that the Jewish people share with God. The relationship between God and Israel includes many activities that are ancillary to the essence of the relationship. The essence of the relationship is God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love and reverence for God. As expressions of His love, God guides His people, He speaks to their prophets, and he protects them from their enemies. As expressions of Israel’s heart for God we offer sacrifices, we build a Temple and we follow His Law. All of these activities are only part of the relationship inasmuch as they express the heart of one party to the other. If you remove the heart from these activities, they remain empty husks.”

Here is the historic Christian position on the role of Christ in salvation as described by Scott Oliphint in his “Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology.”

1. “Every philosophical position must rely on some outside source(s) of authority; a Christian philosophy must rely on God’s revelation of himself in his Word. Second, it is just the exclusivity of Christianity that is supposed to be (in part), not a reason for avoiding its use, but the motivation behind the communication of biblical truth. We tell others who are outside of Christ about him so that, by God’s Holy Spirit, they might repent and believe. If it were the case, as some (e.g., ]ohn Hick) would hold, that Christianity is meant to be all-inclusive, then there would be little need for the communication of biblical truth. Because, however, orthodox Christianity has always held that there is no salvation outside of Christ, We speak of him and teach him and preach him, for it is by that very communication that God is pleased to bring some to himself.”

2. “The fact that God himself takes on covenantal properties, properties that are not essential to him, but that nevertheless serve to characterize him, is the central focus of the good news of Scripture. It defines the good news for us – the news that God has come in the flesh and has, as God in the flesh, accomplished salvation for sinners. This is the preeminent truth of Scripture. It is the covenant, and it defines what we mean by covenant. In creating, God has “come down”; he has taken on that which is foreign to his essential being in order to relate to that which is essentially different from him.”

3. “One of the initial points to be made here is that our understanding of God is to be guided, directed, formed, and fashioned by who Christ is, The reason, therefore, that we are not to be deluded with plausible arguments is that ‘all the treasures of Wisdom and knowledge’ [Colossians 2:3] are found only in Christ.”

oliphint reasons for faith

For Jews and Unitarian Messianic Jews, the divinity of Christ is a mythical mist; for them “ethereal life is to know Jesus Christ whom he (God) has sent.” For Christians, in blessed contrast “eternal life is to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent.”

Look inside.

In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo. But, not yet

28 Jan

In “Worship Music in Antioch – Cranking Up the Worship Band,” Pastor Scott Brown discusses with interviewer Kevin Swanson the relationship between music and worship. Brown says:

I’ve experienced a situation a number of times where someone is in the congregation and they’re not singing.  I ask them, ‘how come you’re not singing. They say,’I don’t like that song,’,or ‘I’m not going to sing a chorus,’ or ‘it (the song) has to be out of a certain century.’ My instructing is always the same: you have to prioritize your own actions. You have to ask yourself “is the song doctrinally accurate?” or “is the song true.” If the song is not true you shouldn’t be singing it.” 

Here is a song I heard in a church Sunday last, where the words do not, indeed definitely cannot, match the singer’s aspiration. Here are two verses of the song “How deep is the father’s love for us.”

Verse 1

I just want to be where You are,

dwelling daily in Your presence

I don’t want to worship from afar,

draw me near to where You are

Verse 2

I just want to be where You are,

in Your dwelling place forever

Take me to the place where You are,

I just want to be with You

Hip hop ending

I just want to (wanna) be

I just want to (wanna) be with You

Here is the Youtube link to the song. I quote a few of the 93 comments posted there: 1. Lord take me to your home, I receive the anointing of the holy ghost. in Jesus name amen.  2.  Anointed 3. Thank you very much for this beautiful song very touching (touching  = anointed?).

What does the “worshiper” think these words mean: “Take me to the place where you are, I just want to be with you?” I try to answer that question here.

The Bible says (many times in the letters of Paul) that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them. So far, we are dealing with the notion to be “in Christ.” Once regenerated (quickened, raised to spiritual life), believers are enabled and therefore can choose the good things of God. If, though, believers don’t only want to be in Christ but also with Christ, that I would call radical radical Christianity. Radical Christianity is be consumed with living in and for Christ.; radical radical Christianity is “I want to be with Christ – and I want it now. Here is the Apostle Paul: Philippians 1:21-23 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” 

Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ,” explains the difference between being in Christ and with Christ, where “the anticipation of the dying saint” is to be with the Lord:

To lack food is terrible; to lack money is distressing; to lack health is miserable; to lack friends is tragic; but to lack Christ is to lack the greatest and most necessary good-it is the most awful situation imaginable. If we had Christ, all else could be borne, but to live and die without Christ makes any number of other blessings little better than dust and ashes in our mouths. Second, someone might be with Christ. If to be without Christ is the height of woe, then to be with Christ is the pinnacle of bliss, for this is the very joy and blessing of glory. To be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 528) is the heaven of heaven. There is no greater joy, no happier prospect, no sweeter moment than to have the eye actually rest upon the Lord Christ, the glorified Savior of sinners. This is the anticipation of the dying saint, the prospect for the resurrection that makes every other hint of the glory to come shine with golden light. However, if we are to be with Christ when we die or taken to be with Him when He returns, we need to bear in mind that no one will ever be with Christ unless they are first in Christ.”

In Christ is the very opposite of being “in Adam” (Rom. 5:12-21), which we are by nature. It is very different from being “in the World,” which we are by sinful inclination. It is not the same as being “in church”-there are many people who imagine that being in a church building from time to time, in regular attendance at church services, or even a member of some church, even one where the truth is preached, will somehow of itself guarantee their salvation. You can be in church and without Christ.”

In sum, when one is “without” Christ, Christ is not indwelling that person. “Without Christ” in our context, is not the opposite of “with Christ.” “Without Christ” means “not in Christ,” which is a spiritual state in this life. “With Christ,” on the other hand, means to join Christ where he is in his glorified state – on the right hand of the Father in heaven, and, as the song is written, this means now – during the church service. 

So, do you still want to be with Christ (now)? Of course you don’t. So, stop being adolescent and singing those silly boyfriend-girlfriend songs. Don’t you really mean, ““Lord grant me to be with you but not yet?” And perhaps also “Lord grant me chastity and continence but not yet?” (St Augustine’s adolescent prayer). Wazzat. 

My sinful nature: Can I really get shot of my old man without bumping him off?

22 Jan

At a church service, this was a part of the preacher’s opening prayer: “Remind us of our sinful nature.”

 No doubt, those “in Christ” still struggle with the “old man,” and I suppose we could call that the old “nature.” But we should be careful. Scripture teaches that Christians have a new nature, because they are a new creation. There, alas, still remains the struggle against the “old man,” also described as the “flesh.” The term “old man” in the Bible refers to those who have the Holy Spirit through rebirth (the regenerate); so the term does not describe those who are “unregenerate,” or “without the (Holy) Spirit.” So, ”old” not as in ”my old man’s a dustman, he wears a dustman’s cap,” but as in the the struggle with sin. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christians, in contrast, do accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, yet they still have the old man tussling inside.

In Romans 7:4-20, the emphasis is on the fact that although the Christian is a new creation, the battle against his old self, his old nature, his “flesh” is not over.

Romans 7

4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The Law and Sin

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, the passage ends, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

In summary, v. 21 “I want to do good” – the new nature desiring to do “good” (be like Christ) but v. 23 the old nature, “the flesh,” warring with the new nature.

The focus in the next chapter of Romans (Chapter 8) moves to the victory of the new creation in Christ over the old creation in Adam. Christians continue to sin but their new desire, which is instilled in them through regeneration (born again) – is to please Christ, not themselves.

Romans 8 

1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Here is Jeremy Walker on the new nature in his recent and excellent “Life in Christ: becoming a disciple of the Lord”: 

The Nature Identified

If anyone is in Christ,” writes the apostle, ‘he is a new creation.’ This is the language of a radical change. It speaks of something not simply different but genuinely new. It is not enough to speak of a tadpole becoming a frog or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, for the language of transformation and metamorphosis falls short of the reality. Even the Ethiopian changing the rich color of his skin or the leopard changing his distinctive spots is insufficient. This is not alteration but creation, newness at the deepest level. It speaks of a thorough change. It deals not with appearance but with nature. If the Ethiopian could change his skin color, he would remain an Ethiopian. If the leopard could alter his spots, he would still be a leopard. But the new creation begins at and radiates from the core of a person’s being and changes everything he is. It starts with the inner man enthroning Christ in the heart, the seat of the government of our humanity, and begins its course there, creating anew from that point outward, nothing being overlooked or bypassed, all being more or less affected and increasingly renovated over time. This, then, is a divinely than heavenly power. Mere mortal strength could never begin or sustain such a work-human might and ingenuity can no more create a person anew than it can truly create anything to begin with. And, indeed, there is a sense in which this act of salvation transcends even the act of original creation. In creation, God worked from nothing. In salvation, He worked against sin.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” Here is John Gill in his commentary on the above verse:

“A new creature – converted persons; and designs not an outward reformation of life and manners, but an inward principle of grace, which is a creature, a creation work, and so not man’s, but God’s; and in which man is purely passive, as he was in his first creation; and this is a new creature, or a new man, in opposition to, and distinction from the old man, the corruption of nature; and because it is something anew implanted in the soul, which never was there before; it is not a working upon, and an improvement of the old principles of nature, but an implantation of new principles of grace and holiness; here is a new heart, and a new spirit, and in them new light and life, new affections and desires, new delights and joys; here are new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk, and new hands to work and act with.”

When Christians sin, they don’t merely feel remorse (feel bad), but also the desire to repent. In contrast, “sin” and ”repentance” do not exist in an unbeliever’s lexicon. In Judaism and Christianity and some other religions, repentance always leads to reconciliation with God; while remorse often results in giving up on life. Remorse is the result of a guilty conscience that “kills” the soul, which sometimes leads to the premature death of the body as well. Remorse is the lot of the unbeliever, a worldly sorrow that leads to eternal separation from God. Here is the Apostle Paul:

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For 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 7:10).”

And 1 John 1

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 

In sum, the Christian IS a new nature in Christ, filled with joy – bitter sweet, carrying his and her cross through life seeking to be in the hour of their death WITH Christ. The Christian is already IN Christ. Part of that cross is that dusty old man.

Faith, works and assurance in Judaism and Christianity

21 Jan

A Christian is a sinner who, through God’s grace, has been regenerated from spiritual death and given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). What I would like to talk about here is how this ”born again” experience relates to Paul’s ”justification by faith,” and James’ ”justification by works.” I shall use and explain the following three terms in the discussion: ”salvation,” ”righteous(ness)” and ”justification.” These three overlap, but they are not synonymous. Salvation subsumes the other two.

Paul refers to the ”justification by faith,” while James speaks of the ”justification by works.” ”Righteousness” (being made right) refers to both kinds of ‘justification. Here is an example of righteousness with the meaning of justification by faith; ”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The meaning here is that through faith we have been made right(eous) with God, that is, we have been justified through faith. Here is an example of righteousness with the meaning of justification by works: ”For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In Hebrew, ”justified” means made right(eous); צָדַקTsadak; in Greek δικαιόω dikaioō. Here is a verse in Proverbs (17:15) that contains tsadak twice where the one instance refers to ”justifies” and the other to ”righteous.” מַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע וּמַרְשִׁיעַ צַדִּיק תֹּועֲבַת יְהוָה גַּם־שְׁנֵיהֶֽם׃ matsadik rasha oomarshia tsadik to’avat Adonai (YHVH) gam sh’naihem Pro 17:15 He who justifies TSADAK the wicked and he who condemns the righteous TSADAK are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

Let us now go to the heart of the matter. Consider the following passages: Romans 3:28 ”For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. James 2:24 ”…a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Let’s bring Abraham into the picture: Romans (Paul) 4:2 ”For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” James – 2:21 ”Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” How can the Abraham of faith also be the Abraham of works? I suggest that James gives a clear explanation: ”So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:17-24).

James seems to be contradicting Paul and promoting the Jewish idea that faith means faithfulness (emuna), and emuna for the Jew means nothing more, nothing less than (faithfully) fulfilling the 613 plus commandments (mitzvot). James and Paul, however, are not contradicting each another?James emphasises that good works are the evidence/fruit of faith, and so if there is no evidence of faith, this means that one wasn’t justified (made right with God) in the first place. The Lord Jesus makes the same point as James: ”…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). So, not one but two apostolic hammers are needed to hammer home the Gospel into immature Christian minds. Paul’s letters emphasise what it means to be saved. Here is Paul (or more precisely, the Holy Spirit) in his workshop, hammering away (through Paul): 1Cr 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Gal 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Gal 2:17 But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Gal 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. ”Enough already, protests my works-orientated friend, what about the ”working out your salvation” bit? “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” …Phil 2:12 Although Paul is sometimes hard to understand (as the apostle Peter points out), he doesn’t talk in riddles (there’s little of the Talmud in his letters).

Paul’s letters teem with the conjunction ”for,” for it is an important linking word in logical argumentation. Good (and irritating) Bible teaches warn you to take special note of what the ”for” is there for. How many times have I heard the first half! of that verse to justify (sic) the argument that one cannot be justified (they mean ”saved”) by faith ”alone,” where the meaning is that salvation consists of faith plus works? They mean by that if you have faith, you need works as well to be justified/saved. Let me answer by examining the ”for” in the Philippians verse above. Why should Christians work out their salvation, and also work it out in fear in trembling? The ”for” in ”for it is God who…” answers both questions. Your body, dear Christian, is the temple of the Holy Spirit; God is in you. This indwelling is more astounding than God appearing in front of you. But, we don’t ”see” it. Recall Isaiah 6: ”In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” ”And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5). So, work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.

The reason why true Christians should tremble with fear (awe) is because the Holy Spirit of God indwells them. ”For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Here is the blessed assurance of the believer: Romans 8:30 ”And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” So those who have been justified by faith will do good works. Good works is the evidence that the sinner has been justified, that is, made right with God. Good works are generated by the faith that brought about the initial regeneration of the dead soul from dead thoughts and dead works. If you have been justified, you will be glorified, from glory to glory, and you will receive eternal life, indeed you have received it – at the new birth. And finally a question: ”How can you have the assurance of Romans 8:30 (above) if you believe that God needs you to save yourself, for If you choose to be saved then you can choose to be unsaved again, as many times as your decide. Today, you may be dead in sin, tomorrow you’re alive in Christ. The next day (year/decade) you’re dead again, and so on. 

“If in the last analysis, says Edwin J. Palmer, our salvation depends upon our free will to accept Christ, and if God provides the substitutionary atonement of Christ but not our faith, then we are in a miserable situation. Think of it – whether we say Christians or not depends on us! What a frightful thought! Salvation depends on us, who are by nature rotten and do not love God? On us, who as Christians still have the old man in us. On us who doubt waver and sin?” (Edwin J. Palmer, “The five points of calvinism,” p. 38. Baker books, 1972).  God forbid! And so He does..

Related post: Assurance in Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and Biblical Christianity

Jewish psychologists and the God within

9 Jan

 Rabbi Joshua Liebman says in his “Peace of mind” that religion is “at its best” merely “the announcer of the supreme ideals by which men must live and through which our finite species finds it’s ultimate significance.” If people were honest, says Liebman, “they would admit that the implementation of these ideals should be left to psychology.

Psychology can say much, obviously, about the psyche, but nothing about the God of the Bible. For Liebman, part rabbi, part psychologist, the ultimate aim of religion is peace of mind, which results from the discovery of ”ultimate significance.” To whom must a Jew run to find this ultimate meaning? No, not to the rabbi, says Liebman, but to the psychologist, preferably a Freudian psychologist. Oh the irony! Freud, the Jewish atheist is going to tell us how to find ultimate meaning.

The heart of religion is, says Liebman, “something outside ourselves.” I understand by that the existence of a transcendent being greater than ourselves. Alas, Liebman brings us back us back to earth that it is the job of psychology to make this something (someone?) outside ourselves incarnate. If that is so, religion then has little to do with the Bible, and everything to with the “Varieties of religious experience” (William James). Whereas the Scripture (Hebrew and New testament) says ”look up” Liebman says, “look within, because without’s within.”

