On snobbish felines and the will to believe in Christ

On Snobbish Felines and the Freedom of the Human Will

Our local veterinary clinic — where our dog, for reasons I’d rather not relate, is not welcome — has a letter board on their grounds which typically displays humorous messages about animals. The message on display earlier this week caught my attention as I was driving to work. It read: “If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.” I must confess, this made me smirk — which is generally as close as I come to laughing. I’m no despiser of cats in principle, but they do strike me as the kind of creatures that, were they suddenly endowed with the ability to speak in human language, wouldn’t condescend to actually say anything to anyone. The sign made me wonder, in fact, if cats might not actually have the ability to speak, and simply don’t because they can’t be bothered communicating their thoughts to human beings, creatures so clearly inferior to them in every conceivable way. Can we really be sure they cannot speak if, regardless, they will not speak?
– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/01/on-snobbish-felines-and-the-fr.php#.dpuf

Yes, Christ came to save the lost. But which ones?

I was telling a fellow Christian of my visit to an elderly man, a frequent church-goer, whom we both knew, who had collapsed twice in the last month, and was recovering at home. He was doing well and walking about. I spoke to him about such things as this world was not our home, and about judgment. My fellow Christian said to me he’s a simple person and wouldn’t understand. My fellow Christian does not understand who Christ came to seek. Yes, we know it was the “lost” but then everyone is lost, and Christ only came to seek those whom his Father gave him before the world began, and those whom the Father enabled to believe. Not so?

John 6

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”… 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

Who were the ones given to the Son? They were the fools, the weak, the lowly, the despised, the nothings of this world. Unless you felt like this before you believed, and continue to feel so, it is certain that you’re not one of the lost Christ came to seek and died to save.

1 Corinthians 1

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The ten most beautiful Jewish words in the New Testament: Let his blood…

Ann Barnhardt, a Roman Catholic, says there are “the ten most beautiful words” in the New Testament that should be music to Jewish ears. Instead, thanks to stupid Christians, she says, Jews execrate this verse.

In the first part of her Boston speech, she says (video minute 8:14):

“Now to the ten most beautiful words in the New Testament. Every Jew watching this has heard these words and shudders every time they’ve heard them. These ten words have been twisted by stupid, ignorant people, who justify horrific acts of evil against the Jews for 1978 years and counting, And many of these people will claim to be pious Christians. Well, we’re going to fix this deal once and for all. The ten most beautiful words are: “Let his blood be on us and upon our children.” These are the ten words shouted by the Jewish crowd as Pontius Pilate was sentencing Jesus. I day these words internally at every Mass because these are the words that give hope to humanity. These are the words tht open the gates of heaven. These are the words by means of which our salvation is accomplished….”

Continues into Part 2

[Words in square brackets are mine].

“…at every Mass, the temporally [in time] transcendent sacrifice at Calvary, which is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ himself, which is re-presented [NOTE not “represented”] to God the Father by the power of God, the Holy Ghost. This is accomplished through the transubstantiation of bread and wine as prefigured by the priestly kingdom of Melchisedech in Genesis Chapter 14. This sacrifice is the Todah sacrifice of Israel, which is the only sacrifice to be offered in the post-messianic age and do all eternity according to ancient rabbinic teaching. The Todah sacrifice is the sacrifice of thanksgiving. The word “thanksgiving” in Greek is (pause) “Eucharist.”

I won’t comment on Barnhardt’s “Todah” reference but on what should be the “ten most beautiful words” for Jews. It is difficult to see how one confining oneself to the context of the passage in which “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children” appears can interpret this to mean a blessing, the greatest blessing!, for the Jews. Surely, the Jews who said that couldn’t have meant that sending Jesus to crucifixion was the answer to all their sacrifices and prayers.

Roman Catholicism, because of its belief in extra-biblical revelation, brings more (or less) – it will deny that it does so – to the scripture than what is found there. I suggest that concerning the “ten most beautiful words,” Barnhardt, in submission to Rome, has followed the Pope Benedict’s lead. (See Pope Benedict’s retake of “Let his blood…). 

The full text of Barnhardt’s Boston speech can be found here.


