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

 

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

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

Adrian Stanley

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

Stanley uses the term “leverage” repeatedly.

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

And:

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

Stanley continues:

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

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

Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey)

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

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

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

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

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

(See Why do you call me good?)

Joel Osteen

At church service I attended, the preacher began by holding up his Bible and telling us that Joel Osteen holds up his Bible before all his sermons. I blurted out: “Then he puts it down and that’s the last we get of any Bible.” Osteen starts each of his presentations with “I always like to start with something funny,” and after the funny bit and while the audience laughter is still in full throat, he holds up his Bible and says: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.”

Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian radio) often airs snippets of Osteen’s “sermons,” which begin with his standard intro. Immediately after the words “Today I’ll be taught the word of God,” Rosebrough interrupts: “No we won’t.” Osteen’s antics are surely among the most flagrant abuses of the Bible he holds up, which he obviously does not hold dear – well, certainly not up on the stage.

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

… eternity? Not a chance in hell.

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

Osteen

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

Rosebrough

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

Osteen

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

Rosebrough

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

Osteen [my comments in italics]

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

Rosebrough 

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

Osteen

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

Rosebrough 

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

Osteen

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

Rosebrough 

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

Osteen

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

Rosebrough 

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

Osteen

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

Rosebrough

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

Comment

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

Romans 8:5-8

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

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

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

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

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

Rabbi Hirsch

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

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

Hirsch continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and are not eternally minded (Martyn Lloyd Jones)

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

Psalm 64

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

2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,

from the throng of evildoers,

3 who whet their tongues like swords,

who aim bitter words like arrows,

4 shooting from ambush at the blameless,

shooting at him suddenly and without fear.

5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;

they talk of laying snares secretly,

thinking, “Who can see them?”

6 They search out injustice,

saying, ‘We have accomplished a diligent search.’

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

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

Hebrews

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

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

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

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

David – Psalm 42:

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

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

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,

And gather dust and chaff, and call

To what I feel is Lord of all,

And faintly trust the larger hope.

Thou makest thine appeal to me [the Lord]:

I bring to life, I bring to death;

The spirit does but mean the breath:

I know no more….

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

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravin, shriek’d against his creed

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,

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

Or seal’d within the iron hills ?

O life as futile, then, as frail !

O for thy voice to soothe and bless !

What hope of answer, or redress?

Behind the veil, behind the veil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 5

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

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

Romans 8

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

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

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

lisbon-earthquake-1755

Lisbon Earthquake 1755

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

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

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

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

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

Providence and Open Theism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: A Biblical case for Calvinism

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me – What do you mean by spirit filled?

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

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

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

Church member – You have to be a proper Christian.

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

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

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

Elder – We are talking about people in this church.

Church member – Nominal Christians.

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

Church member – That’s what the elder means.

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

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

He avoided a direct answer.

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

The elder kept (thinking of his?) mum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 12:13 Baptism in the Spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yourphariseefriend begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

What is the Gospel about?

Galatians 1:3-4

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

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

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

Hebrews 11:13-16

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

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

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

My Gospel: Much ado about noting

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Charles Spurgeon

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Theological Memeology: The Noble Pagan

bography:

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

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

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

For sure, he is.

Originally posted on KINGDOMVIEW:

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

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

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The Second Coming of Christ: Charles Spurgeon

bography:

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

Originally posted on Scripture Thoughts:

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

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

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John 6 and the Eucharist: The deception of pereception

 

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

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

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

Example 1

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

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

BLIND SPOT

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

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

Example 2

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

BLIND SPOT

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

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

Example 3

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

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

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

The reason why Example 1 and 2 ignored verses 64 and 65 is because they are Roman Catholic and Protestant Arminians. When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

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

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

Peter, Paul and the latkes

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

Paul – You hypocrite.

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

Paul –  I’m ephing oph to Ephesus.