If Liebman had been a Messianic Jew, he, firstly, wouldn’t have shackled religion to psychology, and second, he would have said that this making something outside ourselves incarnate is not the psychologist’s job but God’s; and this something made incarnate would be Someone, not something. (Some Messianic Jews, sadly, do not believe that God had a divine Son; so they don’t believe in THE incarnation)

Where Joshua Liebman speaks of ”ultimate significance”’ Viktor Frankl speaks synonymously of “ultimate meaning.” In “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy,” I concluded that Frankl did not believe in God as a distinct divine being. I wrote there:

In 2000, an update to Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” appeared called “Man’s search for ultimate meaning.” What is the difference between “meaning” and “ultimate meaning”? Here are two excerpts from Frankl’s “Ultimate meaning.”

“… God, is not one thing among others but being itself or Being (capitalized by Martin Heidegger). (P. 147)

So Did Frankl, ultimately, come to believe in a transcendent Being called God? No.

“… whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude — he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God” (p. 151).

To add to what I said in “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy”:

God, for Frankl is, ultimately, me – and you. And, to take it where you may not want it to go: you are me and I am you – absorbed into the Universal Soul, where – to use Rabbi Akiva Katz’s terminology – undifferentiated oneness in the higher world comes into this world through specific differentiated channels like you and me. See “Jewish mysticism and Absorption into the Universal Soul.”

Here is the Lubavitcher Rabbi Tuvia Bolton’s response to “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy” followed by my reply:

Rabbi Bolton:

It seems to me that Frankl was not talking in terms of absolutes but rather what ‘works’. His god is very similar to the one realized by addicts in the seconds of the 12 steps of AA; god as we understand him. A Meaningful god works to fill man’s need for meaning.

But Frankl seems to have discovered a need much greater and more basic than that of the addicts…. and correspondingly a much ‘greater’ more ‘infinite’ god to satisfy it; man NEEDS ABSOLUTE meaning that only an absolute, totally meaningful god (or G_d) can produce. As evidenced by the several times he mentions the Ten Commandments as the absolute value.

But again; Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala)

My (shortened) reply:

Rabbi, as you no doubt know, Abraham Twerski, a Chassidic rabbi (like youself) adapted the originally Christian 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous method and made it Jewish. Judaism preaches that man is essentially good, where people are regarded as “much better than we think we are” (Twerski), and “knowing that they are able to enjoy a more productive life” (Twerski). So, the solution to inner turmoil for Twerski, for Frankl, for Joshua Liebman, and indeed most Jewish psychologists was to learn how to get rid of one’s negative self-image.

You say Frankl’s “god” goes beyond what works to an “absolute” meaning. I think his god is merely one that absolutely WORKS. As I said in my last two paragraphs of the article:

In 2000, an update to Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” appeared, called “Man’s search for ultimate meaning.” What is the difference between “meaning” and “ultimate meaning”? Here are two quotations from Frankl’s “Ultimate meaning.”

“… God, is not one thing among others but being itself or Being (capitalized by Martin Heidegger).” (P. 147). So Did Frankl, ultimately, come to believe in a transcendent Being called God? Let Frankl answer: “… whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude — he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God” (p. 151). END OF MY REPLY.

Frankl’s “God is self” (my term) has much in common with Gerald Jampolsky’s (Yogic) “transformation of consciousness” that leads to inner peace. Deep below the dark regions of discord and strife lies the treasure without price longing to find you, the real you. Transform your consciousness and you will find your true self. This “transformation of consciousness” is the “foundation for inner peace” (which is also the name of the publisher of “A course on miracles” on which Jampolsky’s book is based). The “transformation of consciousness” is, of course, also the foundation of Eastern thought systems such as Buddhism and Yoga, which has become a key ingredient in Western psychotherapy. “Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit. Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.”

Liebman says go within to find your true self, the real you; but not before you go outside – to Freud. For Jampolsky, in contrast, look within, and that’s good enough to find inner peace.

Rabbi Bolton said above: “Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs.” That is true not only of Frankl but all Jewish psychology. A Chassidic psychologist may talk about you (if you’re a Jew) being a piece of God, but what it may turn out to mean is that God is a piece of you – of your needs.

Frankl’s view of God as someone who supplies one’s needs is taken to it’s extreme form in Reconstructionist Judaism, and much of Reform Judaism, where “God” is another name for community, for love, for a matrix of love wherein a positive self-image is nurtured – and where the image of God is possibly also dénaturé (distorted).

Joel Beeke on a Jet Plane with a Reform Jew

7 Jan

In his “Travelling to South Africa: Two very different world views,” Joel Beeke relates a conversation he had with a fellow plane passenger:

I had a long talk with a very intelligent 75-year-old Jewish woman on the 15.5 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We talked for a while about her job and her family and about interesting things to see in Israel. She has made over fifty trips to Israel, and seemed quite pleased that I was taking notes of a number of her suggestions.

Before long we got to religion. She is a Reformed Jew, is big on women’s rights, and doesn’t believe in the after-life. Her “church” has 1400 members and is led by three Jewish rabbis. They are not looking for a messiah to come, but view the caring community of Jews as “the messianic fulfilment.” Her rabbis preach almost exclusively about horizontal issues, such as women’s rights, how to help the poor, etc., and seldom touch on our vertical relationship with God. They use the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it.

I got close enough to her that I dared to ask her about Jesus Christ. She said that has never read the New Testament, thinks that Jesus was just another rabbi, and sees no need to be born again. I then explained how we as Christians view the gospel, and why we think it is so important that Jesus is also God. I talked to her about our sin, and about our need for the active and passive obedience of Christ as our substitute and savior. She listened carefully, was not offended in the least, but didn’t buy into it. I asked her, “So then you feel that when you die, life is over, and that this life is the be-all and the end-all?”

That’s right,” she said.

Pardon me for saying this,” I responded, getting bolder now, “but from the perspective of being a Christian, that seems like such a narrow and small purpose for life. For us as Christians, we believe that this life is like a one-page preface to a massive book—it is only just the beginning. We strive to live all of life in the light of eternity, and anticipate being with Christ forever. ”

Well,” she said, “I’m not saying for sure that there is no eternity, and no pie-in-the-sky for after this life, but I’m not betting on it. If I can just pass on my moral values to my two children, and they pass it on to their grandchildren, that, to me, is about the best I can hope for in this life.” That was about as far as I could get with this friend. I silently thanked God for His Son and for the biblical and Christian worldview, for its much larger vision of what life is all about.”

A few thoughts

With regard to Jews using “the Torah as a background reference tool, but don’t really preach from it” (Beeke’s companion above) what do Jews think of the the Hebrew Bible? (“Torah” has two meanings: 1. the Five books of Moses, and 2. the whole Hebrew Bible – the Tanach). There are roughly six Jewish movements: Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and two other groups (which can’t be called “movements” unless in the sense of moving far away from traditional Judaism); these two groups, agnostics and atheists, comprise the bulk of Jews.

– All “ultra-orthodox” (that is, ortho-orthodox) believe, like all  “Reformed Christians” (who follow the tradition of the Reformation), in divine inspiration, that is, the scripture is breathed out by God (a better term would be divine “expiration).

– Not all “Orthodox” Jews believe in the divine inspiration of the scriptures.

Conservative Jews consist of a wide coalition with differing views on how the scriptures were revealed. In contrast to the absolute Ultra-orthodox view and the view of most Orthodox, conservatives do not believe that the words of scripture themselves are breathed out by God. Thus the Conservative Jew would judge as unwarranted the extreme care that the Torah scribes took over each letter of the Torah when copying from one scroll to another.

- Reform Judaism. It  originated during the French revolution, and was strongly influenced by the “Enlightenment”(which I described in an earlier post), which was a secular explosion of “free” thought that clipped the wings of the Roman Catholic Church. I have selected excerpts from what Reform Judaism says about itself. The full text can be found here.

“The faith and values which drive the journey provide a compelling vision of where we want to get to and offer such direction and signposting as we can make out.”

Comment: the faith and values of the Tanakh compel Jews to take the direction that it commands, which invariably is at odds with “where we want to get to.” It’s not difficult to “make out” the sign posting. The issue is does the Reform Jew want to follow the sign posting of the Tanakh? The Tanakh says – ad nauseam (for those who hate being told what to believe and do – that the majority of the children of Israel hate being confronted by the Holy one if Israel. Get the “Holy One of Israel” out of my face.

When the Jewish people emerged from the ghettos of Europe, some were – or became – so frightened of what they found that they have rebuilt the ghetto ‘walls’.”

Some recognise the new reality but are determined not to be changed by it. Reform Jews don’t underestimate the challenge of modernity but can also see that it offers new ways of understanding and thinking which help us grow and add to the meaning and purpose of the journey.”

Reform Judaism is living Judaism. It is a religious philosophy rooted in nearly four millennia of Jewish tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Jews of today and tomorrow can live by.”

Comment: Philosophy is man made. Reform Jews – the majority of Jews, in fact – think the Jewish Bible is also man made.

One of the founders of the Wissenschaft des Judenthums (Science of Judaism) movement of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Abraham Geiger (1810-1874), argued that practices in Jewish history continued to change. He suggested that these changes not only made it easier to live as a Jew but these changes were also faithful to the spirit of Judaism. He advocated that unless Judaism continued to change, it would not appeal to the majority of Jews. Orthodox Jews consider Geiger to be a heretic of heretics. (For a fuller treatment of Reform Judaism see my The Eternal, History and Reform Judaism.

In Reform Judaism, there is not one single meaning to a biblical text. In his “New Words Inscribed on Old Tablets,” the Reform Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake, writes:

The beauty of Torah stems from the variety of interpretations that can be surmised from its words. God’s wonder and majesty are exemplified within each individual’s commentary, and it would thus be offensive to suggest that only one interpretation of God’s word is valid. The Talmud exemplifies this basic theme, which depicts our basic right to interpret Torah, communicated; namely, that Jewish law is not contained within the heavens, but in the hands of the people ( Bava M’tzia 59b).”

However, in whose hands does interpretation reside? Similar to the organization of secular society, tradition states that the majority creates and interprets the laws by which the whole must live. Yet with regard to Torah, tradition suggests that God spoke not only to the entire community, but also to each individual standing at the base of the mountain. We were each given the Torah at Sinai, and we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words. But in interpreting Torah for ourselves we must also consider the interpretations of the past.”

What does the Orthodox Jew think of the Reform Jew’s “we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words?” Here is the Orthodox Jew, Mordecai Housman:

Essentially, they believe that you get to decide what to believe. The Torah, they claim, is man-made entirely, and has been continually changed and adapted, despite all evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Torah and history show that Judaism has never tolerated dissenters to the Torah’s opinion, they have the chutzpah (gall) to claim that Judaism has always been pluralistic, that the Torah supposedly has never demanded “uniformity of belief or practice.” This, of course, is obviously baloney. Take one cursory look at almost any chapter of the entire Tanach (Jewish Bible), and you’ll find recriminations against people who have even slightly deviated from the Torah’s teachings, even if they adhered to everything else.”


Many people who have a religion don’t believe the supernatural doctrines on which it is based. Joel Beeke’s Jewish traveller calls herself a Reform Jew, and like most Jews believes the “Messiah” is morality. From the conversation, it is clear that the reason why she calls herself a Reform Jew is that she attends a Reform Synagogue. Like most Jews, she doesn’t acknowledge any vertical relationship between God and herself, but only a horizontal connection to other people. What is important to her is loving kindness, where the “caring community of Jews is the messianic fulfilment.” (Beeke above). Caring and sharing is, of course, an important part of religion. In Christianity, however, good works on their own without faith in God, is a skewed religion. Here is a passage from the letter of Paul to the Colossian Christians explainng the relationship between faith and works (moral behaviour):

Colossians 1

9 Because of this, we also, from the day in which we heard, do not cease praying for you, and asking that ye may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,

10 to your walking worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, in every good work being fruitful, and increasing to the knowledge of God,

11 in all might being made mighty according to the power of His glory, to all endurance and long-suffering with joy.

12 Giving thanks to the Father who did make us meet for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in the light,

13 who did rescue us out of the authority of the darkness, and did translate [us] into the reign of the Son of His love,

14 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of the sins.

C.S. Lewis, the God who takes risks and Open Theism

4 Jan

C.S. Lewis wrote that God takes risks, therefore he is what is known as an “open theist.” Here is Lewis:

“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. … If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings, then we may take it it is worth paying.”(C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity).

(See “The plan of salvation: Is it worth the risk, my Son? What, risk! Ask Jacques Derrida, CS Lewis and Thomas Oord.”).

Lewis says above: “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.” What does Lewis mean by “what” in “he knew what would happen? In this passage it seems that Lewis is not referring to God’s micro ignorance of every future event but rather of his macro uncertainty of whether humans will use their free will for evil. If God was certain that humans were going to do evil, we could not describe God as taking risks.

As for God taking a risk (by creating humans), such a statement implies that when Adam and Eve sinned, God went something like this: “Ouch, what I dreaded could happen did. Oh well, it was still worth the risk.”

This “God of the risks” does not exist in any Christian movement except the modern movement – before Lewis – of “Open Theism.” It’s basic idea is that if God foreknows what a person is going to do, it’s no different from God decreeing what a person is going to do, because if a person wants to change his mind, he cannot change what God foreknew. In open theism, genuine human freedom implies that God cannot know future human thoughts or acts because divine foreknowledge implies foreordination, that is, predestination. (See “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence” by John Sanders ).

Does anyone know how God would react in a risky universe? When it comes to humans doing bad, what Andy Stanley does know is that God is embarrassed and much more; he has knee-jerk reactions. That is why, says Stanley, the Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:6-11) is in Bible.

Philippians 2:6-11
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Say you’re in a church where the pastor/minister teaches vital doctrines, namely, that he stands on revelation alone, and preaches the biblical doctrine of sin and condemnation and hell, and also that the only way of salvation is in the Son by His blood, His death and glorious resurrection, and the power of the Holy Ghost upon it all, and then in one of his sermons reads Philippians 2:6-10 and says – not once but twice – that what is described in that passsage is God’s “knee-jerk reaction.” That is what drives God in Philippians 2:5-12, says Andy Stanley, in the second video of the Louie Giglio’s four-part video series “How great is our God.”

(See “The violation of Philippians 2:6-10: Knee-Jerk theism).

My question is this: If God could not be sure whether humans would choose to be bad, then doesn’t it follow that God cannot tell what the content of this bad – or any human good – will be. This is pure open theism: God knows the past, knows the presence, but not the future. Man’s pristine freedom remains intact. Goodbye you Calvinist robots and hello CS and Andy.

Jewish and Roman Catholic Protestants

19 Dec

The Jew protests that the Christian has set up a mediator, Jesus Christ, between God and man, while the Reformers of the 16th century, the first “protestants,” accused the Roman Catholic Church of setting up “a mediatorial caste between God and man — to obtain by works, by penance, and by money the salvation which is the free gift of God — such is Popery” (HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY by J. H. Merle D’Aubigné).

Jews and Roman Catholics will protest again: “We are not wrong,” which they are. There is indeed a mediator between God and man ; only one: Jesus Christ, the God-man.

God must forgive; that’s his job

5 Dec

Fred butler, on his “Hip and Thigh,” writes:

“Evangelism Explosion, or E.E. as it is popularly known, was a simplistic evangelism outline developed by D. James Kennedy. The gimmick driving the E.E. presentation was two opening questions designed to break the ice with the person being evangelized, as well as provide a starting point for the evangelist to introduce his presentation. The first question asked something like, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” Pretty much every person to whom I asked this first question responded positively with a “yes.” I don’t believe I can recall anyone I asked responding with, “No, I’m headed to a devil’s hell in a hand-basket and loving every minute of it.” The second question, however, was meant to add the rub that was to get the presentation going. It asked, “If you were to die tonight and stand before the LORD, and he were to ask, ‘why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” The question is supposed to expose what it is exactly a person is placing his or her confidence in for salvation. Unlike the first one, I received a variety of unique responses with that second one. Anything from “my good works” to “I walked an aisle at a revival service when I was eight.” I can recall one time on one of those spring break mission trips to the Detroit area asking a 13 year old kid the second question. His reply was classic: “What would I say to God if he asked me why He should let me into heaven? Well, its your job.”

Last words of Heinrich Heine: Dieu me pardonnera. C’est son métier. (God will forgive me. It’s his job)

Heinrich Heine (born Harry Heine, changed to Christian Johann Heinrich Heine following his conversion to Christianity from Judaism[1]) (13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine’s later verse and prose are distinguished by their satirical wit and irony. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities. Heine spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris (Wikipedia).