Understanding jihad: business is aboomin’

You won’t be able to check out this video at the following link because Youtube has classified it as “offensive.” It is indeed offensive, thanks to the Qur’an. You can watch it at the second link. David Wood shows up the Western ignorance, deceit and fear of Islam. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SoXs-0_rHY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Watch here:


Humanism and the moral law: Law does not need God!

The latest “Unbelievable” programme is entitled “Does humanism need God? Angus Ritchie vs Stephen Law.”

Here is some information on the programme provided by the presenters:

“The term ‘Humanism’ is often seen as synonymous with atheism. But a recent Theos report titled: ‘The case for Christian Humanism: why Christians should be Humanists and Humanists should be Christians’ claims to show that atheism is ill-equipped to support the fundamental tenets of Humanism. Report author Angus Ritchie debates with atheist philosopher Stephen Law on whether atheistic humanism can account for the human dignity, morality and reason it espouses.”

Atheistic Humanists, in general, believe that morality has an objective existence, that is, morality is independent of the random processes of Darwinian evolution. When Ritchie told Law about an atheist who became a theist because he saw that without God there was no way to explain objective morality, Law said that although he could not explain objective morality, he did not think it necessary to posit God as the morality giver.

At the end of the show, the presenter, Justin Brierley, a Christian, said  “We had a lot of fun.” That remark, though, might merely have been Brierley being nice. Could he have been thinking of Romans 9? I know I was:

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its moulder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump done vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…

You have broken God’s Law, Stephen. You can only be reconciled to God – theism is not enough – by Christ; if he chooses to have mercy on you. “It’s not fair”  Shoosh.

“God is not a man.” Finish it. “What do you mean?”


S. Lewis Johnson, in his lecture XII Bunyan conference (God’s love towards Israel), gives the following advice:

“In reading the Bible pay attention to the connectives, if you want to study the Bible and become expert in the knowledge of the Scriptures one of the things you have to pay attention to is the “for’s” the “therefore’s” the “because’s” on this account various other connectives that connect the sentences of the word of God together that give you the kind of clues that enable you to put one statement with another in proper understanding.”

Recently I heard once again in a discussion on Islam the bit from Numbers 23:19, a favourite of Unitarians (Jews, Moslems and Jehovah’s Witnesses), “God is not a man…” This bit is part of the complete verse, which they either ignore or are ignorant of:

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

The conjunction (connecting word) that connects 1. “God is not man,” to 2. “he should lie” in such away that all God is saying is that whereas man is (by nature) a liar, God is not. (The same grammatical point applies to “or a son of man…”). Numbers 23;19 has nothing to do with the nature of God’s being, namely, whether he has a divine or a human nature, or both. Therefore, it’s illegitimate to chop the verse into two chunks and present them as two separate arguments. It’s a bit like slicing up Raphael the Ninja Turtle  and ending up with Picasso. Later, of course, the New Testament does describe Jesus as fully God and fully man. But this is a different context.

In the endeavour to prove that Jesus cannot be God, unitarians milk the teats off the text.


Raphael and Picasso pay attention; God is not a man that he should lie..

Milking the teats off the text: the Rabbinical interpretation of Numbers 23:19.

Jihad; and sex in the now and beyond for devout Muslims in the know

Most Muslims are either ignorant or disobey – as with most adherents of religions in general – their scriptures. The following only applies to the devout and in-the-know Muslim.

Sex Jihad by Raymond Ibrahim on June 23, 2013 in From The Arab World, Islam

Investigative Project on Terrorism


1. News emerged a few weeks ago in Arabic media that yet another fatwa had called on practicing Muslim women to travel to Syria and offer their sexual services to the jihadis fighting to overthrow the secularist Assad government and install Islamic law. Reports attribute the fatwa to Saudi sheikh Muhammad al-’Arifi, who, along with other Muslim clerics earlier permitted jihadis to rape Syrian women.

