Okay- I wasn’t going to post today- but figured I’ll go ahead and finish these brief thoughts on the doctrine of Justification by Faith [by the way- Justification is a legal term that means the judge declares you righteous- just- there are lots of technical terms that apply to what Christians mean when they say ‘saved’ and to be honest- many Christians fight over these various differences- but for this short overview I can’t get into the whole debate]. Those of you who have read the studies I’ve posted at the end of these posts- I do get into some of the debate- and I want to be honest about the ‘official’ differences between Catholic and Protestant [Reformed] views. But first- the bible clearly teaches the doctrine [teaching] that those who believe in Jesus are saved- so you might have some Christians who say ‘I don’t care what the official teaching of my church is- I believe it because the bible says it’ that’s fine- I have no problem with that- accept- to be honest- the Protestant world is plagued with preachers, televangelists, radio preachers [yes I’m in this camp] and book writers who mean well- but they for the most part are teaching snippets of truth [sometimes outright falsehoods] and most of them use the ‘I believe it because the bible says it’ line- so even though it’s good for all of us to read and believe the bible- it’s also important to not be ‘seeing stuff’ that no one else has ‘seen’ for 2 thousand years of church history! [by the way- comments like this don’t get me in good standing with most other Protestants] The main point I want you guys to see is as I have shared with you this teaching- I’ve also shown you that yes- this teaching is not something that you find in a single obscure verse taken out of context- but it is a major theme of the apostle Paul- who just happens to be the most prolific writer of the New Testament [his letters make up the majority of the New Testament]. Now- during the official schism between Catholics and Protestants in the 1500’s, the Protestant position became the classic doctrine of Justification by Faith- that is the Protestant church [mainly what today is called Reformed theology- ever since the 16th century schism there are so many divisions of Protestants it is impossible to say what ‘Protestants believe’ in the broad sense] said the mechanism- actual way- people become justified by God is when they believe- have faith in Christ. The Catholic position said a person becomes legally justified in Gods sight at Baptism- Baptism is seen as the actual act a person does in order to become justified. Now- wars have been fought over this- Protestants call other Protestants heretics over this- there are many groups of Protestants who also teach that a person ‘becomes saved’ at baptism- and the strong ‘anti baptism’ crowd often refers to the ‘we get saved at baptism’ crowd as cults! This is pretty sad in my view- I can go thru all the verses that each side uses to ‘justify’ their belief- and suffice it to say that there are enough ‘you get saved at baptism’ verses to not see that belief as heresy. So I personally have no problem with Catholic Christians- or Church of Christ believers- or the multitude of other Pentecostals, Baptists [certain sects] who see their ‘I got saved’ day as the day they were baptized. I don’t want to get into the whole debate on infant baptism- I’ve written about it under my Statement of faith section- and once again the churches that practice it have their reasons- it’s not as ‘crazy’ as many Protestants portray it- there are many fine Christians who were baptized as babies. But what I want to end this brief study with is this- the basic teaching of the New Testament is that we are accepted with God because of what his Son did for us- Jesus- the Son of God- God in the flesh- died for all mankind’s sins, he was buried and rose again according to the scriptures [1st Corinthians 15]. The mindset that thinks ‘if I go to church- do my best to keep the 10 commandments- and try and avoid killing somebody thru out my life- heck who knows- maybe I’ll make it thru the pearly gates?’ Well that’s the mindset I want to challenge- lots of good, well meaning Christians walk thru life thinking this way- and it’s to those brothers/sisters that I have been talking too- even though the Catholics and Protestants have differences- yet we all teach that we are saved by Grace- not by keeping the 10 commandments or ‘going to church’ yes- this is clearly taught in the bible- and the Christian churches all teach it- even if this truth never ‘trickled down’ to the people in the pews. So as I post the last study in this short series of posts [Romans] if you can- read the whole study- I did it a while ago- by the way- all these studies and books on the blog are written by me- so what you read in the studies is a longer version of these short posts- but if you can, read the whole study- if not then try and read chapters 2-5- these chapters cover the heart of what we have been talking about- and to all my readers- Jews, Hindu’s, Atheists, Muslims- whoever- these promises are given to all of us- if we would only believe. John