Religions of God, priest and man

2 Dec

Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné (16 August 1794 – 21 October 1872) was a Swiss Protestant minister and historian of the Reformation. In the 1830s onwards he wrote his majestic “History of the Reformation in the 16th century.” (free ebook). He wrote:

“Whenever religion has been under discussion, there have been three points to which our attention has been directed. God, Man, and the Priest. There can only be three kinds of religion upon earth, according as God, Man, or the Priest, is its author and its head. I denominate that the religion of the priest, which is invented by the priest, for the glory of the priest, and in which a sacerdotal caste is dominant. By the religion of man, I mean those various systems and opinions which human reason has framed, and which, being the offspring of human infirmity, are consequently devoid of all healing power. The term divine religion I apply to the truth such as God gave it, — the end and aim of which are the glory of God and the salvation of man.”

Thus we have the Roman Catholicism (priest), the Reformation (God) and Humanism (man).

N.T. Wright’s flaming devil: Eish

11 Nov

Justin Brierley’s guest in his latest “Unbelievable” program is N.T. Wright. In most of Brierley’s podcasts, he asks his guests challenging questions. Not once, however, does Brierley challenge Wright. For example, Wright says that he believes in Satan (Hebrew “deceiver”) but does not believe “he” (the devil) is a person. That is why, Wright says, Satan is a sub-person, an “it.”

It seems Brierley was a tad intimidated by the blinding light coruscating from the great Wright throne; it was Brierley who, at the beginning of the podcast, remarked on the poundage of Wright’s latest volume – on Paul. Not something Paul would be able to carry about, or throw overboard, without some help.

Now, I’d bet my bottom if not my dollar that Brierley believes that Satan is indeed a person, that when he (Brierley; Satan too, I suggest) reads

John 8:41-44
You do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

he (Brierley, and Satan, for sure) believes that an “it” cannot be a liar, never mind a “father.” Wright, of course, believes that although “your father the devil” is a real creature, “it” is not a real liar, but a sub-liar. Eishegesis!

Wright also says he finds medieval descriptions of the devil and hell – pitchforks and unquenchable fire – as over the top. Never mind the other stuff Wright said about the devil, this is one time Brierley should have pitched in.

Glossary: Fire (Hebrew “Eish”)

Happiness in humanism and Christianity

9 Nov

What is Humanism

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).

The chief end of Christianity

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.

In his sermon on humanism, “Ten Shekels and a shirt,” one of the best sermons of all time,  Paris Reidhead says “the reason for being [human existence] – is ‘Lamb that was slain, receive the reward of your suffering.’ The Bible says that this reward consists of those for whom Christ suffered and shed his blood: “1 Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2  since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:1b-2, 9).

Well now, says Reidhead in his sermon, the philosophy of the [contemporary] atmosphere is humanism; the chief end of being is the happiness of man. There’s another group of people that have taken umbrage with the liberals, this group are my people, the fundamentalists. They say, “We believe in the inspiration of the Bible! We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ! We believe in hell! We believe in heaven! We believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ!” But remember the atmosphere is that of humanism. And humanism says the chief end of being is the happiness of man. Humanism is like a miasma out of a pit, it just permeates everyplace. Humanism is like an infection, an epidemic, it just goes everywhere.”

It all depends, though, what one means by “happiness.” Here is John Brown: “Life,’ in the language of our Lord, 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″).

Christian Hedonism – an oxymoron

Either/Or” is the title of a book by ten by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, which describes two contrasting life views, the one based on hedonism, the other on moral responsibility. Hedonism (Greek, “delight”) is a philosophy that holds that pleasure alone is of intrinsic value. One would think the term “Christian hedonism” to be pointedly foolish ( pointedly – Greek oxy; foolish -Greek moron). John Piper does not think so, who coined the term “Christian hedonism.” Piper explains:

A ‘Christian Hedonist’ sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? If the term makes you squirm, we understand. But don’t throw this paper away just yet. We’re not heretics (really!). Nor have we invented another prosperity-obsessed theology by twisting the Bible to sanctify our greed or lust. We are simply stating an ancient, orthodox, Biblical truth in a fresh way. ‘All men seek happiness,’ says Blaise Pascal. ‘This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.’ We believe Pascal is right. And, with Pascal, we believe God purposefully designed us to pursue happiness.

Does seeking your own happiness sound self-centered? Aren’t Christians supposed to seek God, not their own pleasure? To answer this question we need to understand a crucial truth about pleasure-seeking (hedonism): we value most what we delight in most. [Original italics]. Pleasure is not God’s competitor, idols are. Pleasure is simply a gauge that measures how valuable someone or something is to us. Pleasure is the measure of our treasure. We know this intuitively. If a friend says to you,’I really enjoy being with you,’ you wouldn’t accuse him of being self-centered. Why? Because your friend’s delight in you is the evidence that you have great value in his heart. In fact, you’d be dishonored if he didn’t experience any pleasure in your friendship. The same is true of God. If God is the source of our greatest delight then God is our most precious treasure; which makes us radically God-centered and not self-centered. And if we treasure God most, we glorify Him most.”

Does the Bible teach this? Yes. Nowhere in the Bible does God condemn people for longing to be happy. People are condemned for forsaking God and seeking their happiness elsewhere (Jeremiah 2:13). This is the essence of sin. The Bible actually commands us to delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). Jesus teaches us to love God more than money because our heart is where our treasure is (Matt. 6:21). Paul wants us to believe that gaining Christ is worth the loss of everything else (Phil 3:8) and the author of Hebrews exhorts us to endure suffering, like Jesus, for the joy set before us (Heb. 12: 1-2).” (John Piper, “What is Christian humanism?”).

Is it really either/or?

Contrast Piper with Paris Reihead. In his sermon, “Ten Shekels and a shirt,” he thunders: I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?” (Emphasis in transcript).

Is it, though, really an either/or. Isn’t the following possible: “I sent you out there for them, and I sent you out there for me; mainly for me?” If Christ died for me, surely there is something in it for me as well: to be with God eternally. And doesn’t the glorification of God include the glorification of the reward of his suffering – those he died for? It is true that “All things are from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). Isn’t it true that some of those “things” is the joy God feels for what he has done for those he has redeemed – and glorified:

John 17

7 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed…10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them… 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.

The Christian’s future enjoyment

Here is Walter Marshall (1628–1680) on the Christians future enjoyment:

The third endowment necessary to enable us for the practice of holiness, without which a persuasion of our reconciliation with God would be of little efficacy to work in us a rational propensity to it, is that we be persuaded of our future enjoyment of the everlasting heavenly happiness. This must precede our holy practice, as a cause disposing and alluring us to it. This assertion has several sorts of adversaries to oppose it. Some account that a persuasion of our own future happiness, before we have persevered in sincere obedience, tends to licentiousness; and that the way to do good works is rather to make them a condition necessary for the procuring of this persuasion. Others condemn all works, that we are allured or stirred up to by the future enjoyment of the heavenly happiness, as legal, mercenary, flowing from self-love, and not from any pure love to God; and they figure out sincere godliness by a man bearing fire in one hand, to burn up heaven, and water in the other to quench hell; intimating that the true service of God must not proceed at all from hope of reward, or fear of punishment, but only from love… sincere obedience cannot rationally subsist, except it is allured, encouraged and supported by this persuasion [of future happiness].”

Let me, therefore, suppose a Sadducee, believing no happiness after this life, and put the question: ‘Can such a one love God with his whole heart, might and soul?’ Will he not be reasonable, rather to lessen and moderate his love towards God, lest he should be overmuch troubled to part with Him by death? We account it most reasonable to sit loose in our affections from things that we must part with. Can such a one be satisfied with the enjoyment of God as his happiness? Will he not rather account that the enjoyment of God and all religious duties are vanities, as well as other things, because in a little time we shall have no more benefit by them than if they had never been? How can such a one be willing to lay down his life for the sake of God when, by his death, he must part with God, as well as with other things? How can he willingly choose afflictions rather than sin, when he shall be more miserable in this life for it, and not at all happy hereafter?”(Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ,”Free ebook).

We need to be rescued. From what? From our fears, our miseries, our tears. Happiness is the ultimate goal of all – those in Christ and those who are not. The difference between humanism and biblical Christianity is that for the former, ultimate happiness is to be found in this world, while in biblical Christianity it is to be found in the next: they long for a better, that is, an heavenly [country], wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for He did prepare for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). “Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

Eye has not seen

Therefore, whatever you conceive or see of God, if you think ye know what ye conceive and see, it is not God ye see, but something of God’s less than God; for it is said, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what he hath laid up far them that love him.” (Hugh Binning, “The common principles of the Christian religion, Lecture 7 – “Of the name of God”).

My related posts

Lamb that was slain receive the reward of your suffering

The idol of Humanism, the betrayal of the ages

Sin, the new covenant and the graveyard of free will

4 Nov

Sin is the disobedience of God’s law. Sin does not only mean to wallow in the mire that only Christ’s blood can wash off. Sin means more than wallowing in the mire; it means swallowing it, absorbing the filth into your system, your graveyard; a system with one vital flaw: no channel for eliminating the rotting flesh and dead men’s bones. 

(Romans 3:9-18)

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  

The letter to the Hebrews (Chapter 10) explains the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33) in Christ’s blood.  15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 

How does God “put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds?” It is a great deception to think that you can call upon Christ any time you desire to write his law on your heart. Why is this so? “There are those, writes Walter Marshall (1628 – 1680), that, out of zeal for obedience, but not according to knowledge contend so earnestly for free will, as a necessary and sufficient endowment to enable us to perform our duty, when once we are convinced of it, and of our obligation to it; and who extol this endowment, as the great benefit that universal redemption hath blessed all mankind with; though they consider this free will without any actual inclination to good; yea, they cannot but acknowledge that, in most of mankind that have it, it is incumbered with an actual bent and propensity of the heart altogether to evil. Such a free will as this is, can never free us from slavery to sin and Satan, and fit us for the practice of the law and therefore is not worthy the pains of those that contend so hotly for it. Neither is the will so free as is necessary for the practice of holiness, until it be endued with an inclination and propensity thereunto.” In the rest of his book, Marshall explains why we are not free to choose good unless God gives us this affectation, this “inclination and propensity thereunto. (Free ebook, 111 pages).

The second death

3 Nov

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

(John 8:51)

Believers in Christ, according to the Bible, suffer three kinds of death. One physical and two spiritual. Every human being is born dead in sin. The first human pair was a masterpiece of creation.Then Adam and his wife died spiritually in one fell (fall?) swoop and eventually they died physically as well. All their progeny – in some way not revealed by God – sinned in Adam. This is what is meant by “Original Sin.” “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5). This death was a spiritual death (that is, everyone is born with a sin nature and thus alienated from God) as well as eventual physical death. With regard to spiritual death, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Epehsians 2:1-3).

Then there is for believers in Christ, in this life, the death of death in the death of Jesus Christ (John Owen), that is to say, the Christian’s spiritual death dies in Christ’s death. We follow on from Ephesians 1:3:

“1:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” So, after believers’ death of death in Christ, they are made alive, they are regenerated, the yare born again; their wills are no longer in bondage to their corrupt hearts; God has replaced their corrupt stony hearts with the desire to come to him an follow him.” Non-believers in Christ die spiritually only once in this life. Their second spiritual death occurs after their physical death when Christ casts them into outer darkness.

Those raised in Christ will also have new bodies: 1 Corinthians 15: 35 But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” 36 What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. 38 Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. 39 Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. 41 The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.”

And unbelievers, those who are raised not in Christ but by Christ, will they have new bodies? Yes, “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both for the just and unjust.”—Acts 24:15. A vile body, to grace the state of their soul. How terrible.

If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed: Of damnable and non-damnable heresy, and blindness

31 Oct


Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

(John 9)

Paul says in Galatians that the person who does not believe this gospel let him be anathema, accursed, that is “go to hell.” What is this gospel? Consider the doctrine of atonement. Does Paul teach penal substitutionary atonement, that is, Christ suffered in the sinner’s place to propitiate the wrath of God where the punishment the sinner deserved is put on, imputed to, Christ? Some say the Bible does teach that, and that is why they reject Christianity (see Randall Rauser’s “The death of Jesus, he rape of a woman and concept called imputaion” and comments), while others, the majority of Christians, say that the Bible does not teach that, and that is the reason why they are Christians. If penal substitutionary atonement is in the Bible, the question is, “Is it a damnable heresy?” There is heresy and damnable heresy. James White explains this distinction to a caller on his “Dividing Line” (October 29, 2013; 10 minutes from the end).

Here is my transcript:

(My clarifications are in square brackets).

 Caller – How would you define heresy? Michael Brown, on his Line of Fire, describes it as an error that will send them to hell if they believed it.

White: That’s [that kind of heresy is] a damnable heresy. There are damnable heresies and non-damnable heresies. At least in the history of the church, that has been the case. And so a damnable heresy is a heresy that would demonstrate that the person promoting it is not in Christ. It would involve a denial of Christ, a promotion of a false Gospel, etc. indicative of a person who is not a follower of Christ. There are people who would hold to a heresy but are not damned a a result. So, for example, there are Christians, who out of ignorance are modalists [God is not a trinity but takes on alternate roles of father, son, holy spirit]. If the only people going to heaven have a perfect knowledge of the trinity, well, heaven is going to have a lot of space left over. The difference being between a person who knows the truth of what the trinity is and denies it, and a person who does not know what the truth is, and out of ignorance denies those type of things. So, there are all levels of heresy, and some are minor things. I mean you could make the definition that heresy is anything that involves false teaching. Since none of us has a perfect understanding of all things in this life, then we are all heretics on some level. I’ve got blind spots some place and I am going to find out what they re after this live is over. If you make the standard perfection – this is where hyper-Calvinists, hyper-Arminians and hyper people in general fall off the boat is they end up drawing the circle so tightly that they have to stand on one foot to remain in it. Ans so on that level, everyone would be a heretic. So, I think there needs to be some thought put into how exactly you would define these things. I would consider Todd Bentley a heretic. I would consider Benny Hinn a heretic. Their teachings are false and their lives are false. They’re obviously doing this for money, fame, power, they’re robbing the sheep blind, and that’s the kind of heresy unfortunately today in the Charismatic movement you’re not allowed to call that heresy or call them heretics or false teachers, false prophets o anything else because look at all their “fruit” quote unquote.

Caller – How would you distinguish, how would you define blasphemy from these things? Is that just an error?

White – No, well, I mean, the specific term mean to speak against. So, for example, when Jesus speaks of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, not being forgiven in this age or the age to come, the person is guilty of an eternal sin. He says this in the context of all sorts of things spoken against the son of man will be forgiven him but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The reason for t hat is that the Holy Spirit is the means by which repentance comes…The point is you’re speaking against something. We need to be careful what we identify as blasphemy. It’s pretty easy to rile up your base by pulling out the blasphemy term, but fundamentally from a biblical perspective a blasphemous teaching would be a teaching that is so obviously false tat it speaks against the character and truths of God… For example, being drunk in the Holy Spirit; hat is clearly an attribution to the Holy Spirit of God of activities that are directly contrary and to his character and purposes…We have to be careful that every tine we see somebody doing something that is inappropriate in worship that that necessarily is blasphemous. We have to be very careful. It is certainly a very strong term. It’s been used against me many times by many a person saying “your teaching I blasphemous.” What they mean by his is that they disagree with my teaching. A consistent Arminian [your faith causes God to remove your heart of stone and regenerate you] would find my teaching [faith follows regeneration] blasphemous; in the same way that I would find their consistent teaching heretical. There has to be some specific speaking against the character and attributes of God for that to be an appropriate use of the term. We must be careful when we use it because it’s easy to slip into when we are preaching, you get all riled up, and you’re really convinced that what you’re saying is true.

End of transcript.

Jesus said, as White indicated, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28). The reason why they are guilty of an eternal sin – and thus – eternal damnation – is given in the next verse: —30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Yet Jesus also says that if they do not believe that “I am he” (the Messiah and arguably the divine Son of God as well), this would be a a damnable sin: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24, ESV). Here, Jesus is talking to Jews who  “believed in” (falsely) him. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:31-33, ESV). As White says, we all have blind spots. The question, though, remains: “What kind of blindness is damnable and what isn’t? In other words what does a professing Christian have to disbelieve to be addressed like this”

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.