2. Indeed, Islam’s prophet Muhammad maintained that death during jihad not only blots out all sins—including sexual ones—but it actually gratifies them:

The martyr is special to Allah. He is forgiven [of all sins] from the first drop of blood [that he sheds]. He sees his throne in paradise, where he will be adorned in ornaments of faith. He will wed the ‘Aynhour [a.k.a. “voluptuous women”] and will not know the torments of the grave, and safeguards against the greater terror [hell]. … And he will copulate with 72 ‘Aynhour (see The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 143).

This goes to one of the many seeming contradictions in Islam: Muslim women must chastely be covered head-to-toe—yet, in the service of jihad, they are allowed to prostitute themselves. Lying is forbidden—but permissible to empower Islam. Intentionally killing women and children is forbidden—but permissible during the jihad. Suicide is forbidden—but permissible during the jihad—when it is called “martyrdom.”

Origin of the human body and soul – the heart of the matter: Unam Sanctam Catholicam

The Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog focuses on Teilhard de Chardin. The article “Pius XII, Teilhard and Ratzinger” discusses these writers views on the origin of matter and the human soul/spirit. There are many erudite comments – some lengthy – but none of them, including the article, quote any scripture, which shows the little weight they grant to what should be the ultimate authority on the origin of the human body and the soul. If Christians differ on the Genesis account of the special creation of man (body and soul), there is no way to avoid the unequivocal Romans 5.

(I’ve tried every which way to post this comment on “Unam Sanctam Catholicam,” but no matter how much I try, it persists in telling me I am a robot. How did it know I was One Holy Calvinist!).

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

Here is a relevant paragraph from “Unam Sanctam Catholicam,” which I find to be the clincher among much clanger – of the involved (evolved?) comments.

“According to the doctrine of Original Sin, man originally existed in a state of perfect justice and preternatural glory. Humani Generis reminds us that we must believe in the existence of two literal first parents who were created in grace but fell into sin. Thus, our first parents would have been brought forth in a state of natural perfection with their minds enlightened by grace and an infused knowledge of God; not simply of His existence, but of His perfections and of the fact that man is created to be in relation with Him. In short, our first parents had a very clear and unmistakable notion of God (otherwise how could have been guilty of sinning against Him?) – created fresh from His hands, enlightened in their intellect by grace and unmarred from sin, their understanding of Him in their perfected natural state was greater and clearer than most of us will ever experience. Can this vision of God which our first parents enjoyed prior to Original Sin be reconciled with Ratzinger’s comments that the first conception of God emerged in the human species “dimly” and “stammeringly”? It seems to me that the first conception mankind ever had of God was a glorious vision, full of clarity and infused knowledge, that is unrivaled except by some of the holiest saints.”

Thank you for homing in on the heart of – the matter (oops).

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

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

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

Judge to Calvinist murderer: “We don’t hang robots”

Wesleyan (Arminian) criminal before judge – A musing grace

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty. Are you willing to accept the decision?

Criminal – Your Grace, let me muse over it. Say, an hour?

Judge – This court is in recess for one hour.

Calvinist criminal before same judge.

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty.

Calvinist – Amazing, your grace. Thank you, thank you.

Judge – We don’t hang robots.

Background : Wesley and Pelagius: Kissing cousins

Christmas Mass: Bowing before the baby Jesus

This morning I saw on the TV the pope bowing before a statue of the baby Jesus. Here is J. I. Packer:


(1973) J.I. Packer, Knowing God, Chapter 4
What does the word idolatry suggest to your mind? Savages groveling before a totem pole? Cruel–faced statues in Hindu temples? The dervish dance of the priests of Baal around Elijah’s altar? These things are certainly idolatrous, in a very obvious way; but we need to realize that there are more subtle forms of idolatry as well.

Look at the second commandment. It runs as follows, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” ( Ex 20:4–5 ). What is this commandment talking about?

If it stood alone, it would be natural to suppose that it refers to the worship of images of gods other than Jehovah* the Babylonian idol worship, for instance, which Isaiah derided ( Is 44:9–20 ; 46:6–7 ), or the paganism of the Greco–Roman world of Paul’s day, of which he wrote in Romans 1:23 , 25 that they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. . . . They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” But in its context the second commandment can hardly be referring to this sort of idolatry, for if it were it would simply be repeating the thought of the first commandment without adding anything to it.