 Okay- how bout this- before I get into politics I promise to do a teaching thing. The other day I wrote a short, simple [basic] post on the teaching in the New Testament about believing in Jesus, and on the promises in the bible that say ‘if you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life’. Now- for all you preachers/Christians who read the site, yes this is basic stuff- but for many Christians who are nominal church attendee’s, maybe they have grown up in a good Christian church- but never really got into reading the bible, or seriously studying the faith- for these Christians I want to cover some more of the basics. Okay- why is the doctrine of ‘believing in Jesus and being saved’ such an important thing? I mean don’t all Christians know this John? In a way yes- and in a way- no. That is the teaching is not just a simple ‘believe in God’ thing- it is one of the foundational teachings in the bible- and the apostle Paul was the New Testament apostle who shook up the first century religious community by brilliantly writing his ‘thesis’ on the subject. The apostle was a former teacher of the Jewish religion [Pharisee of the Pharisees- top scholar] and after he got knocked off his high horse [literally! Acts 9 ?] he came to this revelation of seeing how God all along had ‘a plan’ to redeem men [save them] by faith- and not by trying their ‘darndest’ [I get too many rebukes for cursing!] to keep the law and do good. This doctrine [justification by faith] is the major theme of Paul in his letter’s to the Romans [often considered the best scholarly work of the apostle] and the Galatians. Paul does a brilliant job at explaining the Old Testament stories of Abraham and the patriarchs- the well beloved Jewish king- David- and the promise of God to send the Messiah to the Jewish nation [and ultimately all nations] for their deliverance. Paul explains why God chose to save people by faith as opposed to trying to obey the law- he explains why God gave us the 10 commandments [to reveal to man that he is sinful] and he shows us that the reason faith is the mechanism for salvation- is because salvation is a free gift that was earned for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Faith- in itself does not save- it’s simply the mechanism that is the simplest way to get the gift of eternal life to people thru Jesus [Jesus is the actual person doing the saving!]. Thru the ages the church always had this doctrine contained within her bible- but like everything else- the bureaucracy eventually got in the way- and Christians lost the simple reality of the free gift. Now [okay- this is getting long- probably won’t do politics too- I know your sad about that ] during the 16th century [1500’s] we had what is commonly referred to as the Protestant Reformation- as a student of history I probably have studied this period more than any other- there were many church leaders leading up to the 16th century that voiced concerns over what they saw as abuses within the institutional church- many influential teachers and intellectuals who were gaining new influence thru the development of the university system that occurred alongside the rise of the nation states- these universities and their top scholars now had the ability to challenge the institutional church [in Rome] to a much greater degree than previous reformers. So without getting into all the technical reasons why the 16th century reformation took place [The initial challenge was the abuse of the priest, Tetzel, selling indulgences to raise money for the refurbishing of the church at Rome- yes a building fund project was the actual cause of the greatest church split in the history of the world!] what became the rallying cry of the reformation was the restoration of the classic doctrine of Justification by Faith [and the reformers would add the words ‘alone’]. The 3 Sola’s [alones] of the Reformation were -faith, scripture, and grace. But it is interesting to see that the main emphasis that eventually came from the Protestant Reformation was the restoration of the lost doctrine of justification by faith- or to put it simply- being saved by believing in Jesus- and not by trying to do your best to keep the 10 commandments. I believe it was possible for the church to have not split over the doctrine- there were obviously tempers flaring on both sides [Rome and her Papal representatives and Luther and those on his side] they freely referred to one another as ‘the anti Christ’ you know- not the best expression of Christian brotherly love- but I do believe it was possible for the historic Catholic church to have assimilated much of what Luther was saying back into official church doctrine- and as a student of the period, and having read the actual letters and writings that were written by both sides- I do believe the Catholic church had some good scriptural concerns that some might miss read what Luther was saying- and think that Christians could go out and kill- rape- and do whatever they felt like doing- because they were now saved ‘by faith’ and not by keeping the law. The apostle Paul actually dealt with this very accusation in the letters I mentioned above- and he too saw the danger in people misreading what he was saying. Okay- enough for now- I guess I’ll go ahead and post the study I did on the doctrine of Justification by Faith here at the end- for those of you on the various sites that don’t see it- it’s because some sites that I post on daily- they don’t have enough space for the whole post- so you will have to go to the blog and read it [corpuschristioutreachministries]. John