Latkes

Latkes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 2:1-4 Filled with the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Word, sacrament and sign in Luther and Calvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

andrew murrray use

Andrew Murray

 

parsonage murray use

The Parsonage. Now a museum

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

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

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

 

tholuck 

August Tholuck

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

Here is Tholuck:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The blind tour guide to Israel

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

The intro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

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

bography:

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

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

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

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

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

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My purpose-driven life

You can do something voluntarily or freely. What is the difference between these two kinds of will? Voluntary means you do what you want. What you want – your inclination, your heart’s desire – is to fulfil your purpose. Freedom, in contrast,  is neutral; it can decide to follow/want self or follow/want God. But to want God (of the Bible) is not what the natural man can or wants to do, because he is, without realising it, a prisoner of his desires, and loves being this way.When Christ frees you from the bondage of your will  by regenerating you, granting you the desire and ability to repent, to believe in him, to do his commandments, and brings you to your final rest, then you will have fulfilled your purpose, because all the former  is God’s purpose. That is why Rick Warren’s “The purpose driven life” is not the right title. His book says it’s about God not you, but then the book proceeds to be all about you. So a better title would be “My purpose-driven life.”Are you looking for your purpose in life? Read you Bible, and avoid purpose-driven authors and preachers like the plague.

 Yes, be driven, but who is doing the driving? Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

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

bography:

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

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

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

Tommy Waller

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

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Hebrew for French sinners made easy

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

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

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

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

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

Gibson photo page 35

If you don’t preach hell, you’re going there

In his three-part series on hell , John Gerstner relates how, after a strenuous Asian campaign to 25 countries, he and his wife had the opportunity to spend a few days on a Nile steamer. Gerstner spent those days reading very slowly through the Gospel of Matthew. He said that a central thread running through Matthew was Jesus speaking of hell, eternal hell.

It seems to me that a preacher who does not preach on hell is going there.

The Quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, reason and experience

The springboard of the Reformation and the turning point of Luther’s life and of the Christian church was the jubilant discovery that “the Just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16b quoted from Habakkuk 2:4). This doctrine is one of the five solas (“alones”) of the Reformation. Al Mohler, in his lecture “Sola Scriptura” (Sola13 Conference) discusses the relationship between scripture, tradition, experience and reason. “Luther said that we go to hell by tentative understanding of a tentative God about a tentative hell. The only way to heaven is to go to a real God that gives real salvation for a real heaven. It’s the therefores of Scripture that get us to the gospel. No therefore, no gospel. How do we get to the point of therefore? It is the Scripture. The Scripture does not give us a tentative understanding. It was the Church that discussed the tentative understanding of truth then. Today we have something similar. It’s called the Wesleyan quadrilateral. It’s a four sided figure that includes Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.”

Joey Cochrane’s abridged transcript of Mohler’s “Sola Scriptura” omits any mention of Mohler’s description, which Mohler gave in his lecture, of the Wesleyan “quadrilateral as a“perfectly square shape…equally-sided square” whose four side are experience, reason, tradition and scripture. Whether Cochrane omitted the “perfect square” bit because he thought it peripheral or because he understood that Mohler was misrepresenting Wesley, and didn’t want to, as I am doing here, show Mohler up, I don’t know. (I am awaiting a reply to my comment on Cochrane’s blog). This “squaring” of Wesley’s view – pivotal to Mohler’s critique of Wesley – does not square with the real meaning of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. I explain:

Mohler argues that the relationship between scripture, tradition, experience and reason is not symmetrical, where the four sides of the square are of equal length, which would make scripture of equal value to the other three sides. The implication is that each of these have “authority in your life” (Mohler). Tradition, for example, says Mohler, does play a role in the discussion; in our fallenness, “we are traditioned… We are the product of a cultural and intellectual tradition that brought us here… There’s a lot in tradition that we want to retrieve…Does reason – induction and deduction – belong in this discussion? Of course they do. God made us as rational creatures and the only way we can know anything… true or false..is through reason.” And experience – “We are, says Mohler, experiential creatures… it is the dominant mode to many evangelicals… Experience is a pretty lousy test for truth.” For William James “truth happens to an idea,” so if the idea does not work, is not useful, it can’t be true. The nub of Mohler’s argument is that as a result of the Fall, reason, experience and tradition are finite, and therefore cannot be a reliable arbiter of truth. Only scripture is reliable in this regard: “only scripture rules” (Mohler). Scripture, God’s word in written form, is described by Luther as norma normans (“the rule that rules”), while reason, experience, tradition (e.g. creeds) are norma normata (“a rule that is ruled”).