Accordingly, we take the second commandment* as in fact it has always been taken *as pointing us to the principle that (to quote Charles Hodge) “idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the true God by images.” In its Christian application, this means that we are not to make use of visual or pictorial representations of the triune God, or of any person of the Trinity, for the purposes of Christian worship. The commandment thus deals not with the object of our worship, but with the manner of it; what it tells us is that statues and pictures of the One whom we worship are not to be used as an aid to worshiping him.

The whole of Chapter 4 can be found here.


Wesley and Pelagius: Kissing cousins?

Here is a post on “Wesley and Pelagius” by Lee Gatiss

For century after century, one man has been the bogeyman of Western theology. He’s the bad guy. The one no. For centuries the malign influence of his worksy free will religion has been resisted. Bede narrates in his history of the English church how persistently both Celtic and Catholic Christians opposed in these fair Isles the poison of Pelagianism, which the great Augustine of Hippo had refuted so clearly, and which was condemned by an early church council at Carthage (418) and excommunicated.

In the East, they are not such fans of Augustine. But in the West, he the man, and so his enemy is our enemy, so to speak. Identification with Pelagius has been “a bad thing” throughout our history.

Which makes it so strange that the great and famous John Wesley was actually a fan of Pelagius. Am I being nasty now? Am I being offensive: “a cynic, a bear, a Toplady” (to use Wesley’s own sour put down)? Not at all.

See more here.

Here is Thomas McCall’s riposte to Gatiss:

Pelagianism’ calmly considered: A Response to Lee Gatiss.”

I have always found Lee Gatiss to be a fine historian, so I was disappointed to see his claims in the recent “Wesley and Pelagius”. He points out that Pelagius has been universally reviled and rejected in orthodox (Western) Christian theology, and then he also points out that John Wesley was openly sympathetic to the heretic. Indeed, he says that he “was actually a fan of Pelagius.” But Gatiss goes much further. For Gatiss concludes that Pelagius “taught – well, what do you know! – the same things as John Wesley himself, regarding free will and perfectionism.” This latter claim – that Wesley and Pelagius taught the “same things” about “free will and perfectionism” – is problematic indeed; it is deeply mistaken and very misleading.

Here is another part of Thomas McCall’s riposte to Gatiss:

Wesley on Original Sin

But while Gatiss’s discussion of Wesley’s sympathy might be misleading, there are bigger problems with Gatiss’s essay. For he is simply mistaken when he says that Wesley and Pelagius “taught the same things.” They didn’t. Consider what Wesley says about the doctrine of original sin. The Methodist Articles of Religion clearly affirm the doctrine, with Article II affirming that Christ’s sacrifice atones for “original guilt” as well as actual sins. But Wesley himself goes further. His treatise on original sin is the longest and densest work in his theological corpus; it is written soon before the more famous work of Jonathan Edwards, it engages in sharp polemics against many of the same debate partners (especially John Taylor), and it employs many similar arguments… For instance, he asks

“Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Is… ‘every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually?’ Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but a heathen still (“Original Sin,” p. 456).

Wesley is convinced that any denial of the doctrine of original sin “saps the very foundation of all revealed religion” (“Original Sin,” p. 194). Thus such a denial “contradicts the main design of the Gospel, which is to humble vain man, and to ascribe to God’s free grace, not man’s free will, the whole of his salvation” (“Original Sin,” p. 429). Subsequent Methodist theologians… insist that we are “totally depraved.” I cannot see how anyone might view this evidence – which flows from Wesley’s most sustained theological treatment of any issue through his sermons into the major confessional documents and indeed through the major nineteenth-century Methodist theologians – and conclude that Wesley and Pelagius taught “the same things.”

III. Wesley on “Free Will” and the prevenience of grace

As we have seen, Wesley is absolutely certain that we must “ascribe to God’s free grace, not man’s free will, the whole of his salvation.” His doctrine of human sinfulness is not, he insists, even a “hairs-breadth” different than that of John Calvin. If that amounts to Pelagianism, then one might be excused for thinking that this is pretty good company in which to be Pelagian.

End of McCall.