 Let me just give you guys a heads up today. These past few months or so I have been doing a lot of posts on Philosophy. Sometimes I do a bunch of history- or science- or another subject. For those of you who come to the site strictly for bible teaching- yes- there are times where I do an entire book of the bible- or cover a series on a biblical truth [Justification by faith- etc.]. On the blog [corpuschristioutreachministries]- if you go to the February 2010 posts- you can find all these studies. But for today let me just do a brief overview of where we are at- by the way I also wanted to mention the referendum in Sudan [Africa] today- today southern Sudan will vote on whether or not they want to be independent from the North [I’m almost positive they will vote for independence]. Sudan has been in a civil war for over 20 years, around 2 million people have been killed [massacred] in the process. The ruling north is predominantly Muslim- the South Christian [another long story having to do with independence from Britain in the early days]. So why should we pray for Sudan today and in the next few weeks? Because if the South does break away- many Christians who live in the North will be in danger of severe persecution as retaliation for the South’s vote- so let’s pray today [1-9-2011] and in the next few weeks for Sudan. Okay- the brief overview I want to do is to simply remind all our readers that the main truth- or thing we all need to re-focus on is the reality that the Christian message is one of reconciliation- that God, thru Christ- has ‘brought back’ the world to himself as a Divine gift. In essence the Christian message is not ‘turn your life around- be good- and then go to church and you will be saved’. Now- being good- going to church- all of these things are good to do- but many times people get the cart before the horse and the world never really understands the message of the Cross. When the bible says ‘repent and believe the gospel’ it is not saying ‘stop sinning and believe the gospel’ in the sense that your telling a drug addict ‘once you quit the habit then God will accept you’ the word repent in the new Testament does of course carry with it the idea of ‘turn away from sin’ but it mainly means ‘change the way you think’ or basically it means ‘are you finally tired of what you’ve been doing? Then let’s try the God thing’ [of course that’s my spin on it]. In essence the message of Jesus and the church is ‘God forgives and accepts people, not based on how good they are- but on the fact that his Son died for you and rose again’. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul says ‘If God gave his son for us- how much more will he freely give us everything else’. People [Christian’s/ preachers] often make the message confusing- sort of like if you don’t get all the details just right- you aren’t ‘saved’. The fact is if God gave his son for us- paid such a high price to save man- then why would he also go thru all the trouble to make ‘getting saved’ so difficult- that most of mankind will miss out on it! The basic way we are saved is thru faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ- this is what the gospel [meaning good news] is according to the New testament [1st Corinthians 15]. If you read the gospel of John, the letter to the Romans- or the letter to the Galatians [all New Testament books found in the bible] you will read the story of how God chose to save men when they would simply believe in Jesus- yes- the gift of God is eternal life thru Jesus Christ. Now- as a student of theology and history- I certainly am familiar with all the many controversies surrounding the various churches and how they implement the sacraments- or baptism- or ‘the sinner’s prayer’ when encouraging people to accept Christ. The main point I want to make today is the reality that many times in the New Testament the bible speaks about those who believe in Jesus, that these are ‘the sons/daughters of God’ [John chapter 1]. If you just pick up the bible this next week or so and read thru the gospel of John- you will be surprised to see how many times Jesus himself connects simple belief in him with eternal life ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life’ 3:16- ‘he that hears my words and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life’ 5:24- ‘he that believes on me has everlasting life’ chapter 6- the last chapter of John says ‘many other things did Jesus do that are not written in this book [John’s gospel] but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God- and thru believing you might have life thru his name’. I want you to think differently today about ‘Christianity’ or ‘going to church’ or ‘God’. Over these last few months I have engaged in lots of arguments for the truth claims of Christianity- refuting the contemporary atheists- showing the historical proofs for Christianity. For many people they hear things thru out their lives- little bits of info that cause them to doubt certain aspects of the faith- and then they use these arguments- often easily disproved- as excuses to say ‘that whole Christian stuff is a bunch of bull’. So the apologetic arguments for the reality of God are intended to ‘un-do’ many of these excuses- but at the end of the day the message of eternal life is simple- it’s a free gift given to all who will simply believe. I was going to post one of the bible studies here at the end- but just go read one or 2 of the ones I just mentioned from the blog- or pick up a bible and read a chapter or 2 a day- I mean the book of Galatians is only 6 chapters, you could read it in a single sitting. Okay- that’s it for today- remember try and pray for the church in Sudan- that all will go well and there won’t be any violence because of the vote- and do a little bible reading the next day or so. God bless, John.