In Hebrews 4:12 – 13 we read: 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” If scripture does not rule, we shall never “enter that rest,” as written in the preceding verse, which explains what “fore” (beginning of verse 12) is there for: 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For…

Mohler’s describes the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a “perfect square.” A quadrilateral ( four sides), however, is not restricted to a square (four equal sides). The quadrilateral can generate six different shapes.

quadrilateral-class

Mohler’s depiction does not apply to Wesley. Here is the Ashbury Bible Commentary, which contradicts Al Mohler’s “symmetrical” (Mohler’s description of Wesley’s quadrilateral) understanding of Wesley. We read in the Ashbury Commentary, “In affirming sola scriptura… Wesley considered Scripture primary, but he recognized that other factors played complementary roles in matters of faith and practice. In particular, Wesley referred to tradition, reason, and experience as inextricably bound up with Scripture in our understanding of true Christianity.”So far, Mohler is on track. He veers off, though, with his “perfect square” description of Wesley. Perhaps the misunderstanding was inspired by his narrow defintion of “quadrilateral” as an “equally-sided” square. In truth, Mohler’s view, which is the Calvinist view, turns out similar to Wesley’s.

“In summary, continues the Ashbury commentary, Wesley affirmed the primary authority of Scripture while at the same time affirming the genuine—albeit secondary—religious authority of tradition, reason, and experience. He saw the four sources of religious authority as complementary and interdependent. As a shorthand reference to Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, some Wesley scholars refer to the ‘Wesleyan quadrilateral.’ Albert C. Outler coined the term “Wesleyan quadrilateral.” See “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in John Wesley,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 20.1 (1985): 7-18. The term was not used by Wesley, and it should not be conceived as a geometric figure with equilateral sides and relations. Instead the quadrilateral should be conceived as a heuristic metaphor for studying the dynamic way in which Wesley understood the primacy of scriptural authority in concert with tradition, reason, and experience.” (Ashbury Bible Commentary).

Wesley’s quadrilateral would possibly look like this where the longest side represents scripture.

wesley's quadrilateral

I wonder how much Mohler’s superimposition of “square” on “quadrilateral” and how little his study of Wesley’s view of sola scriptura had to do with soiling a tad what in other respects was, as it usually is, an inspiring, original and informative presentation.
Finally, here is an alternate depiction of the relationship between scripture, tradition, reason and experience, which encapsulates what I suggest is a truer description of both Mohler’s and Wesley’s views of the relationship between scripture, tradition, reason and experience, which, as I have argued are one and the same. The upward arrows represent the Holy Spirit.

sola scriptura

I wonder what would happen if, on the way down, someone, say Pope Francis, detached one of the strings, tradition, and wrapped it round the chute, scripture. Luther, in his altercations with Rome, might have had much to say. What we know for sure is: splat.

 

Related: Reason, Experience, and God’s Truth: Where do I start?

 

Mysticism, philosophy and the unsearchable Trinity

 

In a previous post, The Incarnation or Substitutionary Atonement, which is the grand miracle? CS Lewis and John MacArthur say the former; George MacDonald, definitely not the latter, I began with this quotation from Hugh Binning on the Trinity: “All mysteries have their rise here, and all of them return hither. This is furthest removed from the understandings of men,—what God himself is, for himself is infinitely above any manifestation of himself. God is greater than God manifested in the flesh, though in that respect he be too great for us to conceive.” (Lecture X11 “Of The Unity Of The Godhead And The Trinity Of Persons”).

The Trinity is the bedrock of all the teachings of the Bible. What I’d like to raise here is the human desire of those seeking to understand the Christian God to penetrate into the great mystery of the Trinity. One tries to do so through two means: mysticism or philosophy.

Most calvinists accept ”mystical unions” – what other way is their around ”we’re seated in the heavenlies – but are uncomfortable with mystical (that is, very personal) encounters with God. Owing to the excesses in mysticism, they do have a point. Christians, though, are meant to experience (feel) the presence of Christ/God here and now. That is no big stretch, because when we are born again, we are lifted up to the heavenlies (no not necessarily “up”). Yet we remain caught ”up” in this corruptible body, struggling, sinning, and groaning for the redemption of our bodies. (See Inviting Jesus into your aorta: Personal and Mystical Union at the White Horse Inn).