Here is a counter thrust by Gatiss. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/12/more-work-for-the-wesleyans.php. Here is an excerpt regarding “original sin.”

“Wesley’s sermon on Philippians 2:12: “allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature”. I’m struggling to relate this to his supposed belief in original sin. Doesn’t he think all that Old Testament stuff about everyone being born in sin has been cancelled out now that Christ has enlightened every man (see e.g. his sermon on Philippians 3:12)?”

And here is an excerpt from John Whitefield’s letter to Wesley, in response to the latter’s sermon on “free grace.”

Free grace or free-will

Dear Sir, for Jesus Christ’s sake, consider how you dishonour God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend not on God’s free grace, but on man’s free-will; and if thus, it is more than probable, Jesus Christ would not have had the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of His death in the eternal salvation of one soul. Our preaching would then be vain, and all invitations for people to believe in Him would also be in vain. But, blessed be God, our Lord knew for whom He died. There was an eternal compact between the Father and the Son. A certain number was then given Him, as the purchase and reward of His obedience and death. For these He prayed (Joh 17), and not for the world. For these, and these only, He is now interceding, and with their salvation He will be fully satisfied.

Wesley says that salvation is all of grace, and nothing to do with free will. That’s odd. Here is the famous Ephesians 2:8 – “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

The Wesleyan/Arminian says (the gift of) Salvation and Grace are both all of the Lord, but when it comes to the gift of faith you, in your totally depraved nature and hatred of God, have to exercise your free will to accept it – otherwise, they say, you’re a robot.

Wesleyan (Arminian) criminal before judge – A musing grace

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty. Are you willing to accept the decision?

Criminal – Your Grace, let me muse over it. Say, an hour?

Judge – This court is in recess for one hour.

Calvinist criminal before same judge.

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty.

Calvinist – Amazing, your grace. Thank you, thank you.

Judge – We don’t hang robots.

The Arminian and Calvinist understanding of “Salvation is (totally) of the Lord.”

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly… Salvation is of the LORD.” —Jonah 2:9


The Word of Faith movement (Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer) teaches that if God is going to do anything good in your life – better health, more cash, increase your divine power, save you (from your mistakes) – you have to grant him the opportunity to do so. If you do nothing, guess what God’s gonna do? Or rather, not do? Keep your cold, your bad back, your Ebola; no better house-car-job. Dry bones.

When it comes to salvation, Word of Faith people are Arminians, as are the majority of Christians. Unless Christians are into apologetics or theology, terms like Arminianism and Calvinism make them giddy. 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, which he finds irresistible (Lazarus didn’t complain when he was raised from the dead). in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation.

Our understanding of how we come to faith shimmers through our whole understanding of the sovereignty, holiness and love of God, and consequently impacts greatly on our Christian life. I deal briefly with the following aspects of the Christian life:

God’s will and purposes




God’s will and purposes

Isaiah 46:9-10

9 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.

 If you believe that, you, an unregenerate person, can/has come to Christ (ultimately) on your own steam (you get to make the final decision), you could find yourself in hot heavenly water, for you are the person that must also say that Christ is begging people to come to him but in most cases fails. But how can God fail when it is clear that “I will do all my pleasure.”

Two more scriptures: “The Lord does whatever pleases him,
 in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalm 135:6). “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job knows that, but do Arminians know that? If God tries to save but fails, then it must please him fail. Do you really believe that God gets a kick out of failure? That’s what you must think but  will not to.


Arminian on his Calvinist knees praying for someone’s conversion: “Lord please change his heart, open his eyes that he may see.”


Arminian on his feet with the same person he prayed for: “God respects your will. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He won’t force you to believe. The greatest gift you have is your freedom to chose salvation. You need to change your heart.”

I am reminded of the Arminian song “Change my heart oh God, make it ever true.” What do they mean? If they mean “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” then this is impossible for the Christian, because when you became a Christian (born again), God changed your natural heart (of stone) – dead heart, for a spiritual heart (of flesh) – living heart. What the Arminian means is “make my new heart more devoted to you (ever true), increase my faith.” All Christians should pray for this kind of renewal. If, however, Arminians were biblical, they would not water down – “make my heart ever true” – the pivotal biblical description of God – unilaterally – changing hearts, as in Ezekiel 36:26) above, to mean “make my heart ever true.”