An exogesis of exoVaticana extraterrestials and the imminent arrival of the serpent messiah

21 Oct

There’s exegesis – reading from the text; eisegesis – reading into the text, and “axegesis” a radical kind of eisegesis – a mutilation of the text. I find axegesis in many rabbinical interpretations; for example, the slaughter of laughter in commentaries of Genesis 18, explaining why Abraham and Sarah laughed when they were told they would have a son. Although Abraham didn’t ultimately slaughter Isaac (Hebrew for “he laughed”), “axegetes” go all the way: laughter lies slaughtered on the slab. 

The Bible commentator Kley Yakor/Keli Yakar/Kli Yakar (Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz ) describes the miracle:  ”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].”  And why did Abraham laugh” He was, says Rashi, rejoicing. Here is Rabbi Glazerson. In his chapter, “Isaac and the Philistines” (Philistine and Palestinian,” 1995, pp. 99-100), he 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, 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]. (See  The Slaughter of Isaac: An Exegesis “Axegesis” of Laughter in Genesis). 

If the above rabbinical axegesis were not enough, we now have an “exogesis” – inspired by the imminent arrival (a decade or so away) from outer space – inner space may be more correct – described in “Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project LUCIFER, and the Vatican’s astonishing exo-theological plan for the arrival of an alien savior,” wherein Pope Francis is to announce an extraterrestial (“exoterrestial”) saviour: The aliens, we read in the Examiner, will be carrying with them a message that transforms Christianity from an earth-centric faith system into a new galactic faith that welcomes extraterrestrials as our ‘spiritual brothers.’ Who will be the savior that emerges from the incoming extraterrestrial object secretly monitored by astronomers that, if Putnam and Horn are correct, the Vatican is preparing to soon announce in an “Urbi et Orbi” (Of the City and the World) speech to the world?” 

Should I rejoice-laugh? Or should I, like Pope Benedict, be resigned? To the serpent messiah’s imminent galactic arrival and irruption into the belly of my soul.

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

27 Sep

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 in the Divine mission to settle the Land, Tommy has rallied support for Israel from American Congressmen and Senators. The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Mr. Gershon Mesika, told me that Tommy’s activities have been very influential. Each year, through the summer, he organizes groups of Christians who love Israel to volunteer here. As he is a big believer in family values, many of the volunteers come with their entire families, including the young and the elderly. In recent years, at the request of the Regional Council, the Har Bracha settlement has hosted the volunteers on a hilltop near our community. From this base, the volunteers set out to work in vineyards and orchards throughout the Shomron.”

Because of our difficult history with Christians, and due to concerns about possible missionizing, I felt it necessary to meet with Tommy. I wanted to have an upfront discussion with him about precisely what his positions were. At the same time, I wanted to convey a Jewish position without kowtowing or obsequiousness. In the course of our conversation, I asked him: “If a Jew were to come before you and ask you whether it is better to be a Jew or a Christian what would you tell him?” He responded: “I would tell him to be a Jew!” Tommy added that he had not always thought this way. Originally, like other Christians, he was interested in everyone becoming Christian, but eventually he realized that this earlier position was the result of ignorance. Now, following his exposure to the Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel, he wishes for all Jews to observe the Torah and mitzvoth. I asked Tommy what led him to dedicate his life to bringing Christian volunteers to Israel. He told me that he read Isaiah 61:5: “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” This greatly moved him, and he said to himself: “Maybe I can be the one who is privileged to fulfil this holy verse!” Ever since then, he has encouraged people to visit Israel and to help Jews work the land.”

Tommy, a professing Christian tells Jews it is against Christ’s will to tell them, those whom Christ initially (in time, not intention) preached to, that the Christ/Mashiach – is “the way, the the truth and the life” (John 14:6); that it is wrong to tell Jews “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). And indeed, don’t ever tell them “This is why I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I am(ego eimi), you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).” A Jew, therefore, who does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah will die in his sins; no matter how many acts of lovingkindness he or she does.

To recap, Eliezer’s article is about how Christians are Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah as in “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” (Isaiah 61:5).

What about the fulfilment of the following Isaiah prophecy in Chapter 53?

Behold, my Servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men – so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.

The Jew claims that he is the suffering servant. This means that the above words in italics proceed out of the mouth of the “nations” (Gentiles, goyim). A travesty divesting the Holy One of Israel of the greatest manifesation of his holiness and love towards his creation. If the suffering servant is the Jew, he must be raising himself by hiw own bootstraps. Insufferable servant. (See Isaiah 53 and the identity Chrisis of the suffering servant, Isaiah 53: The Suffering and Insufferable Servant and The raising of the servant in Isaiah; by Israel’s bootstraps).

If Tommy is consistent, he would have to agree; which makes him, in the eyes of a Jew, a righteous gentile with a place in the world to come, but also an apostate Christian: He went out from us, but he did not really belong to us. For if he had belonged to us, he would have remained with us; but his going showed that he had not belonged to us. (1 John 2:19; I changed “they” to “he”).

Eliezer Melamed’s next heading is “Israel and the Nations of the World.”

Since Sukkot reveals, writes Melamed, the sanctity of all spheres of life, the holiday is relevant to non-Jews (who are traditionally referred to as the seventy nations of the world). Accordingly, our Sages state that the seventy bulls which we offered in the Temple over the course of Sukkot were offered on behalf of the seventy nations. (See Peninei Halakha, Laws of Sukkot 1:13.)”

Seventy bulls; the seventy nations of the world? All the sacrifices of Israel, however, were offered to make atonement for Israel alone. “But Aaron and his sons made offerings upon the altar of burnt offering and upon the altar of incense for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.” (1 Chronicles 6:49). This goes for the seventy bulls as well: “Then Hezekiah said, ‘You have now consecrated yourselves to the LORD; come near, bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.’ And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings; and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. The number of the burnt offerings which the assembly brought was seventy bulls, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD” (2 Chronicles 29:31-32).

If you’re a traditional Jew (Chabad, for example), you will say that the teaching of the sages/rabbis that the seventy bulls were offered for the nations comes from the “Oral” Torah, given to Moses at the same time as the Written Torah. The argument is that the Oral Torah fills in the details of the Written Torah. It is hard to see how the Oral explanation (of the sages/rabbis) given above fills in what is lacking in the very clear written Torah that the sacrifices were intended for the atonement of Israel’s sins alone.

Our relationship with non-Jews, continues Eliezer Melamed, is complex. Throughout our long history, they often viciously abused us; nevertheless, our basic attitude towards them is positive.”

Positive? The pious Jew’s attitude – I’m not talking about humanist, liberal, reform, reconstructionist or agnostic/atheist Jews – to the Christian is, and never was positive; unless by “positive” is meant mutual economic and other day-to-day interests. In his “The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah,” Rabbi David Bar Chaim cites many rabbinical sources that states that “brother” and “neighbour” refer to the fellow Jews only, as in Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”

Killing a Gentile and loving your neighbour

We learn from the Mechilta that a Jew who killed a Gentile with intent is not put to death by the Beit Din, as he would be had he killed a Jew. The halacha is the same concerning a ger toshav, as is explicitly stated in the Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on the above mentioned verse: “‘Upon his neighbor’ — with the exception of others, ‘his neighbor’ — with the exception of the ger toshav.” (Ger toshav – resident alien ; see more here).

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis says:

A case in point is the verse of three Hebrew words: V’ahavtah l’rechah kamocha, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” How simple—how clear. How are we to love the “Neighbor?” And who is my “Neighbor?” Not only are the interpretations different in each different tradition, but they vary within the same tradition. The “love” imperative takes on different meanings. There are rabbis who, on semantic grounds, argue that “thy Neighbor” refers to b’nai amecha, “the children of your people.” Others go further in restricting the meaning of “Neighbor” by maintaining that “Neighbor” refers only to “good” Jews, to “observant” Jews, achichah b’torah uv’mitzvot,” your brother in law and observance.” Those who argue for a restrictive and exclusivist interpretation of “Neighbor” are thinkers of great prominence such as Maimonides and Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel Ben Mayer of the 11th Century). In the Likutei Amarim, Rabbi Schnayer Zalman, the founder of Chabad, interpreted the passage most of us understand as universalistic in a highly restrictive manner. When the Prophet Micah says, “Have we not one Father, has not one God created us all?” he refers only to real brothers, that is, to Israelites alone, for the source of their souls is in their one God.” (See “Love your neighbour” as long as he’s Jewish).

Eliezer Melamed then discusses the “Attitude Towards Philo-Semitic Christians.”

Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the numbers of philo-Semitic evangelicals have increased. They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel.”

Semitic” is too broad a term to describes Jews; Arabs are also Semitic. Perhaps “philo-Judaic” would be more appropriate. The question is, “Where are the Jews in redemptive history?” Here is a Messianic Jew, who is also a missionary to the Jews in Israel, Israel Iluz of the “Trumpets of Salvation to Israel” ministry,” Jaffa, Israel (My addition in italics):

For those of you who have been in Israel, you can sense, you can touch this reality. The British said, “Let’s give them this land. It’s rubbish, there’s nothing there. We couldn’t manage to do anything in this land. Give it to the Jews.” Today you go to Israel and it’s green. We export flowers. We export Jaffa oranges [Israeli Jews need to be reminded that before the foundation ofthe State of Israel in1948, the indigenous Arabs had a thriving, world famous Orange enterprise in Jaffa previous to the state of Israel]. Israel is green. The cities are built. The technology is one of the best in the world. All the computers you are using has Israeli technology. Almost every aspect of technology that you touch, that you use, Israelis are there. Today, Israel is a fulfilment now.” (See Where are the Jews in redemptive history? Exactly where they have been predestined to be).

Jacob Prasch, a prominent mentor to Christian Zionists, in his Daniel Project, mentions the flowers and gardens blooming in the Negev desert as a fulfilment of prophet passages. Caution is required because before one can state 1948 is 1. the final return and 2. the return in blessing not judgment, certain events such as rivers in the desert must occur together with other prophesied events.

Here is Jeremiah 23:3-4

3 I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be lacking, says the LORD.How well do the details in Jeremiah 23:3-4 resonate with the 1948 Christian Zionist position? namely “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds.” That could indeed be 1948. But consider the following points.

They shall be fruitful and multiply. According to Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar, the ”data presented to the Chief Rabbinate, [show] some 50,000 abortions are performed in Israel every year, 20,000 of which are legal. “Adding to the gravity of this transgression is the fact that it impedes the coming of redemption.”

I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them. I ask Christian Zionists, ”do you believe that Jews are exempt from the Gospel imperative to receive Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah and Lord?” Most Messianic Jews don’t accept this ”separate covenant” double-minded theory.

They shall not lack anything. The dire housing crisis in the State of Israel disproves this point.

There is something else that Jeremiah says in our passage that further, and more strongly, undermines the Christian Zionist’s case. It is the segment that comes immediately before ”they shall not lack anything,” namely, ”they shall fear no more.” It would surely be hard to deny that Israel, as far as external threats to its very existence are concerned, is one of the most, perhaps the most, insecure country in the world. It is, therefore, not foolish to infer that more Israelis live in fear than don’t. Jeremiah 23:4 is more specific; ”they” (that is the people as a whole) shall fear no more.” (See Israel: Are we heading for exile or restoration?

We read in Jeremiah (46:27): “Do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel. I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.”

Zionist Christians – many of whom are “charismatic” Christians – believe that the present State of Israel consists of Jews who have been saved out of a distant place. However, it is clear that the modern “Jacob” (Israel) has no peace and security. The Bible is clear that only after they have been saved from a distant place will they no longer be afraid. The State of Israel is not only very unsafe, it is the unsafest place on earth, except, perhaps, for Syria at the moment. (See Christian Zionism – The Trouble with Jacob).

Earlier we saw why Tommy, whom I find it hard to describe as a Christian, doesn’t want to witness to Jews. Here is Israel Iluz (mentioned earlier), a Jewish missionary to the Jews in Israel, who, oddly, agrees with Tommy, but for different reasons:

Be wise. Don’t share with them Jesus Christ. Share with them the Gospel from the Old Testament. you come from where they stand, from where they’re at, from what they know. What is their familiarity? What is already known to them to some degree. And for those whom God called and predestined, they will open their hearts.”

Be wise. Don’t share with them Jesus Christ.” Is that correct? Imagine if the Apostles had, anachronistically, heeded Iluz’s advice. Also, the New Testament tells us the opposite, that is, we must share Jesus Christ. Of course, it is true – and I’m happy that Israel Iluz said it – that ultimately only God can open hearts. But it is also God who chooses the means, which is usually a human being, of how to share Christ with others. In passing, it is unusual, but delightful, to hear the glorious truth “those whom God predestined” coming out of a Jewish mouth. (See Where are the Jews in redemptive history? Exactly where they have been predestined to be).

To continue with Eliezer Melamed’s article: “Jews, he says, must deal with the question of how to relate to friendly Christians. For close to two thousand years, Christians have persecuted the Jewish people – murdering, debasing, expelling, or forcibly converting them. How is it that suddenly Christians love us? Furthermore, how do we handle the Rambam’s declaration that Christianity is idolatry?”

Melamed’s solution is” “It would seem that everything depends on their attitude towards the Jewish people and the Torah. The most serious problem we have with Christianity is its denial of God’s choice of the Jewish people and of the eternal relevance of the Torah… Additionally, they did as much as they possibly could to convert Jews to Christianity.”

So, according to Melamed, if Christians cease to deny God’s choice of the Jewish people and the eternal relevance of Torah Jews, the latter will stop declaring (as Rambam/Moses Maimonides did) – but surely not among themselves – that the Christian belief in the God-Man is idolatry. With regard to God’s choice of Israel, the Torah is clear: the heart of the Torah are about God’s relationship to his chosen people, Israel. When it comes to the New Testament, Christians differ on the continuing role of the Jews as a nation. Romans 9 – 11 is clear that God has not forgotten his people, and that ultimately a remnant of the Jewish nation will be saved, that is “all” Israel of the promise, all those, as Israel Iluz understands so well, who have been predestined to eternal life, which applies to Gentiles as well:

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1).

With regard to the eternal relevance of the Torah, not all parts of the Torah – even the most pious Jew cannot deny this – are eternally relevant; for example, the vast number of directives on animal sacrifices fell away after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Within Christianity and Messianic Judaism, there, except for the ten commandments, differences in the relevance of the other laws. What is clear to all believers in Jesus/Yeshua, in contrast to Judaism, is that the law cannot justify a person before God:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3).

The Jews, writes the remarkable and short-lived Hugh Binning (1627 – 1653 Free ebook here), had some respective opinion of the word of God; they knew that in it was eternal life; they thought it a doctrine of life and happiness, but they would not believe Christ’s words. They erred, not understanding the scriptures, and so set the writings of Moses’ law at variance with the preaching of Christ’s gospel. What a pitiful mistake was this! They thought they had eternal life in the scriptures, and yet they did not receive nor acknowledge him whom to know was eternal life. Therefore our Lord Jesus sends them back again to the scriptures:-“Go and search them; you think, and you think well, that in them ye may find the way to eternal life; but while you seek it in them you mistake it; these scriptures testify of me, the end of the law, but you cannot behold the end of that ministry, because of the blindness of your hearts (Romans x. 3; 2 Corinthians Iii. 13, 14.). Therefore search again, unfold the ceremonies; I am wrapt in them, and life eternal with me. Dig up the law till you find the bottom of God’s purpose in it, till you find the end of the ministration, and you shall find me, ‘the way, the truth, and life;’ and so you shall have that eternal life which now you do but think you have, and are beguiled.”

Christian possession

24 Sep

What does the Bible says what a Christian’s greatest possession should be? A Christian leader, out of the blue, asked his congregation: “What is your greatest possession?”  Here were some answers: my tech stuff, my replacement knee, my children. A Christian may, without thinking, give any of these answers. No one mentioned “faith” or “Christ” as an option. Perhaps they were too coy. Or too cowardly? Or accommodating what they think the leader is thinking?

A Christian’s greatest possession does not mean dominion or jurisdiction but what you have and care most about. Your greatest possession is what you treasure most. Here is the Lord Jesus Christ: 

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6). Colossians 3 describes the Christian in this way: 1. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 

It should be obvious that a follower of Jesus should treasure most the “things above.” The reality is that many followers of Jesus – genuine followers, that is, those who have been raised with Christ – often forget to set their hearts on things above; so much so that when they are asked, “What is your greatest possession?” they assume that earthly things are meant.