In summary, here is the “mystical union” in a nutshell (the “Truth Project,” Lesson 8). The Mystical Union between:

A. Husband and wife

B. Christ and His church

The Body of Christ – Making many One (i) Many members – we form one body with unique gifts and roles (ii) The Mystery of Christ – “… for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (III) Jesus’ vision for the church 1. John 17: 20-23 ” …that all of them may be one …so the world may believe that you have sent me …may they be brought to complete unity …”

C. God and the individual – the Unio Mystica 1. Colossians 1:27 “Christ in you” 2. John 15:5 “If a man remains in me and I in him” 3. John 14:16-17 “for he lives with you and will be in you” 4. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “God’s Spirit lives in you.” (See Of mysticism, cooking and them goose bumps).

So, mysticism does not have to – as someone said (I wish it wwere G.K. Chesterton) begin in a mist and end in a schism. The issue is how much can we know in this life about what the Bible calls the unsearchable doings (Job 5:9), judgements (Romans 11:33, greatness (Psalm 145:3), riches (Ephesians 3:8) of God, and – in our specific topic – about the Trinity.

Here is a great piece from Hugh Binning who deals with this human desire to unlock the Trinity. As you read, consider this question: Is Binning talking about philosophical/rational or mystical endeavours to penetrate the Trinity?

(I notify when I come to the end of Binning).

All mysteries have their rise here, and all of them return hither. This is furthest removed from the understandings of men,—what God himself is, for himself is infinitely above any manifestation of himself. God is greater than God manifested in the flesh, though in that respect he be too great for us to conceive.

There is a natural desire in all men to know, and, if any thing be secret and wonderful the desire is the more inflamed after the knowledge of it. The very difficulty or impossibility of attaining it, instead of restraining the curiosity of man’s spirit, doth rather incense it. Nitimur in vetitum is the fruit, the sad fruit we plucked and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If the Lord reveal any thing plainly in his word to men, that is despised and set at nought, because it is plain, whereas the most plain truths, which are beyond all controversy, are the most necessary, and most profitable, for our eternal salvation. But if there be any secret mystery in the Scriptures, which the Lord hath only pointed out more obscurely to us, reserving the distinct and clear understanding of it to himself, (Deut. xxix. 29.),—that is the apple which our accursed natures will long for, and catch after, though there be never so much choice of excellent saving fruit in the paradise of the Scriptures besides. If the ark be covered to keep men from looking into it, that doth rather provoke the curious spirit of man to pry into it, 1 Sam. vi. 10.

If the Lord show his wonderful glory in the mount, and charge his people not to come near, lest the glorious presence of God kill them, he must put rails about it, to keep them back, or else they will be meddling. Such is the unbridled license of our minds, and the perverse dispositions of our natures, that where God familiarly invites us to come,—what he earnestly presseth us to search and know,—that we despise as trivial and common, and what he compasseth about with a divine darkness of inaccessible light, and hath removed far from the apprehensions of all living, that we will needs search into, and wander into those forbidden compasses, with daring boldness. I conceive this holy and profound mystery is one of those “secret things” which it belongs to God to know, for who knoweth the Father but the Son, or the Son but the Father, or who knoweth the mind of God but the Spirit?

Yet the foolish minds of men will not be satisfied with the believing ignorance of such a mystery, but will needs inquire into those depths, that they may find satisfaction for their reason. But, as it happeneth with men who will boldly stare upon the sun, their eyes are dazzled and darkened with its brightness, or those that enter into a labyrinth, which they can find no way to come out, but the further they go into it, the more perplexed it is, and the more intricate, even so it befalls many unsober and presumptuous spirits, who, not being satisfied with the simple truth of God, clearly asserting that this is, endeavour to examine it according to reason, and to solve all the objections of carnal wit and reason, (which is often “enmity against God,”) not by the silence of the Scriptures, but by answers framed according to the several capacities of men. I say, all this is but daring to behold the infinite glory of God with eyes of flesh, which makes them darkened in mind, and vanishing in their expressions, while they seek to behold this inaccessible light, while they enter into an endless labyrinth of difficulties out of which the thread of reason and disputation can never extricate them or lead them forth. But the Lord hath showed us “a more excellent way,” though it may be despicable to men.