Arminian: “I’ve decided to follow Jesus, I’ve decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Calvinist: Why are you so sure you won’t turn your back on Jesus?

Arminian: Jesus said that he won’t cast me out.

Calvinist: What if, after you decided to follow Jesus, you decided to unfollow him? Didn’t you decide on your own bat to follow Jesus? If so, then surely if you’re free, you can decide not to follow him anymore.

Arminian: I won’t allow that to happen. I will never forsake Christ.

Calvinist: I have a good title for a song you could write: “Greater is the me in me, than the me who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Consider the concept of the “gift” of faith. Ephesians 2:5-9 [My square brackets and capitals]:

Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened [regenerated] 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 shew 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.

By “dead” in sins, the Arminian means “deadish,” that is, there remains in every sinner enough ability and desire to receive the gift of faith. But this (grace and) faith – “THAT not of yourselves,” means that you had nothing to do with the planting of faith in you. There is nothing in Ephesian 2:8 about faith being a possible faith. If that were so, then faith would not be God’s gift to you but your gift to God. And that is exactly how Arminians interpret Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” They say – for example, William Lane Craig – that “that [gift] is not of yourselves” in the above verse refers only to grace, not to faith. because “that” is grammatically neuter while “faith” is feminine. Craig’s argument falls flat because grace is also feminine. The Greek grammar rule is this: “In the case of concrete nouns, for example, the mother, the ship, the way, the house, the relative pronoun that follows is ordinarily feminine; but what the president did not know is that abstract nouns like faith, hope, and charity use the neuter of the relative pronoun. As a matter of fact, even a feminine thing, a concrete noun, may take a neuter relative (see Godwin’s Greek Grammar). (Gordon Clark in Is Faith the Gift of God in Ephesians 2:8? By Jack Kettler).

All Calvinists hold that both grace and faith are gifts from God whereas the Arminian says grace (“prevenient” grace) is God’s gift to man, and faith is man’s gift to God. (See The Calvinist robot and the Arminian zombie: Grammars of coming to faith).

Jesus is a saviour, not a possible saviour. “Possible” means possible failure, a miserable failure. “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able … There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:23-24 and 28). “”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).

Jesus died for his sheep; they hear his voice. Those who reject Jesus are not – will never be – of his sheep:

John 10:

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The causal connection in 10:27 is not “hear his voice and then become his sheep” but “if you are a sheep you will – certainly – hear his voice.” This becomes crystal clear (one would think!) in John 6:35-44, specifically verses 40 and 44.

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 day.

Arminians confuse or refuse the grammar.

Here is something that I read, which could be said by both an Arminian and a Calvinist.

“Well, if you say Arminianism or Calvinism my mind starts to spin. But I do know what I believe. I believe we are dead in our sins apart from Christ. I believe that is only by grace that are saved, not anything that we do although there is a response required on our part however that works exactly, I couldn’t really tell you. Somethings are mystery. It’s totally, completely all God Who chooses us and saves us, yet he allows us to respond with faith.”

Yes, salvation is “totally all of God.” But “what about free will?” is the predictable cry. What do we make of “salvation is TOTALLY/ALL all of God” in the above paragraph? If salvation is all of the Lord, then instead of saying “yet” he allows us to respond, which implies a (“mysterious”) contradiction, we should rather, and indeed can logically and joyfully say “and” he allows us to respond. How is this so? As scripture says, all unbelievers are dead in sin, and so hate (the true) God. Another way of speaking is that our wills are in bondage to sin. We are slaves, in chains.

There are two ways in which Christians explain salvation:

1. The Arminian view (the label comes from Jacob Arminius).

God comes to all the slaves in the world, who love more than anything their slavery to sin – indeed reject the very idea of sin. Now God through his powerful mercy (grace) makes it possible for all to see that they are sinners and in bondage, and need to be saved from their sin. He then offers to set them free. YET (the Arminian is speaking) most refuse. Those that accept he sets free.