When it comes to human beings, Western societies consider it improper to possess, say, one’s wife, children, employees. In the spiritual domain one can be possessed by demonic powers or godly powers. The Christian power is the Spirit in Christ. The phrase “in Christ” appears dozens of times in the New Testament, for example: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1) and “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Christians are in Christ, and, if they are growing spiritually, they seek more light and closer communion, more intimate fellowship, with Christ. They are Christ’s possession, which had already been decreed from eternity, and which becomes manifest in the moment of their regeneration – the moment they believe in (trust) Christ as their saviour. But not only is it true that the Christian is in Christ; it is also true that Christ is in the Christian, He dwells in the Christian. The New Testament pivots on this prayer:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3).

Christ “sits” in believers – and if they go awry, he may also sit on them – and they “sit” in Christ. “Possession” derives from two Latin words: posse “be able” and sidere “sit.” So, to be situated in Christ, means He possesses us; and if Christ is situated (dwells) in us, we possess him. With this difference: He has bought us. The price? His blood – our inheritance, our hope, our strength, our portion, our possession The Lord is our portion and we are his.

The Lord’s portion: “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:9). The Gospel extends this inheritance to nations (goyim).

The child of God’s portion: “The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24). “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever (Psalm 73:26).

The Child of God’s acquired possession (Ephesians 1:14):

3 Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, 5 having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved, 7 in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself, 10 in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth — in him;

11 in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will, 12 for our being to the praise of His glory, [even] those who did first hope in the Christ, 13 in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth — the good news of your salvation — in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, 14 which is an earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.

To return to the Christian leader’s question to his congregation: “What is your greatest possession?” A person who did not answer “my faith” may be a genuine but backsliding Christian. It is difficult to be sure whether a person has really been regenerated (raised with Christ through faith) or not, that is, whether the person is a genuine Christian. And a person who does blurt out “my faith?” Why, he or she may be an inveterate liar. Similarly, with regard to those who love talking Bible, one cannot be sure whether they are true (lovers of Christ). One thing for sure, those who hate talking Bible are definitely true (haters of Christ).

“In his light we see the light.” Do we really?

21 Sep

 Christians have been called out of darkness into light. There are many passages in the New Testament on the light granted to believers. Here are a few:

2 Corinthians 4:6 – For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:8 – For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

Hebrews 12:18 – For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

 One of the most remarkable Christian writers of the 17th century was Hugh Binning (1627–1653). Binning describes the sun “as the very spring and fountain of life to all sublunary things.” “How much is that true, he continues of the the light, of the substantial, of whom this sun is but a shadow!…there may be something of the infallibility and incomprehensibility of the divine majesty here represented. For though nothing be clearer than the light, yet there is nothing in its own nature darker than light, that which is so manifest to the eyes, how obscure is it to the understanding. Many debates and inquiries have been about it, but yet it is not known what that is by which we know all things. Certainly such is the divine light. It is inconceivable and inexpressible, therefore is he said to dwell in light inaccessible and full of glory, 1 Tim. vi. 16.”

 Before I quote 1 Timothy vi:16 and its context, here is 1 John 1:5-6: “This is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” We are required to walk in the light, yet in one sense this light is an unapproachable light, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:16:

“13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. “

How is it possible to have fellowship (another way of saying “walk in the light”) with the unapproachable? In 1 John 1:5-6, we read: “This is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.”

Binning explains that there are two kinds of darkness, one in the unbeliever and one in the believer. [My clarifications are in square brackets].

“There is a twofold darkness that hinders us [believers and unbelievers] to see God, a darkness of ignorance in us [unbelievers], and a darkness of inaccessible light in him [believers]. [Binning now describes unbelievers] The one is a veil upon our hearts, which blinds and darkens the souls of men, that they do not see that which is manifest of God even in his works. O that cloud of unbelief that is spread over our souls, which hinders the glorious rays of that divine light to shine into them. This darkness Satan contributes much to, who is the prince of darkness, 2 Cor. iv. 4.”

[ 2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God].

“This, continues Binning, makes the most part of souls [of unbelievers] like dungeons within, when the glorious light of the gospel surrounds them without. This earthliness and carnality of our hearts makes them like the earth, receive only the light in the upper and outward superfice, and not suffer it to be transmitted into our hearts to change them. But when it pleaseth him, who at the first, by a word of power, commanded light to shine out of darkness, he can scatter that cloud of ignorance, and draw away the veil of unbelief, and can by his power and art, so transform the soul, as to remove its earthly quality, and make it transparent and pure, and then the light will shine into the heart, and get free access into the soul.”

Psalm 36 speaks of this light: “7. How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8  They feast on the abundance of your house,
 and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.” The question is: what is this light we see? Binning explains:

But though this darkness were wholly removed, there is another darkness, that ariseth not from the want of light, but from the excessive superabundance of light, caligo lucis nimiae, that is, a divine darkness, a darkness of glory, such an infinite excess and superplus of light and glory above all created capacities, that it dazzles and confounds all mortal or created understandings. We see some shadows of this, if we look up to the clear sun. We are able to see nothing for too much light.”

You might have noticed earlier, that Hugh Binning lived 26 years. His writings are some of the finest ever produced. So many there were, in previous centuries, of Christian missionaries, pastors, theologians and faithful believers who were cut off from this life at an early age. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33).

The kindle edition of Binning’s works are free and can be found here. Here is Binning again .  What a sublime combination of philosophy, poetry and the great Light. It is from a sermon by Hugh Binning on  1 John 1:5 “God is light.”

Taste and see that the Light is good:

“The light is, as it were, a visible appearance of the invisible God. He hath covered his invisible nature with this glorious garment, to make himself in a manner visible to man. It is true, that light is but, as it were, a shadow of that inaccessible light, umbra Dei. It is the dark shadow of God, who is himself infinitely more beautiful and glorious. But yet, as to us, it hath greater glory and majesty in it, than any creature besides. It is the chief of the works of God, without which the world would be without form and void. It is the very beauty of the creation, that which gives lustre and amiableness to all that is in it, without which the pleasantest this beautiful structure, and adorned palace of the world, a loathsome dungeon. Besides the admirable beauty of it, it hath a wonderful swift conveyance throughout the whole world, the upper and lower, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It is carried from the one end of heaven to the other in a moment, and who can say by what way the light is parted? Job xxxviii. 24. Moreover, it carries alongst with it a beautiful influence, and a refreshing heat and warmness, which is the very life and subsistence of all the creatures below.”

“And so, as there is nothing so beautiful, so nothing so universally and highly profitable. And to all this, add that singular property of it, that it is not capable of infection, it is of such absolute purity, that it can communicate itself to the dunghill, as well as to the garden, without receiving any mixture from it. In all the impurities it meets withal, it remains unmixed and untainted, and preserves its own nature entire. Now you may perceive, that there is nothing visible that is fitter to resemble the invisible God, than this glorious, beautiful, pure, and universally communicable creature, light . Then add unto this, to make up the resemblance fuller, the bounty and benignity of his influence upon the world, the flowings forth of his infinite goodness, that enrich the whole earth. Look, as the sun is the greatest and most universal benefactor,-his influence and heat is the very renovation of the world. It makes all new, and green, and flourishing; it puts a youth upon the world, and so is the very spring and fountain of life to all sublunary things.”‘

Kaddish: the holy and the dead

19 Sep

Kaddish (Kadish) refers to the prayers for the dead. But this meaning is only a derivative meaning of kadish. The first meaning of kadish is “holy” (kadosh). “Kadosh” is the second most important word in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible); the first is YHVH (Yahweh, Yehovah). What is the most significant attribute of God? Everlasting? All powerful? All merciful? All compassionate? All loving? All knowing? All present? No, none of these. It’s God’s Holiness. All of God’s other attributes flow from his Holiness. The Bible is the sacred history of God’s overarching will for man: “Be ye holy for I am Holy.” And that is what the Bible – the sacred history of God’s dealings with man – is all about : “I am the LORD your God; be holy, because I am holy.”

“Holy” (Kadosh) only appears once in all the 50 Chapters of Genesis: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” What is the heart of human holiness? Rest – in the Rest of God. It is fitting that the intention behind the “Kadish” prayers for the dead – and all prayers for the dead – is “rest in peace”. These prayers for the dead, however, have no support in the Old Testament or in Jewish tradition (the Talmud and Mishnah). Roman Catholics may argue otherwise and appeal to the apocrypha and their tradition. ( “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” Maccabees 2).

Kaddish is one of the most poignant prayers in the Jewish liturgy. For this reason it provides deep insight into the roots of Judaism.

The origin of the Kaddish prayer is not certain. One theory is that it came into use after the Crusades. The medieval rabbis, in contrast, claim that the Kaddish originated in the time of Rabbi Akiva (circa 50–c.135 AD). Others claim that the Kaddish originated after the destruction of the first Temple and was said after a lecture or discussion of Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, called the” five books of Moses).

In a world shot through with paradox and mystery, the Kaddish is the great prayer of consolation “nechamah, of hope “tikvah” (the Israeli national anthem is HaTikvah – The Hope) and of peace “shalom”. Above all, it is a prayer of submission to God’s judgments and will, which are always good and pure. Kaddish is regarded as a spiritual rescue from the dead. “The dead are in need of spiritual rescue; and the agent of spiritual rescue is the son; and the instrument of spiritual rescue is prayer, notably the Kaddish” (Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), pp. 126-27). The “son” is the son of the deceased. Prefiguration of the the Garden of Gethsemane?

The Kaddish as a mourner’s prayer is about death. The strange thing about this prayer is that death is not even mentioned in the prayer. We shy away from death. Yet life – in its deeps – is mainly about death, the obsession with death. For most Jews, even Orthodox ones, the ultimate tragedy is death. Why? Because they don’t believe in the after life. The reason why they don’t believe in the after life is because they say that the Jewish Bible’s “salvation” is not about “eternal life” beyond the grave but about peace and happiness in this life. This view is not universal among practising Jews, but it is prevalent. You will notice that the Kadish prayer says nothing about the after life, but is about extolling God and praying for blessings in this life.

Here is the Kadish prayer with short comments in italics:

Mourner: Magnified and sanctified be His great name. (Yisgadal v’yiskadash shmai raba).

(The greatness and holiness of God is the introduction to prayer. This is the theme of the whole Kaddish).

Congregation: Amen.

Mourner: In this world which He has created in accordance with His will, may He establish his kingdom during your lifetime, and during the life of all the House of Israel, Speedily, and let us say, Amen.

(“Your” lifetime. Who is this referring to? Not the deceased – his life is over. It refers to the [living] mourner).

Mourner: Let His great name be blessed for ever and to all eternity!

Cong: (Repeats above verse.)

Mourner: Blessed, praised, glorified and exalted, extolled, honored, magnified and lauded, be the name of the Holy one, blessed be He.

Cong: Blessed be He.

Mourner: He is greater than all blessings, hymns, praises and consolations, da’amiron b’olmo; v’imru, Amen. Which can be uttered in this world; and let us say Amen.

Cong: Amen.

Mourner: May abundant peace from heaven descend upon us. And may life be renewed for us and for all Israel; and let us say, Amen.

(What about abundant peace and renewal for the deceased?)

Cong : Amen.

Mourner: He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace. For us and for all Israel ; and let us say, Amen.

Cong: Amen.

There is nothing about the deceased in this prayer. Nothing about giving him/her rest. In what sense is the prayer for the deceased? The prayer is actually a prayer not only to God but for God, and for the deceased and for the living. Some rabbis say that the death of a single person creates a gap not only in the hearts of the living but in the heart of God.

The rabbis say that the Kaddish echo’s Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15), and that those few words of trusting God for your eternal redemption summarises the whole Tanakh (Old Testament). But if one goes by the words of the Kaddish, it seems that it would be more accurate to say: “Though He slay him (my father, the deceased), yet will I trust Him (my God).”

One doesn’t, however, only go by the words of a prayer, but by its intention. The intention of Kaddish is a call to God in the midst of sorrow of the death of a loved one. But it is also prayer of adoration, of thanksgiving for His mercy and for his promise to redeem Israel. The Kaddish, it is believed, guarantees the survival of the Jewish people and Judaism.

Thus, the Kaddish is much more than a prayer for the dead. It is recited at the end of all major prayers as well as at the conclusion of a service. The “chachomim” (sages) teach that the devout recital of the Kaddish tempers God’s wrath. That is not all. The chachomim say that the whole universe is preserved by the power of Kaddish. It also redeems the departed soul. As I mentioned, the paradox is that although the Kaddish is about death, that awful word is never mentioned.

The Kaddish is never a private prayer. Others also experience pain, loss, death. Holiness is community, where God cares for every individual life. When Kaddish is said in community, it causes all those present to proclaim the greatness of God and the Kiddush Ha’Shem, the sanctification of the Name. The mourner says, “Magnified and sanctified be His great name;” the congregation responds, “Let His great name be blessed for all eternity.” The mourner continues, “Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted; extolled, honored, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He;” the congregation replies, “Blessed be He.”

Someone said: “When we speak the name of someone who has died, it’s like bringing a part of their soul back to life.” Rabbi Rosalind Glazer comments:

“While Judaism provides an elaborate structure of memorial practices, ours is not at all a culture of death. At its core, Jewish tradition is life affirming. The recitation of Kaddish may permit survivors a moment to remember their beloved deceased, but the prayer speaks of radical awe in this miraculous and eternal moment. “
“Furthermore, the underlying power of Kaddish is not merely in the instant of remembrance, but in the building and preservation of community. That a minyan is required to recite it is not a mere halakhic legalism. Minyan allows us to sustain and perpetuate community. It is as essential to the mourner as it is to the thirteen year old who becomes a bat or bar mitzvah. Minyan holds the collective social force of critical mass. In essence, minyan is synonymous with community. This is why so many Hassidic tales extol the virtue of being the tenth person and honor those who fulfill the mitzvah of ‘making minyan.’”

The ideal is that the son of a deceased parent should lead the Kaddish prayer, because this honours both the parents – the living and the dead. There is also the belief among some Jews that when the son recites the Kaddish, this either confirms the parent’s life of good deeds, or achieves repentance for the parent’s sins, and redeems him or her from God’s retribution. Also, the merit of the mourner’s prayers accrues to the deceased. The main emphasis is on the goodness of the parent. This is similar to the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, where the prayers and penances of the living can reduce the time the deceased spends in purgatory – the fires of purification (pur - Greek for “fire”). I was a devout Catholic for 20 years. Catholicism was very important part of my intellectual and spiritual formation and subsequent life. I say more about this later on.


Christian and Jewish faith

18 Sep

The “in” in “believe in” has two meanings. It may mean “believe that” or “trust.” For example, I may believe in God in the sense that I believe that he exists or in the sense that I believe that he has an effect on my life, ranging from a force to a personal God who has revealed himself as my creator and Lord over my life. As Lord, I trust him, I believe that he is who he has revealed himself to be.

So a Christian believes in Jesus and believes him enough to trust him.? Similarly, a believing Jew believes in God as well as believes God, which are contained in the Hebrew word emunah. There is no need to prove his emunah. “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) should be enough, and if not, then the man doesn’t have, according to Martin Buber, a genuine biblical bone in his body. “Biblical man, says Martin Buber, is never in doubt to the existence of God. In professing his faith, his emunah, he merely expresses his trust that the living God is near to him as he was to Abraham and that he entrusts himself to Him” (“Two types of faith” 1962).

Scripture comes alive because God gives it life, and thus it is God who opens the eyes that we may understand. This opening of the eyes is faith. One spends the rest of one’s life adjusting the eyes to the light, keeping in mind that in His light we see the light (Psalm 36:9). What a contrast to Dylan Thomas’ “Rage against the dying of the light” do we find in “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts.. who hath given understanding to the heart? (Job 38:36). Emunah comprises both Assensus (belief in the sense of mental assent) and Fiducia (trust, personal commitment).

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), and 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 “I believe it, that settles it,” your mental assent is more of a mental descent. To understand why it is a mental descent, you need to ascend to 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:

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Notitia (content) is related to our understanding. Without the regenerative life of fiducia (believe in, trust), one is no better off than the devils, who have enough notitia (and assensus) to open a shop. Credo ut intelligam “I believe (in Christ through regeneration) that I may understand” and  fides quaerens intellectum “faith (in Christ through regeneration) seeking understanding?” (Anselm of Canterbury).

Cover of "Two Types of Faith (Martin Bube...