Man did fall from blessedness by his curious and wretched aim at some higher happiness and more wisdom; the Lord hath chosen another way to raise him up again, by faith rather than knowledge, by believing rather than disputing. Therefore the great command of the gospel is this, to receive with a ready and willing mind whatsoever the Lord saith to us, whatsoever it may appear to sense and reason, to dispute no more, to search no more into the secret of divine mysteries, as if by searching we could find them out “unto perfection,” but to believe what is spoken, “till the day break, and the shadows flee away,” and the darkness of ignorance be wholly dispelled by the rising of the Sun of righteousness. We are called then to receive this truth,—That God is one, truly one, and yet there are three in this one, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This, I say, you must believe, because the wisdom of God saith it, though you know not how it is, or how it can be. Though it seem a contradiction in reason, a trinity in unity, yet you must lead your reason captive to the obedience of faith, and silence it with this one answer, The Lord hath said it. If thou go on to dispute, and to inquire, “How can these things be?” thou art escaped from under the power of faith, and art fled into the tents of human wisdom, where thou mayest learn atheism, but no religion, for “the world by wisdom knew not God,” 1 Cor. i. 21.

End of binning.

Initially, I thought Binning was talking about mysticism. Both the mystical way and the rational/philosophical way lead away from biblical truth – and biblical experience of the Trinity.

 

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

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. Here is John Calvin in his preface to his Institutes of the Christian Religion, addressing the French king: “

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his
kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory,
acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long
prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For
the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that ‘where there is no vision the people perish’ (Prov. 29:18).”

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

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 OneDaring Jew:

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…

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Pirate Christian Radio: Plundering galleys of drivel

 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

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

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

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

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

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 Divinity of Christ and Constantine: how to be an historiographical klutz

bography:

I thought I’d repost this on the Ku Klutz Klan.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

Speak to any Jew or Muslim who is on nodding terms with Church history, and he will tell you that the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) (see NOTE below) hosted by the Roman Emperor Constantine concocted the Trinity. How many times have I heard this graphic historical nonsense! These people, with undue respects, are historiographical klutzes. They’ve never heard of, indeed – very embarrassing – even maintain that certain frontline Christian apologists of the doctrine of the Trinity, who existed long before Nicea, did not even exist. To wit:

]ustin Martyr (ca.100-165),
Tatian the Assyrian (ca. 120-180),
Theophilus of Antioch(ca. 120-190),
lrenaeus of Lyons (ca.130-200),
Athenagoras of Athens (ca. 133-190),
Aristides of Athens (second century),
Minucius Felix (second or third century).

Sure, it’s not everyone who has the time or inclination to read the Ante-Nicene – no, not anti-Nicene – fathers. Steven Lawson, in his “The Pillars of grace, Volume…

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The relevance and vision of the Bible

Make the Bible relevant to your life? Do that and you’ll learn more about your precious self but nothing about God. “Under,” in this regard, is an important word. Sit under the Bible, not on it. Preachers, preach, don’t breach, the Bible. And no more milksop topics like “A Vision for your life.”

But what about “Where there is no vision, the people perish?” (Proverbs 29:18). But read on: “but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” The vision Christians should be passionate about is to obey the commandments of God. For other visions consult your doctor.

Unless, the vision is the cause of your conversion, as in Saul of Tarsus and some Muslims.

The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame, Chapter 4 Read on Audio

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God John Frame cover

John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God is an excellent work touching on apologetics, Reformed theology, the Bible and epistemology (philosophical branch of studying how do we know what we know).

Reformed Audio ministry reads aloud various books and literature and makes them available for free and last month they read aloud chapter four from The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

Enjoy!

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The gift: The reward of suffering

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

 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)

 Gerald Jampolsky’s (Yogic) “transformation of consciousness” 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.

 

Joel Beeke on a Jet Plane with a Reform Jew

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.