The salvation process on this view is: we are deadISH in sin, aliveISH to God. God, through his grace, gives us the possibility to become much more alive than we were, to make us a newISH creature (I would then be Jewish newish). He offers (the “gift” of) faith. Some take the gift. They believe. Next, God regenerates them (they are born again). This is back to front because if you believe, this can only occur if God had previously regenerated you, and granted you the desire to believe and repent. According to the Arminian view, the reason why you were saved is because there is something better – they will deny this vehemently – in you than in the person that is damned. Jesus the possible saviour becomes – because of you opening your dead heart – a real saviour.

2. The Biblical view (Calvinist, after John Calvin)

The salvation process on this view is: we are not deadish but dead, dead, in sin. God, through his grace makes some alive, that is, completely alive, transforming them into new creatures. He raises us (regenerates us – born again) from the dead and plants in our renewed souls the gift of faith, which we receive/accept with joy. We repent of our sin. The reason why you were saved is not because there was something in you that decided to “give God a chance” but because after he regenerated you from death to life, he freed you from the bondage to your sin. As a result, you were overcome with gratitude and joyfully received the new life he gave you.

Upshot: it is impossible to accept God – believe and repent – BEFORE God has raised you from the dead, before he has broken your chains. So then, God first births you anew (regenerates you) AND – consequently – you are drawn irresistibly to him. The dead cannot refuse or hate to be resurrected (Lazarus didn’t complain). Result: they are made free, which they accept with great joy. In a nutshell, “Salvation is of the Lord” where words such as “totally” and “all” (of the Lord) add nothing to the meaning but serve as emphasis, as in “I don’t REALLY want to be rude.”

But, but that is not fair! What’s unfair about a judge deciding to not be merciful to a criminal who deserves punishment? How we come to faith and God’s purposes in salvation is encapsulated in Romans 9.

10… when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,2 but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Here is Jonah Calvin’s prayer in the belly of the whale:

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” —Jonah 2:1-10.

Beware of the vanities of Arminianism.

Related – Free willy: Amazing grace and the grammar of Bible interpretation: Inspired by James White and Michael Brown

The four deaths

A popular song in modern English-speaking churches is “How deep the Father’s love for us.” It’s theme is “I want to be where you are, i want to be with you.”

Here is the hip-hop chorus

I just wanna be (clap, clap)
I just wanna be (clap, clap) with You

The Bible says many times, as 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. To be “without” Christ in this life means Christ is not indwelling that person. “Without Christ” is not the opposite of “with Christ.” “Without Christ” means “not IN Christ,” which is the spiritual state of the unsaved. “With Christ,” on the other hand, means to join Christ in his glorified state – on the right hand of the Father in heaven. This means be with Christ now – chop chop..

So, Christian, IN whom Christ lives, do you still want to be WITH Christ? If so, you have sentenced yourself to death – the death of your body. If that is not really what you want, stop singing these silly adolescent boyfriend-girlfriend songs.

(See In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you).

If there are four loves (C.S. Lewis) then there must be four deaths.

– A “living death,” an expression of non-believers that describes a miserable life.
– The death of the body, which happens to all without exception.
– The New Testament “second death,” another name for being cast by God into eternal darkness after the death of the body.

There is a fourth kind of death, also Christian: “I want to be like Christ (in this life).


“The most dangerous prayer a human being could ever pray, says Paul Washer is, “Lord, make me like Christ. I don’t care if you have to dethrone me. I don’t care if you have to tear apart my ministry. I don’t care if you have to destroy me. I don’t care what happens. Make me like Jesus Christ.”

“It is practically calling a death sentence upon yourself. But then, again, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John 12:24).” (Pray and be alone with Christ).

Facebook: “Friends” and the stoking of envy

“We are told that this new digital world is making all of us more connected, more social. Social media dominates our lives, and even if it can easily be perverted to the anti-social, self-gratifying purposes of Greed as I discussed in a previous article, it does serve as a genuine means of fostering and multiplying relationships. Little wonder, then, that with the explosion of the “social,” we should find this quintessentially social vice of Envy rearing its ugly head. Part of the problem is simply that we are likely to have many more “friends,” or at least acquaintances, than we would have had before. If it is our friends whom we are most likely to envy, most likely to compare ourselves with and to compete for reputation with, then the more we have, and the more whose accomplishments we keep track of, the more occasions we will have for envy” (Brad LittleJohn).