Martin Buber

Martin Buber, the Jewish professor of philosophy, contrasts “belief in” with “trust (in).” Buber says, “Following his leader; Moses comes to the shore, he steps on the sands that are barely covered by shallow water; and the hosts follow him as he follows the God. At this point occurs whatever occurs, and it is apprehended as a miracle. It is irrelevant whether “much” or “little,” unusual things or usual, tremendous or trifling events happened; what is vital is only that what happened was experienced, while it happened, as the act of God. The people saw in whatever it was they saw “the great hand” and they “believed in YHVH” or, more correctly translated, “they gave their trust to YHVH.” (Martin Buber, Moses, (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books. 1988). 

Not only the “reformers” (the Protestant Reformation) but all Christian movements understand the distinctions between notitia (content), assensus (accepting the truth of this content, that is, believing that it is true) and fiducia (belief in Christ, or trust in Christ). Jews, and, surprisingly, sometimes “Messianic Jews,” accuse Christians of focusing on “faith” (by which they mean “(mental) assent to” while ignoring trust (Hebrew emunah). Martin Buber’s confusion may help us to understand the unjust criticisms levelled at Christians.

In Romans 3, “faith” is mentioned many times; for example:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

The Christian view of “faith” is summed up in Ephesians 2:8-10 [my square brackets and italics]:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith [in Christ]. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them [be faithful “emuna” in them).

“Belief in” in Christianity is always believing in your heart, and putting your complete trust in Christ.

Pope Francis, the next Nobel Peace Prize?

13 Sep

Pope Francis recently said what most Roman Catholics, hierarchy and laity, think: let conscience be your guide and do good, and Christ will welcome you into His Kingdom. This is not what hundreds of past popes have said, and not what the Apostles said, and clearly, all over the New Testament.

Popes claim to be the successors of the Apostle Peter. Pope Francis is another indication that the Apostolic Succession is the Apostolic Secession. No doubt, Peter was first among the Apostles. Contrast what Pope Francis said about salvation with what Peter said:

Acts 2:36-40
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

No, your corrupt conscience is an awful guide; the Gospel should – isn’t that what Popes are supposed to teach – be your guide.

Don’t be surprised if Pope Fancis wins the next Nobel Peace prize.

I’m surprised your blog doesn’t have more followers

12 Sep

A recent comment on my home page expressed the above comment.

Yes there are a few Christian blogs with thousands of followers, there are a few Jewish blogs with thousands of followers, there are also a few Messianic (Jewish followers of Jesus/Yeshua) sites with hundreds of followers, but, how many followers do you expect a Jewish Calvinist blog to have, nu?

The thing is, who’s counting? What counts is not followers but fellow heirs.

The quality of midrash is strained: Give ear, O ye heavens, or should it be hear?

9 Sep

Definitions

Midrash (from drash “to seek, study, enquire)

Anthologies and compilations of homilies, including both biblical exegesis and sermons delivered in public as well as aggadot (see *Aggadah) and sometimes even halakhot (cf. *Midreshei Halakhah), usually forming a running commentary on specific books of the Bible.” (Jewish virtual library)

Aggadah

a. a homiletic passage of the Talmud.

b. collectively, the homiletic part of traditional Jewish literature, as contrasted with Halacha, consisting of elaborations on the biblical narratives or tales from the lives of the ancient Rabbis.

Halacha

The legal part of Talmudic literature, an interpretation of the laws of the Scriptures.

Boots, Nancy Sinatra’s at least, are meant for walking, and ears are meant for hearing and listening. The sound may be noise (from whispers to hammer drills), music or language. When we hear, we receive or become conscious of a sound. When we listen, we give attention to someone or something for the purpose of hearing them. Other languages, for example French, make the same distinction: écouter (listen); entendre (hear).

The expressions “give ear to what I am saying,” which is seldom used in modern English, and “listen to what I am saying” mean the same thing, you would think, for both involve a request for someone to give attention to what is being said. Yet, in some Jewish thinking, specifically, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson, whom many Jews in the Chabad movement (a movement regarded by many Jews as de facto Judaism) believe to be the Messiah (he died in 1994), there exists a great divide between “give ear” and “listen.”

In Isaiah 1:2 we read: “Hear , O heavens, and give ear , O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Both “hear” (Hebrew root shama) and “give ear” (Hebrew root azan) are two ways of saying “listen,” “pay attention.”

Here is Deuteronomy 32:1 the Jewish Mechon-Mamre translation (which is the same as the English Revised version):

Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth (what I say).

Ha’azinu (Listen plural) hashamayim (the heavens) ve’adabeira (and I will speak) ve’tishma (and hear) ha’aretz (the earth) imrei (what I say) pi (with my mouth – “i” pronounced “ee”).

הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ אִמְרֵי־פִֽי׃

Ha’azinu (הַאֲזִינוּ) is Hebrew for “listen” (from ozen “ear) when directed to more than one person. It is the first word of the 53rd weekly portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.

In Isaiah and Moses, we have “two prophets, two modes of expression.” What does the rabbinical literature make of this: Here is SichosinEnglish‘s “Two Prophets, Two Modes of Expression.”

“The word haazinu, generally translated as “listen,” literally means “give ear.” In that vein, our Sages compares Moshe’s call: “Listen O heavens, and I will speak; earth, hear the words of my mouth,” with Yeshayahu’s [Isaiah] prophecy: “Hear O heavens…, listen O earth.” They explain that Moshe was on a level of spiritual refinement which had elevated him until he was “close to the heavens, and far from the earth.” Therefore, he was able to address the heavens at close range. Yeshayahu, by contrast, despite the heights of personal growth which he had attained, was still “close to the earth, and far from the heavens.” And thus he used wording that reflected his own level.”

We shall, on the contrary, see that Isaiah not only reached the spiritual level of Moses but surpassed him – thanks to Moses, and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Here is Rabbi Sacks on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings on Ha’azinu “Give ear” (Deuteronomy 32:1):

The Sidra of Ha-azinu begins with Moses’ great oration, “Give ear, ye heavens… and let the earth hear.” The Midrash with its usual sensitivity to the nuances of language, notes that Moses seems to be talking in terms of intimacy towards the heavens, and of distance towards the earth. There is an almost exactly opposite verse in Isaiah, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth,” in which Isaiah expresses closeness to earth and distance from heaven. Which path is the Jew to follow? Is he to strive towards heaven and keep himself aloof from worldly events? Or is he, like Isaiah, to find his spiritual home in the things of the earth? And what bearing does this dilemma have on the time in which the Sidra is usually read, the Ten Days of Repentance, and the days immediately following Yom Kippur, the supreme moments of self-examination in the Jewish year?

Words of Closeness and Distance

The Midrash, continues Rabbi Sacks, tells us that Moses was “close to heaven” and “far from the earth,” and this is why he said, “Give ear, ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” “Give ear” speaks in the tone of closeness, “let the earth hear” bears the accent of distance. In the same way, the Midrash says that Isaiah was “far from the heavens… and close to the earth,” for he said, in exact opposition to Moses, “Hear O heavens, and give ear, O earth.”

But this opposition is a surprising one. “Torah” means “teaching,” and all its words are words of instruction for every Jew.3 When Moses said, “Give ear, ye heavens… and let the earth hear” the implication was that every Jew should strive to be close to heaven, and to liberate himself from the constraints of earth. If Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets,could not reach this, how then can the Torah demand it of every Jew? And, if closeness to heaven is, in fact, within the reach of every Jew through the inspiration of Moses which is “within” every Jew, why had Isaiah failed to reach this level? The matter is all the more strange since—as the Midrashsays—Isaiah’s words were spoken as a continuation of Moses’ address. Speaking as he was under the direct inspiration of Moses, it should have been all the easier for Isaiah to rise to his heights.

We are forced to conclude, then, that Isaiah was not outlining a lower level, but an even higher one, than that of which Moses had spoken. It was in this sense that he was continuing where Moses left off. Reaching upwards to Moses’ heights, “close to heaven,” he was able to strain to a yet greater achievement, of being “close to earth.” And since Isaiah’s words, too, are part of the Torah, they form a universal message to the Jew.

End of Rabbi Sacks.

How does one outside the midrashic pale make sense of what Rabbi Sacks calls this midrashic “sensitivity to the nuances of language.” To recap, we have:

Moses close to heaven and distant from earth

Closeness – “give ear” (O heavens);

Distance – “hear” (O earth)

Isaiah distant from heaven and close to earth

Closeness “hear” (O heavens)

Distance “give ear (O earth)

As we read in Sacks above, the reason why Moses said “give ear” was because he was close to heaven, and the reason why he said “hear” (listen) was because he was distant from earth. En passant, was he seeking a heavenly country whose builder was God? (Hebrews 11)

Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, in apparent (the Midrash is going to explain) contrast to Moses, seems to have reached a much lower level of spiritual development than Moses, and thus seemed to be far from the heavens… and close to the earth, because he said “Hear O heavens, and give ear, O earth” in contrast to Moses’ “Give ear O heavens, and hear O earth).

But here’s a thing: Isaiah’s inverted (perverted?) use of “hear” and “give ear,” says the Midrash, not only equals the heights achieved by Moses but surpasses Moses. The Midrash says that because Isaiah’s words were a continuation of Moses’ address in Deuteronomy 32, this meant that Isaiah was speaking under the direct inspiration of Moses, which made it easier for Isaiah to rise to the heights heights reached by Moses. Even more strange, and strained, is Rabbi Sacks:

We are forced to conclude, then, that Isaiah was not outlining a lower level, but an even higher one than that of which Moses had spoken. It was in this sense that he was continuing where Moses left off. Reaching upwards to Moses’ heights, “close to heaven,” he was able to strain to a yet greater achievement, of being “close to earth.” And since Isaiah’s words, too, are part of the Torah, they form a universal message to the Jew.”

Isaiah was twice blessed.

In Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” Portia, disguised as a doctor of law, comes to rescue Antonio from Shylock, the Jewish merchant of Venice. Antonio signed a bond granting the usurer Shylock a pound of his flesh if he, Antonio, could not pay what he owed.

Portia:
 Do you confess the bond?

Antonio: 
 I do.

Portia:
 Then must the Jew be merciful.

Shylock:
 On what compulsion must I? tell me that.

Portia: 
 The quality of mercy is not strain’d,


It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:


It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

(The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1)

Moses also speaks of the rain: Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
hear, you earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants (Deut 32:1-2).

Imagine a Jewish Shakespearian play:

The quality of Midrash is not strained

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:


It blesseth him that gives an ear and him that hears its word.

How sound is the idea that the first chapter of Isaiah is a continuation of the end of Moses’ address in Deuteronomy 32? Here is the end of the address, Deuteronomy 32:43: Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people.

Consider the contrast between the first eight verses of Isaiah 1 and Deuteronomy 32:43:

1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

A Rebellious Nation

2 Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.

3 The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”

4 Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
 children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.

5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
 Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.

6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
 or soothed with olive oil.

7 Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

8 Daughter Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a cucumber field,
like a city under siege.

9 Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
 we would have been like Gomorrah.

In Deut 32:43, Moses tells his people to rejoice because the Lord will avenge his people (the Israelites) and restore his people to the land. In Isaiah 1, the Lord brings down his wrath on his rebellious, evil people. It’s hard to find a greater contrast in tone and message between these two passages. “Drash” in “Midrash” means to seek, study, enquire. If you seek what you want to find, you’ll find it. I can’t see any other reason for this collocation of disparate passages other than a fascination with linguistic permutations, which Rashi, our next commentator makes no fuss about. He simply says that Moses “called upon heaven and earth as witnesses for Israel – witnesses that endure forever.”

Rashi is considered the “father” of all commentaries that followed on the Talmud (i.e., the Baalei Tosafot) and the Tanach (i.e., Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Ohr HaChaim, et al.)

Here is Rashi’s commentary of Deut 32:1

Listen, O heavens: that I am warning Israel, and you shall be witnesses in this matter, for I have already told Israel that you will be witnesses. And so is [the clause] “And let the earth hear” [to be similarly understood]. Now why did [Moses] call upon heaven and earth to be witnesses [for warning Israel]? Moses said: “I am [just] flesh and blood. Tomorrow I will die. If Israel says, ‘We never accepted the covenant,’ who will come and refute them?” Therefore, he called upon heaven and earth as witnesses for Israel-witnesses that endure forever. Furthermore, if they [Israel] act meritoriously, the witnesses will come and reward them: “The vine will give its fruit, the earth will yield its produce, and the heavens will give their dew” (Zech. 8:12). And if [Israel] acts sinfully, the hand of the witnesses will be upon them first [to inflict punishment upon them]: “And He will close off the heaven that there will be no rain, and the soil will not give its produce” (Deut. 11:17), and then [the verse continues]: “and you will perish quickly”- through [the attacks of] the nations. — [Sifrei 32:1]

Does it matter to a Jew who is right. Not to a proper Jew A course on rabbinical Judaism teaches that interpretation is ”bound to a text with wide room for interpreting its meaning?” In the room are seventy rabbis, each doing his own thing, or rather one rabbi with seventy faces. “There are seventy faces to the Torah: turn it around and around, for everything is in it” (Midrash Bamidbar [Numbers] Rabba 13:15); everything in the sense that it contains the building blocks of everything in and under heaven, which Jacob Neusner calls the “grammar” of rabbinical theology (See Jacob Neusner and Rabbinical Theology).

I conclude with three different Jewish views of how to drash “seek, enquire, study” (from my The Written and Oral Torah: Which is Primary?)

Judaism affirms that God made use of two methods of communication in order to transmit the truths of Judaism from one generation to the next; the written text and the living communication of parent to child. These two methods of communication complement and support each other. It is only when we absorb the message through both of these mediums of communication that we can arrive at a proper understanding of God’s truth….’” (Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal).

When the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the Torah to Israel, He gave it to them in the form of wheat to produce from it fine flour, and in the form of flax to produce from it a garment. (Tanna Debei Eliyahu Zuta, ed. Ish-Shalom, parasha 2).”

Anybody who studies our Talmud knows that regarding the disagreements among the commentators there are no absolute proofs, and generally there are no irrefutable objections. For this branch of wisdom does not allow for clear demonstrations as does mathematics. (Ramban [Nachmanides]), Introduction to his Milchamot Hashem).”

Time to drash – for the exit.

Jesus wasn’t Jewish: the proof

1 Sep

In the the “Old” Testament the heart is not merely the seat of the feelings but also of thought. In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. The Greek of the New Testament distinguishes heart from mind: “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). Jesus is speaking. Here is the context in Luke 10:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

A Jew might say that because Jesus was Jewish he wouldn’t have said “and with your mind” because for a Jew the heart includes the mind. Rather, Jesus should have quoted 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.” This anomaly, a Jew – for that matter many “Messianic Jews” – could very well argue, proves that Luke made the verse up and/or he was definitely not Jewish but a Greek. Wait, Just because Luke was very good at Greek, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t Jewish. (See Was Luke of the New Testament not Jewish just because he was good at Greek?). 

And Matthew? He is definitely Jewish, and he quoted Jesus saying the same words recorded in Luke: 

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

Et tu Matthew, you brute, did the Greeks get to tu too! 

As far as Jesus’ words and actions are concerned, the Jews of his time heard much worse; that is why his own siblings said he was out of his mind; and the Jewish leaders called him a son of the devil and had him killed. 

Listen: Jesus created Greek, so if he wants to be Greek for a mo, who are you o man to talk back to GOD!

You asked me, “what have you proved with all this meshugas.” Isn’t it obvious: Jesus – that’s Greek ain’t it – wasn’t Jewish.

Related post: See God seems distant in the midst of personal loss and suffering: When suffering comes to a head, strengthen it

Disrobed not robbed: The Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ

31 Aug

 Some prefer the spelling “crucifiction”; I prefer “crucifixion” because I believe it really happened

The term “martyr” is often attached to someone who is perceived to get killed in a religious cause. For some, there are at least two ways of getting killed: being hit by a drone or blowing up bodies – yours included, naturally.  As is commonly known, “martyr ” means witness; a witness who believes in an afterlife, someone who cares, is mindful, is willing to throw his earthly life away for a heavenly cause.

 In Christianity, the greatest martyr was Jesus Christ. He came as a witness to the truth, and was killed because of it.

 John 18

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “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.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

 Which means not only a witness to the truth through his life but also through his death, and the heinous manner of his death:

 Acts 2:22-23

 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

 God, the Father, planned the death of his own Son but also held lawless, wicked men accountable for killing the Lord of glory (killing his humanity).

 1 Corinthians 2

 4. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 6 We do however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The Father planned the death of his one and only Son.  Cosmic child abuse? No. The Father and the Son were in it together, as with every action and every word.

 John 19:12-18

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know my own, and my own know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my Father.