Sloth in the digital age

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

The Seven Deadly Sins in a Digital Age: 4. Sloth

Here are the first two paragraphs:

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

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

Did God really say “Prevenient” Grace

In the foreword to David Garner’s (author, editor) “Did God Really Say?: Affirming the Truthfulness and Trustworthiness of Scripture, 2012, Robert C. Cannada, Jr. et al. write:

“The Reformation’s commitment to Sola Scriptura was a call to biblical authority and to a biblically defined hermeneutic that resulted in a biblically clear message. This message is the saving work of Christ: “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation” (Westminster Confession of Faith). Thus, the infallible Word when interpreted by its own infallible hermeneutic leads to the clear and saving truth captured by another great Reformation motto: Solus Christus. The incarnate Word is discovered in the inspired and written Word. While not all of Scripture is equally clear (“all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all” – Westminster Confession of Faith) the glorious redemptive grace found in Jesus Christ is clear even to the untrained student of Scripture (“not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them”).”

As the Westminster Confession says the message of sola scriptura (scripture alone) is the saving work of Christ, namely, “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation.”

Now “grace” is something “necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation.” The problem is that “grace” for the Arminian and the Calvinist is as different as “faith plus works” and “faith alone” in justification. In Arminianism, grace (“prevenient” grace, which is not in the Bible) possibly saves, whereas in Calvinism, grace does nothing else but save. Yet both Arminians and Calvinists believe that grace is glorious and love singing “Amazing grace.”

For an examination of this contradiction see my previous post at https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/free-willy-amazing-grace-and-the-the-grrrrr-ammar-of-bible-interpretation-inspired-by-james-white-and-michael-brown/

Shabir Ally versus James White: God is not a man

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

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

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

The complete verse runs:

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

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

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

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




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

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

I danced in the morning when the world was young

I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun

I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth

At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance, dance, wherever you may be

I am the lord of the dance, said he

And I lead you all, wherever you may be

And I lead you all in the dance, said he

I danced for the scribes and the Pharisees

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

I danced for the fishermen James and John

They came with me so the dance went on

Here is the verse on the crucifixion:

I danced on a Friday when the world turned black

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

They buried my body, they thought I was gone

But I am the dance, and the dance goes on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A second Arminian view

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

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

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

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

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

The Roman Catholic view

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

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

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

(Zarathustra “The second dance song”).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[My comments in square brackets].

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

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

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

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

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,

there’s dancing, laughter & good red wine;

at least I have always found it so,

Benedicamus Domino!

(Hilaire Belloc).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek antiquity

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

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

Boticelli - The three graces

Boticelli – The three graces


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISIS, Politics and Islam

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

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

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


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


Brave new wave: the Bible is about MOI

Much preaching today is “narcigesis” – narcissistic reading into the text. Here is my sermon based on Steven Furtick’s “Brave the waves,” which appeared in Chris Rosebrough’s podcast “Fighting for the faith.” http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2014/11/its-about-to-break.html

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

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

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

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

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

Audience: See.

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

Audience to a man: I see: “see.”

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

Moi: Say “be still.”

Audience: “Cork up.”

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

Moi: Who do you think this story is about?

Audience: Moi.

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

Christ’s Passion: Sufferings of every kind

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

See  The Gospel is about you

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

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

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

Panis Angelicus “Bread of heaven” and those platinum poltergeists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here is the original Latin of Aquinas:

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

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

Literal English translation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music by Cesar Franck

Jerome Hines: O Lord, most holy

Andrea Bocelli: Panis Angelicus

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

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

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

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

The two most important methods of studying theology

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

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

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

Of funerals, homilies and having no train to catch

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

Do you?

1 Corinthians 15

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

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

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

The Resurrection of the Dead

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

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

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

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

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

The Resurrection Body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What religions are inherently evil? Those that reject substitutionary atonement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entertainment: Exercise in futility


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

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

Psalm 84

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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