 Here is William Magee in his “Discourses and dissertations on the scriptural doctrine of atonement and sacrifice” (1832).

 “The Son of God had descended from heaven and had disrobed himself of the Glory which he had with the Father, before the world began ; that he had assumed the form of the humblest and most degraded of men ; that, submitting to a life of reproach, and want, and sorrow, he had closed the scene with a death of ignominy and torture ; and, that, through this voluntary degradation and suffering, a way of reconciliation with the Supreme Being had been opened to the whole human race, and an atonement made for those transgressions, from the punishment of which unassisted reason could have devised no means of escape, — these are truths, which prejudice and pride could not fail, at all times, to have rejected; and these are truths, to which the irreligion and self-sufficiency of the present day oppose obstacles not less insurmountable than those which the prejudice of the Jew, and the philosophy of the Greek, presented in the age of the Apostle, For at this day, when we boast a wider diffusion of learning, and more extensive acquirements of moral knowledge, do we not find these fundamental truths of Revelation questioned ? Do we not see the haughtiness of lettered scepticism presuming to reject the proffered terms of Salvation, because it cannot trace, with the finger of human science, the connection between the cross of Christ and the redemption of man?”

 The Son of God disrobed  his life, was not robbed of it.

 

God seems distant in the midst of personal loss and suffering: When suffering comes to a head, strengthen it

29 Aug

There are three kinds of suffering: 1. suffering we bring on ourselves and others through our own sin, and 2. sufferings through persecution for faith in Christ. 3. There is also much suffering that does not fit into these two categories; for example, accidents, “acts of God” such as earthquakes, and the most ubiquitous of all, infirmities and sickness.

Greg Koukl’s latest podcast ( 28 Aug 2013) “Same-sex marriage and Freedom of conscious, topic two responds to a caller whose wife recently died of cancer (“God seems distant in the midst of personal loss and suffering,”minute 00:33:41). The caller wanted advice on how to deal with God’s distance in times of trial. Koukl said that it is more correct to speak of the feeling of God’s distance, for God is never absent in a Christian.

Many Christians do not have emotional deliverance. They know with their head that Jesus has overcome the world but when Jesus says that they should “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), they falter. This is where head knowledge becomes important. We have to remind ourselves of it, says Koukl, even when the difficult pain doesn’t go away. The caller responded that this head knowledge) was something he was hanging onto. “If, says, the caller, I did not have that head knowledge I could become angry.” Koukl suggests that we should lop off (not his term) the head from “head knowledge” and refer simply to “knowledge.” I am reminded of Blaise Pascal’s “the heart has its reasons that reason does not know at all” (Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point). Pascal’s “heart” is not the “Old” Testament “heart.” In Pascal the head reasons, the heart feels; in the the “Old” Testament the heart is not merely the seat of the feelings but of thought. Whatever happened to “mind” 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 (YHVH) elohecha b'chol l'vavcha oovechol nafsh'cha oovechol m'odecha].

Not to worry, the Greek of the New Testament brings back the mind: “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). Merci beaucoup, says Pascal. Enough of Greek, lets get back on track (revenons a nos moutons1 ).

We should try and separate the feelings from (mind) knowledge, Mind knowledge, understanding who you are in Christ, is crucial for a Christian, because without it we cannot understand the crux of Christianity – the cross. In my previous post I wrote a tongue in cheek piece on Christians who are much keener to celebrate than cerebate (use their noggins). (Songs in church: Cerebrate before you celebrate). Here I discuss how Christians should deal with suffering by applying their minds to the profound truth of the Gospel: “there is no pit so deep, where he is not deeper still” (Corrie ten Boom).

The letters of Paul are peppered with admonitions to “strengthen the inner man” and “renew the mind,” yet many Christians grow very little in their Christian knowledge; they’re happy with skinny dips and paltry sips. There is milk and there is meat. Salvation does not depend on the depth of scriptural understanding; “let the little children come unto me.” This, however, does not mean that head knowledge is not important for a Christian; indeed, it is vital. Much fear, depression and suffering in the Christian life is the result of ignorance (often wilful – “ignoring”). 

Here is a Gerald Jamposky’s (born Jewish but more of a Buddhist – a Jubu) view of how to overcome fear. In his Love, Fear and the Foundation of Inner peace: Gerald Jampolsky’s “Love is letting go of fear. 1981. Bantam Books,” he says: 

We have been given everything we need to be happy now. To look directly at this instant is to be at peace now (p. 7).” “Today there is a rapidly expanding search for a better way of going through life that is producing a new awareness and a change of consciousness. It is like a spiritual flood that is about to cleanse the earth. This transformation of consciousness is prompting us to look inward, and as we explore our inner spaces, we recognize the harmony and at-one-ment that has ALWAYS (Jampolsky’s emphasis) been there. As we look inward we also become aware of an inner intuitive voice which provides a reliable source of guidance…listen to the inner voice and surrender to it…In this silence…we can experience the joy of peace in our lives” (p. 11).

So, for Jampolsky, deep below the dark regions of discord and strife lies the treasure without price longing to find you, the real you. Transform your consciousness and you will find your true self. This “transformation of consciousness” is the “foundation for inner peace” (which is also the name of the publisher of “A course on miracles” on which Jampolsky’s book is based). The “transformation of consciousness” is, of course, also the foundation of Eastern thought systems such as Buddhism and Yoga, which has become a key ingredient in Western psychotherapy. (Hatha Yoga brings about the Unity of the mind, body and spirit). Through this practice, the body is toned, strengthened and healed so that a transformation in consciousness can occur.

Christianity is very different; the source of light does not come from within but from without (outside), from the Saviour, the Son of God. If you think that your inner man is the source of that true light, you are deceived, because this inner light is nothing but darkness. But there is more bad news; all are born blind.  It is the good news of the Saviour, Jesus the Christ, who opens the dead eye that it may see.

Hebrews 8

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

How do Christians “show their colours” (Martyn Lloyd Jones, “Privileges and responsibilities”). The Christian is involved in the cares and worries of this world but does not allow them, with God’s grace, to choke the word: “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). Christians – those who say they believe in/trust Christ – are strangers and pilgrims in this world but citizens of God’s kingdom. Christians are in the world but not of this foreign world. They are sojourners, aliens, exiles, strangers.

No person, writes Jonathan Edwards, who seeks to go on a pilgrimage to a glorious and exotic place will take up permanent residence at an inn along the way.” Succoth (feast of Tabernacles) commemorates Israel’s sojourn in the midbar wilderness (Leviticus 23:43). Succoth 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.” (See Suicide of a – Christian? If YOU’RE sure then I’m not sure).

Romans 5

1 Therefore now that we have been justified through faith, let us continue at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace, where we now stand. Let us exult in the hope of the divine Splendour that is to be ours. 3 More than this: let us even exult in our present sufferings, because we know that suffering trains us to endure, 4 and endurance brings proof that we have stood the test, and this proof is the ground of hope. 5 Such a hope is no mockery, because God’s love has flooded our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us.

The “ground” of “hope” is not divine splendour, but  being the crucible of “present sufferings”, “endurance”, and standing the “test”; in a word – the Cross; where the hope of divine splendour shines through. Through Christ Jesus, the Lord of glory.

Did you know then”, to quote Paul again, a chapter later, that “all of us  who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?” (Romans 6:3). “Baptised” here is not so much the physical act of immersing your body in water, but immersing yourself in Christ’s suffering and death – and, consequently, in your own death as well. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” (Mark 10:38).

In “The Passion of Bach: The Heart of Tragedy”, I described a well-known conductor who told of the deep effect Bach’s tragic “Passion of Christ” had on him. Not that he believed that the person being crucified was anything but a man. “You don’t, he said, have to be a Christian to feel the pain and the tragedy of such suffering.” From the Christian point of view, he didn’t understand that this Death meant much more than a human tragedy; it was a Death that brings life. I concluded that failure to grasp the meaning of this Death is what lies at the heart of tragedy.

The eternal glory that awaits far outweighs our afflictions, which seem never-ending. Though we are put to death in the body, we will come alive in the spirit, through the Holy Spirit of God. If we are truly IN Christ, which Paul, the Apostle, emphasises many times, if we have strengthened the inner man, if we dwell in Christ (Ephesians 3:16-17), if we have locked into Jesus and locked out worldliness (Jesus says “My Kingdom is not of this world” John 18:36), what does it matter if we live or die, for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain? (Philippians 1:21).

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. (See The “Resurrection” of the miners in Chile and the Second Death).

Charles Spurgeon, in his “The former and the latter rain,” says “there is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.” Our zombie is the worldling. Spurgeon’s point is that it is not enough to rest on the fact that your sins have been forgiven, that you have been saved. There’s much more: there’s knowing God; knowing more and more who God is, and in so doing building up the “inner man.”

The Apostle Paul prays to God the Father:

“
That he (Christ) would grant you (the Christians in Ephesus), according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).

What ultimately counts on this earth is that one should not lose heart; for though the outer man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

I think Augustine of Hippo had it just right; Augustine’s “Confessions,” Book 10:

But what is it that I love in loving thee? Not physical beauty, nor the splendor of time, nor the radiance of the light–so pleasant to our eyes–nor the sweet melodies of the various kinds of songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers and ointments and spices; not manna and honey, not the limbs embraced in physical love–it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet it is true that I love a certain kind of light and sound and fragrance and food and embrace in loving my God, who is the light and sound and fragrance and food and embracement of my inner man– where that light shines into my soul which no place can contain, where time does not snatch away the lovely sound, where no breeze disperses the sweet fragrance, where no eating diminishes the food there provided, and where there is an embrace that no satiety comes to sunder. This is what I love when I love my God.”

1 The French expression revenons à nos moutons is from La Farce de Maître Pathelin, a medieval play written by an unknown author. The eponymous protagonist of this 15th-century comedy deliberately misleads a judge by bringing two cases before him – one relating to sheep and the other to sheets. The judge is very confused and attempts to get back to the case about sheep by repeatedly saying mais revenons à nos moutons. Since then, (mais) revenons à nos moutons has meant “let’s get back on track / back to the subject at hand / back on topic.” 

Songs in church: Cerebrate before you celebrate

26 Aug

There is milk and there is meat. Salvation does not depend on the depth of scriptural understanding; “let the little children come unto me.” The letters of Paul are full of admonitions to “strengthen the inner man” and “renew the mind,” yet many Christians grow very little in their Christian knowledge; they’re happy with skinny dips and paltry sips. Got my ticket punched, done deal. I’m heavenbound.

A very important skill is knowing how to read (or listen) properly. Nowhere is this skill more important than in reading (listening to) the Bible; one’s salvation ultimately depends on it. To celebrate your faith, you first need to understand what you’re celebrating. That’s where your noggin, your meatloaf, your cerebrum (and cerebellum) comes in. Here is one example. All Christians acknowledge that Jesus is God come in the flesh (the incarnation). What does the “incarnation”mean? The answer to that question impacts on the “resurrection” and on Jesus as “Lord.”

There are several wrong theories about the “incarnation.” For example, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God did not merely take on a body; he took on a complete human nature: body, soul and spirit (I wont say anything about the distinction between soul and spirit here). Another wrong understanding: the Father made a special human nature for his Son, This is incorrect, the Son took on the same kind of human nature as human beings. That is why Jesus is called the son of Mary, of David, of Abraham. Another misconception is that in taking on human nature, the Son became a new person. No, he has been a person from eternity.

Here is a popular song: Celebrate Jesus celebrate.

Celebrate Jesus celebrate
Celebrate Jesus celebrate
Celebrate Jesus celebrate
He is risen He is risen
And He lives forevermore
He is risen He is risen
Come on and celebrate
Come on and celebrate
Come on and celebrate
The resurrection of our Lord

As I said earlier, we should think about what we sing. How about also singing about what we think.

Cerebrate Jesus cerebrate
Cerebrate Jesus cerebrate
Cerebrate Jesus cerebrate
He is risen He is risen
And He lives forevermore
He is risen He is risen

Come on and celebrate
Come on and celebrate
Come on and celebrate
The resurrection of our Lord

Christian slave learns Midrash magic

22 Aug

Midrash” derives from “drash” (search). It asks from the text more than the surface level (pshat). Here is a description of Midrash” from a comment at “Messianic Judaism and Christianity: Two Religions With The Same Messiah”:

In colloquial English, we speak of ‘teasing out’ a hidden implication from a passage. Midrash is allegorical or homiletical interpretation derived from the process and conceptual framework of drash. It does not need to annul the superficial literal meaning of pshat; it may merely address another context. Hence two superficially different aspects of a passage may appear to be logically incompatible, if they were both on the same level as pshat, yet each may be valid in its respective context.”

I always thought that what is most important in most texts, especially the Bible, was its context; its single context – its grammatical-historical (surface) context. The Christian generally regards the surface text of scripture, namely, its normal linguistic and communicative properties, to be the best guide to its meaning. There are, of course, parts of scripture where the surface text (p’s hat) may refuse to give up much of its meaning; for example, some of the visions of Ezekiel and parts of the book of Revelation. Christians who believe scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos – breathed out by God) also believe, as a corollary to its divine expiration (breathed out), that there are no deeper meanings lurking below the surface text of scripture. So, if Christians differ in their interpretation of a text, they lay the “blame” on the interpreter not on the text. In contrast, Orthodox Judaism views the surface text as superficial, as nothing but bed-time stories. Rabbi AkivaTatz said in one of his lectures, “any six-year-old can understand” the Written Torah. One has to enter the pardes (the deeper levels) of Torah to derive any lasting good. These deeper levels are not found in the Written Torah, but in the Oral Torah, which for some Jewish movements is not found deep in the Written Torah but above and beyond it. So, it is not always, or perhaps not even often, the case that the Oral Torah and the Written Torah complement each other. Often it is rather that the Written Torah implements what the Oral Torah dictates it to mean. (See The slaughter of scripture: Let his blood be on us and our children and The Written and Oral Torah: Which is Primary?

The Midrash and midrashic interpretation, writes Ovrind, tends to devalue the literal, historical interpretation of Scripture in favor of private, hidden and even mystical interpretations. For example, Rabbi Scheinerman’s Magical Midrash page states: ‘Midrash is subversive as it winds its way between and around stern, stark, seemingly stagnant texts.’”

I read Rabbi Scheinerman’s short piece on Midrash but the above quote is not there; what Scheinerman says there is not at all subversive:

Midrash is the art of extending and interpreting Torah by commenting on the text, answering unanswered questions in the text, or deducing laws and traditions from the text. From the time the Torah was closed and canonized, Jews have been interpreting and reinterpreting the sacred writings of the Torah. Many of these interpretations are expressed through Midrash. There are two basic types of midrashim: Halakhic midrashim deal with legal matters; Aggadic midrashim deal with moral and spiritual issues and tend to read like stories. The sages of old wrote midrashim to teach and inspire, explain esoteric legal matters, and interpret the meaning of events of their day. We, today, do the same. The art of midrash is alive and vital today, and you can participate.”

Here is James Jacob Prasch on Midrash: 

“Midrash is the method of hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation) used by the ancient rabbis in the time of Jesus and Paul. Midrash incorporates a grammatical-historical exegesis, vaguely similar to the western models of Biblical interpretation that the Reformers borrowed from 16th century Humanism, but it sees this as simply a first step.”

“The problem, continues Prasch, with the Reformers is that they only went so far. They made rules governing the application of their grammatical-historical system in order to refute medieval Roman Catholicism, and many of those rules are still taught in theological seminaries today. One such rule is this: There are many applications of a Scripture but only one interpretation. That is total rubbish! The Talmud tells us there are multiple interpretations. Who did Jesus agree with? The Reformers? Or the other rabbis?… Another rule of Reformed Hermeneutics says that, if the plain wording of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense. Take it at its face value, full stop. That is also total rubbish!”
(James Jacob Prasch’s sermon, “Midrash: The Way The New Testament Writers Handled The Old Testament”).

The NT is addressed to many Gentiles (converts and non-converts) – slaves, servants, tradesmen and the like. Messianic Jews like Jacob Prasch and those in the “Hebrew Roots movement,” maintain that the New Testament requires a midrashic approach, which involves learning Torah (at a minimum in synagogues on Shabbat). Important: they would be learning midrash even though they didn’t know it. So the Gentiles had to take lessons in midrash before they could understand the Gospels and the epistles. Reminds me of Monsieur Jourdain in “The Middle class Gentleman” (Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme) By Molière (Act 2, Scene 6):

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Please do. But now, I must confide in you. I’m in love with a lady of great quality, and I wish that you would help me write something to her in a little note that I will let fall at her feet. 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Very well. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: That will be gallant, yes? 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Without doubt. Is it verse that you wish to write her? 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, no. No verse. 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Do you want only prose? 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, I don’t want either prose or verse. 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It must be one or the other. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Why? 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Because, sir, there is no other way to express oneself than with prose or verse. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: There is nothing but prose or verse? 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: No, sir, everything that is not prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: And when one speaks, what is that then? 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Prose. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What! When I say, “Nicole, bring me my slippers, and give me my nightcap,” that’s prose? 

PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Yes, Sir. 

MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: By my faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it, and I am much obliged to you for having taught me that.

Setting (context)  - Roman Villa 110 Anno Domine

Characters – Pagan Legate and his Christian slave cook recently converted

Slave – It’s shabbat; may I go off to synagogue for Midrash?

PL – Yes. By the way, run it by me again, what’s Midrash?

Slave – Hard to explain. Algorallies and holimetics and stuff.  All I know is that when I’m learning about  Jesus – oops -Yeshua, I’m doing Midrash.

PL – Is it easy to catch? Like prose?

Slave – Prose rubs on too easy. They told me, what rubs on easy, rubs off easy.

PL – Be back for my supper.

Slave – Sorry not allowed to cook, it’s shabbat. Be back soon, have to drash.

PL – Christians, Christians!

Change my heart, O God: Impossible; and frankly silly

19 Aug

Inviting Jesus into your heart.” Where in the Bible does it say that? In the Bible we do indeed see God pouring his love into unregenerated hearts – in the natural, what other kind of heart is there? – 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.

Paul says the Spirit has been sent into our hearts to cry out “abba father”‘ (Romans 8:28). To be in the spirit, says Paul, is to be in Christ, and to be in Christ is to be in the Spirit. We don’t ask Jesus into our heart – dead hearts can’t invite.

Isaiah, says Martin Luther, calleth heaven his “seat,” and earth his “footstool,” but not his dwelling; therefore, when we long to seek after God, we shall be sure to find him with them that hear and keep his Word, as Christ saith, “He that keepeth my Word, I will come and dwell with him.” (Martin Luther, “Table Talk”). (Inviting Jesus into your aorta: Personal and Mystical Union at the White Horse Inn).

What is Revelation 3:20 about? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” If you think it’s addressed to sinners, it’s not. It’s addressed to Christians – not to the “world” whom Jesus does not pray for (John 17:9). Jesus knocks at the door that he may come to sup, to dwell, to lodge with those “who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28b); those whose hearts Jesus has already changed; in biblical language:  “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

So, if a Christian who has been reconciled to God, justified and saved, is a child of God, what do we make of this song so popular in churches, usually coming after – to change to a more solemn mood – the energetic ones?

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like You.

 

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like You

 

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

 

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

 

A few comments:

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like You.

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. What a Christian should be singing is “strengthen my heart,” in other words strengthen the “inner man,” strengthen my inner being to be more like You.

Ephesians 3

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

You’d better bet that you’re the clay. The question is do you know 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.

Romans 9

15 “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 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? 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 glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one” (Romans 9:15b – 25).

Please think about what you sing in church; and if you have thought about it, I pray that you understand what you are praying when you ask God to renew your mind-heart. Stop singing those silly songs, even if the music sends you. Unless you’re happy being mouldy.

A Zombie Chronicle: Resurrection of the living dead

11 Aug

I am able to tell this story not only because I still have a pulse, but also because I used to be a zombie – living and dead. Here in Paul’s letter to the Romans is a description of my zombie past and, by the mercy of God, my current condition:

5 For those who live according to the flesh (natural inclinations) set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8). 

Without Christ, I was physically alive but spiritually dead. “My throat was an open grave (Romans 3:13). I was a whitewashed tomb, which looked beautiful on the outside but on the inside was full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean (Matthew 23:27). When I was dead in sins, God made me alive with Christ. He forgave me all my sins (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1-10).


He forgave my sins is, of course, only the beginning of the Christian life. Charles Spurgeon, in his “The former and the latter rain,” says “there is a point in Grace as much above the ordinary Christian, as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling.” Our zombie is the worldling. Spurgeon’s point is that it is not enough to rest on the fact that your sins have been forgiven, that you have been saved. There’s much more: there’s knowing God; knowing more and more who God is, and in so doing building up the “inner man.” Before Christ saved a zombie, there was no inner man, only an innard man, a visceral shell.

The Apostle Paul prays to God the Father:


That he (Christ) would grant you (the Christians in Ephesus), according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).

Related post: The Calvinist Robot and the Arminian Zombie: Grammars of coming to faith.

 

I won’t accept a virtually unrecognizable Jesus: A Jewish view

6 Aug

Michael Schiffman, a Messianic Jew, writes:  Jewish rejection of Yeshua was not an act of infidelity towards Yeshua, as much as it was an act of fidelity towards His Father.”Messianic Judaism and Christianity: Two Religions With The Same Messiah).

 Dan, a Gentile, living, he says an increasingly Jewish lifestyle comments: Rabbi Michael… This one statement meant the world to me. It is what was “in” my heart and “in” mind for a long, long time but avoided definition, was untranslatable up until I read it. An “ah-ha” moment of great satisfaction for me. Blessings to you and yours…”

 According to Jesus, assuming that one accepts the Gospels as God’s word, if you’re Jewish or not, a professing (Jewish or Gentile) believer in Jesus/Yeshua or not, this ah-ha moment is a delusion and deserving of damnation an eternal oyvey moment. The Jewish excuse for rejecting their Messiah is even worse than Adam and Eve’s “the devil told me that you didn’t say that – we would die”; not their actual words, of course.

Some of the Jews who, Jesus addressed did believe in him. As in John 8:30-31 – “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him.” These were false believers – believing what suited them – like those described in the parable of the Sower – Matthew 13:1-23, and in Hebrews 6:5, who “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.” 

Here is Jesus confronting these Jews, where Jesus makes a clear distinction between his father and the father of these Jews:

Gospel of John, Chapter 8

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

The Truth Will Set You Free

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

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, geveryone who practices sin is a slave2 to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

You Are of Your Father the Devil

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

Here is the larger context of Michael Schiffman’s “Jewish rejection of Yeshua was not an act of infidelity towards Yeshua, as much as it was an act of fidelity towards His Father.”  

“What they [Christians] don’t grasp, is the idea put forth by R. Kendall Soulen in his book, The God Of Israel In Christian Theology, that after the first century, the Jewish Yeshua was virtually unrecognizable as a Jew, and therefore, as the Messiah.  Jewish rejection of Yeshua was not an act of infidelity towards Yeshua, as much as it was an act of fidelity towards His Father.  Jewish faith has always been real.  Jews don’t pray to a false God, but to the God of Israel, the God of the Bible.  It is precisely in this sense that Jews are different from gentiles.  Without Yeshua, gentiles are pagan.  It is only by their faith in Yeshua that they come into relationship with the God of Israel.  Jewish people, without Yeshua, still have a valid covenant with God.  Their faith is real faith.  To explain this in Christian terms, they are believers in” the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 11:31, Eph 1:3, I Peter 1:3, etc.).  This means, when Jews pray, they are not praying to false gods, but to the One True God, the God of our fathers, the God of the Bible.  Scripture says that God has NOT rejected His people whom he foreknew [foreloved].  The relationship is still there.”

(My italics) 

Regarding after the first century, the Jewish Yeshua was virtually unrecognizable as a Jew, and therefore, as the Messiah.  Jewish rejection of Yeshua was not an act of infidelity towards Yeshua, as much as it was an act of fidelity towards His Father,” the confrontation between Jesus and Jews shows that to many of the Jews of his time, the Jewish Yeshua was also virtually unrecognisable. Having said that, no one is justified in rejecting Jesus – the Way the Truth and the Life – on the excuse that “if that is what Christians have done to Jesus, I’m done with him.” That attitude leads to one’s undoing; of both Jew and Gentile. 

 

The slaughter of scripture: Let his blood be on us and our children

27 Jul

Much exegesis is nothing more than “axegesis,” a slaughter of the text. In The Slaughter of Isaac: An Exegesis “Axegesis” of Laughter in Genesis, I examined  laughter occasioned by Sarah’s conception of Isaac. The very thought of it at her age! Though Abraham didn’t ultimately slaughter Isaac (Hebrew for “he laughed”), “axegetes” go all the way: laughter lies slaughtered on the slab. One example of this slaughter of context is the Jewish Bible commentator Kley Yakor’s (Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz) reason why Sarah laughed:

“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].”

Jewish believers in the oral Torah maintain that God speaks through it to the sages and rabbis. So, the above commentary sits very well in many Jewish minds, which helps us understand the Jewish mind. Another commentator said: “I admire Sarah for laughing. I wouldn’t find the news too amusing!” Sarah is decades beyond the normal children-bearing age Unless one ignores the context of the story, surely there’s no other possible interpretation? Not so, for in Jewish interpretation their are four levels, where the words on the page only signify the superficial level. I explain:

In linguistics, language contains the following four progressive levels, or layers:
1. An Alphabet – an  agreed set of symbols such as letters or sounds.

2. Grammar – the forms of words and how they are arranged in sentences and larger chunks of language.

3. Meaning (dictionary/lexical/semantic meaning). In Geoffrey Leech’s terms, “What X means.”

4. Intention/context. In Geoffrey Leech’s terms, “What you mean by X.” In “de facto” Judaism (“Orthodox” Judaism), the straightforward contextual reading of the passage is called the p’shat/peshat (surface level). Judaism adds three other levels of meaning of which the deepest is the SOD (secret level). The SOD is the main domain of Kabbalah.

The Christian generally regards the surface text of scripture, namely, its normal linguistic and communicative properties, to be the best guide to its meaning. There are, of course, parts of scripture where the surface text (p’shat) may refuse to give up much of its meaning; for example, some of the visions of Ezekiel and parts of the book of Revelation. Christians who believe scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos – breathed out by God) also believe, as a corollary to its divine expiration (breathed out), that there are no deeper meanings lurking below the surface text of scripture. So, if Christians differ in their interpretation of a text, they lay the “blame” on the interpreter not on the text. In contrast, Orthodox Judaism views the surface text as superficial, as nothing but bed-time stories. Rabbi AkivaTatz said in one of his lectures, “any six-year-old can understand” the Written Torah. One has to enter the pardes (the deeper levels) of Torah to derive any lasting good. These deeper levels are not found in the Written Torah, but in the Oral Torah, which for some Jewish movements is not found deep in the Written Torah but above and beyond it. So, it is not always, or perhaps not even often, the case that the Oral Torah and the Written Torah complement each other. Often it is rather that the Written Torah implements what the Oral Torah dictates it to mean. (See The Written and Oral Torah: Which is Primary?

peshqt

Roman Catholic biblical interpretation as in Judaism does not limit itself to context. Where the rabbis decide what the Bible means, the Roman Catholic Magisterium headed by the pope of Rome decides what the biblical text means. Both the rabbis (recognised by the “Orthodox” rabbinate) and the Magisterium believe that when they speak, on matters of faith and morals, God speaks. Here is the previous pope Benedict XIV’s interpretation of Matthew 27:25. “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” But first verse 25 in context:

Matthew 27:19-26

When he [Pilate] was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. 26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Here is Benedict’s commentary on verse 25:

When in Matthew’s account the “whole people” say: “his blood be on us and on our children” (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all. … Read in the light of faith, [Matthew's reference to Jesus' blood] means that we all stand in the need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation. Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its correct meaning.”

This meaning is nowhere in the context of “his blood be on us and on our children” (27:25). Is, though, what Benedict says about Jesus blood true for a Christian? Of course; all Christians must believe that. Here is Benedict again: Read in the light of faith, [Matthew's reference to Jesus' blood] means that we all stand in the need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation.” Yes, please read in the light of (the Christian’s) faith, and we all indeed stand in need of the power of love that is in the blood. And if Christians say the words “His blood be on us and on our children!,” and mean by that they need the power of the blood, well, that, of course, what they should mean. It is, however, Benedict’s conclusion to what the Jews (some, many) meant that makes no sense, namely his: Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its CORRECT [emphasis added] meaning.” In other words, those Jews who pressed Pilate to crucify Jesus didn’t, according to Benedict, mean “let the guilt of his blood be on us, and our children,” but meant that the power of love was in the blood of the person they were roaring at Pilate to crucify. “They open wide their mouths at me, like like a ravening and roaring lion (Psalm 22:13)

Here is a comment; from a Roman Catholic it seems:

I just wanted to say that I don’t really read the language you’ve quoted from the now former pope the same way you do. I don’t see anything in what he says to suggest that the crowd didn’t mean what they said as an acceptance of responsibility for Jesus’ death (i.e., “for evil”), just that after the resurrection, in light of the purpose and meaning of Jesus’ blood, that self-imposed curse is redeemed (“for good”). Your quotation from the story of Joseph is salient and analogous – there is no question that Joseph’s brothers intended evil when they “killed” him, and took responsibility for it when they apologized. The subsequent events don’t change the brothers’ meaning, but they do reveal the true meaning and purpose of their words and actions. With the benefit of revelation and hindsight, Joseph sees that God intended their “curse” for good. In light of the resurrection, we are able to see Matt.27:25 the same way.” (Pope Benedict’s retake of “his blood be on us and on our children).

In reply, one may legitimately use “let his blood be on us and our children” and apply it to a different context. What one cannot do is say that these words mean in the original Matthew 27 what Benedict XIV says it means. If, however, you’re a Roman Catholic, your Church holds the keys to scripture, in which case, the pope would not be introducing an idiosyncratic meaning into the surface text but merely telling it like it is. My impression, from the “Catholic Forum,” is that some Roman Catholics would disagree with Benedict’s interpretation of Matthew 27:25; for example, here is one of similar comments on the Catholic Forum: “[The verse] was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of its inhabitants by the Romans forty years later. Note that the condemnation of the Jews by the Gospel writers, who we would now consider Jews, applied to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea who rejected Jesus as opposed to the Galileans who followed Him.”

If Judaism had a pope, he would have retained the obvious surface meaning but added a second level – the popes rendition. In both Roman Catholicism and – with regard to biblical interpretation – its kissing cousin, Judaism, what we have, I suggest, is not exegesis but axegesis of the Word of God; a slaughter, a draining of its life-blood. And that’s no laughing matter.

Now p’shat up!

Making fun of religion

24 Jul

In this climate — with belief in guardian angels and creationism becoming commonplace — making fun of religion is as risky as burning a flag in an American Legion hall.
– Wendy Kaminer, “The Last Taboo” (1996).

My, how things have changed in the last two decades.

Stop awhoring with the enemies of Christ unless God wants you to

18 Jul

The three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have in common the beliefs that God is one in his nature, is the only real God, is the creator of all things, and the supreme judge. What I would like to touch on is how Jesus Christ misfits into Judaism and Islam and relate it to some Christian attitudes to non-believers in Christ.

Believing Jews and Moslems regard as blasphemy (shirk in Islam) belief in Christ as the divine Son of God, where God will, at best, not hear their prayers, at worst, damn them. Many Christians say (very recently Pope Francis ; see Atheism without works is dead, says Pope Francis: Who cares?) that as long as Jews and Muslims – atheists too – are good and kind to others, Christ will say to them. Matthew 25:31-34, When the Son of man [unique title for the Messiah] shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

These Christians accept the scripture, John 14:6, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, but reject the scripture John 3:18, He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Many Christians such as those who turn to the rabbis for guidance are deceived. The rabbis know nothing, care nothing, reject everything to do with Christ, through whom and by whom the rabbis were made. “There are some of the most eminent and glorious properties of God… that there is not the least glimpse to be attained of out of the Lord Christ, but only by and in him; and some that comparatively we have no light of but in him; and of all the rest no true light but by him” (John Owen).

Does God hear the prayers of a Jew, of a Muslim, of an atheist. Sure, because He hears everything. If you mean, though, are these prayers received as coming from God’s children. Not on your nellie. Here is the Son of God:

John 17

6 I have revealed you [Father] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

Being a Jew means nothing, being a rabbi means nothing, being anything means nothing unless their being is rooted in Christ.14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15). 1 John 4:9, In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

Now, stop awhoring, unless God wants to use you like Hosea to make a point: Hosea 1:2b, And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.