 HEGEL [modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.
Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.
When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel’s ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.
I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much they differed from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as Protestant Christianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!
I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’s world it is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!
So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christian tradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J. As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.
One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.
 NOTE- please pray for my daughter Becky this next week or so- she has a serious health issue that she is facing- thank you]
This past week we have been able to read more of the Wikileaks memos; what more have we found out? It was revealed that last year we put pressure on the president of Afghanistan to remove a corrupt official from his govt. The man- Ismail Khan- was a former warlord for the Mujahedeen, he heads up the water and energy department. It is estimated that he is stealing around 100 million a year- his total cash assets say he’s worth around 250 thousand- what a shame. When we put pressure on Karzai to get rid of the man, he said he was told by Hillary Clinton that he could stay- as long as would appoint better officials under him- our U.S. ambassador says he told the president [Karzai] that if he didn’t fire the man- we would stop giving them financial aid. When all was said and done, Karzai kept the man- basically saying ‘I don’t care what you do’- we are still giving them the aid.
In Iraq- the govt. finally cobbled together a unity coalition from the various ethnic/religious tribes and formed a ‘unified’ govt. One of those included [Muqtadar Alsadr- I’m guessing on the spelling?] was one of the chief warlords who used to be deemed a serious threat to our troops in the region- he had his own militia and he killed our men- as we did his. I remember years ago during the height of military action we said we were going to kill the man and dismantle his little army. Now he’s part of the government. After he got in- the president of Iraq gave a major press statement- he said the 2011 date for the removal of all U.S. forces was non negotiable- even though our country was hinting about extending the deadline. I’m glad they want us out- the point is once again those in authority are not leaders who are embracing western democracy [except for the corruption!] nor do they view us as their friends- these are the countries our sons and daughters are spilling blood in.
Last but not least. In the province of Punjab [Islamabad, Pakistan] their progressive- pro western governor was assassinated by one of his security team. This governor was educated in the U.S. [Harvard?] and was considered one of the most moderate voices in the country. Why was he killed? He publicly criticized the death penalty verdict given to a Christian woman who broke the blasphemy law of Pakistan. This woman said something that was deemed offensive to Islam [?] and she was given the death penalty- by a government that is supposed to be our ally- who we pour billions of dollars in aid every year- this same government whose intelligence agency is infiltrated with those who we are fighting- yes our boys and girls have shed much blood working hand in hand with this government.
The other day the Pope gave an address after the recent bombings of Christians in Egypt and Iraq. He said there were 2 main threats in the world today; religious extremism and secularism. Secularism is the belief that religion and morality should be a private matter- that nations and governments should be totally free from the influence of religion and those who wish to practice it should practice it in private. The other threat- radicalism- is the belief that religion and those who embrace its tenets should try and impose their views on others by force. The Pope saw both of these extremes as being dangerous. As I’m reading thru the book by Christopher Hitchens [god is not great] those of you who have been reading my posts see that I am very critical of the man- showing his flaws in logic- the obvious mistakes he is making in his quest to ‘secularize’ religion. Yet at the same time I must admit I agree 100 % with his argument against radical religion- the ‘fundamentalism’ spoken of by the Pope [not talking ‘fundamentalism’ as defined as the bible churches we see spread throughout the Bible belt].
The main reason we are in Iraq and Afghanistan is to repel Al-Qaida from territories where they might plan attacks against the U.S. [of course the other ‘main reason’ we are in Iraq is because of false intelligence that said Iraq was amassing W.M.D.’s] The terrorists who flew the planes into the towers on 9-11 were people who have been influenced by radical Islam- not all Muslims hold to these views- but the majority of terrorist networks in the world today do. In our attempt to ‘rid the world’ of this danger- we have embarked on a worldwide agenda that has cost the lives of many innocent women, children- as well as our soldiers and even soldiers who joined the Taliban or Iraqi forces simply as a means to put bread on the table- many Taliban fighters are in it for the job! After all these years of trying to deal with the threat of radical fundamentalism thru the means of force- where has it got us? The poor [deceived] religious fanatic who took the life of his governor in Pakistan- he killed him because the governor spoke out in defense of a Christian woman who was given the death penalty [by stoning!] because she insulted Islam. My friends- this is a war that cannot be won with bombs and guns- we cannot rid the world of the threat from ‘fundamentalism’ by means of violence. The sooner we figure this out- the better off we will all be.
 FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER [and Hitchens] – Okay, before I get too far behind in our study of Modernity- let’s do another post. F.S. [the guy above- don’t want to keep writing the name] was one of the most influential thinkers/theologians to come at the turn of the 19th century. He too challenged the sterile rationality of Enlightenment thinkers- and tried to craft a way to look at religion that was unique. Instead of religion being this dry approach to the world and existence as mediated thru mans senses [natural religion- Kant, etc.] he said religion was actually meant to be this experience that man has as he interacts with the whole of creation- an ‘intuition- sense’ that is more than something we can dissect and put under the microscope of reason. F.S. was a sort of go between- he was both trained in academia- a true intellectual- and also a ‘man of the cloth’. He knew the arguments that some of the Romantics made against ‘dead religion’ and he challenged their rejection of religion and wrote the famous book ‘On religion- speeches to its cultured despisers’ in 1799. The book was targeted toward his fellow academics in the universities of Germany who scoffed at religion- he appealed to their sense of art and beauty as true Romantics- and made the case that true religion is ‘the sense and taste for the infinite’ that is religion can be an expression [above reason] that seeks to embrace this sense of the infinite, this ‘feeling’ in man that there is more to life than meets the eye- and you can be ‘cultured’ and religious at the same time.
Okay- actually this is a good spot to jump into more of my critique of Christopher Hitchens book ‘god is not great’. Hitchens fits in good with the ‘cultured despisers’ that F.S. was writing to. I have found some points of agreement with Hitchens; he sees the Catholic church’s stance on no condom use as dangerous- especially in places like Africa- because condoms can be an effective way to reduce the AIDS virus. As a Protestant, I am not against condom use/contraceptives- but the flaw in Hitchens argument is he presents the case in a way that says ‘see- if it weren’t for the church’s teaching on condoms- Africa would not be in this epidemic’. Point of fact- one of the major ways AIDS is spreading on the continent is thru the vocation of male prostitution and other promiscuous type lifestyles. Would Hitchens have us believe that as the male prostitutes are getting ready to ‘go to work’ that they look in the drawer- see the condom and say ‘geez- I would really like to use a condom- but my strict adherence to Catholic doctrine will not allow me to do it!’ The reality is the church’s teaching on condom use- if practiced in accordance with ALL THE OTHER TEACHINGS of the church- would not increase the spread of aids [the church teaches monogamous only relationships- these relationships are not contributing to the spread of the virus in Africa]. Hitchens also has an entire chapter on pig meat! Yes, I’ve heard Hitchens speak over the years- and for some reason he has this obsession with pig meat! Anyway he defends the poor pig- makes fun of the Jewish Kosher diet- and then proceeds to give his personal view on why pig meat became a ‘no- no’ to kosher Jews. He actually believes [for real!] that pigs taste and act so much like humans [their intelligence- and their screams when being slaughtered] that the Jews associated eating pig with eating humans [and Hitchens even describes the taste of pig meat tasting like human meat- no joke!] he believes this is the secret reason Jews don’t eat pigs. He also defends pig meat as being healthy. Okay- I’m not a pig meat aficionado- but being I am a student of the bible [including the Old Testament] I can assure you that the Jewish dietary laws of the Old Testament are in fact very healthy laws! For hundreds of years people did not know why pigs, shrimp, etc. were forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish people- and over time science has discovered that these meats were indeed unclean. The prohibition against certain sea food- later these types of fish were found out to be scavengers, they are the ‘trash eaters’ that keep the oceans clean- that’s why they are unhealthy. Pigs- Hitchens favorite meat- pig meat is not good for you [in general- I’m a very happy pig eater- on pizza- with eggs- out of a bag with spices on it- pork rinds] because the digestive tract of the pig is very short, what they eat ‘becomes’ part of their flesh/life without going thru a long digestive process- not like the cow who ‘chews the cud’ [multiple processes of digestion]. Basically pigs are in fact a ‘less healthy’ meat than other types of meat. All in all Hitchens- once again- is just misinformed about stuff- lots of stuff. Geez- I wrote this short critique from basic knowledge gained thru out my life- believe me I did not have to Google ‘is pig meat clean’. So once again we see the ‘brilliant mind’ of Hitchens at work. I’m reminded of an article I read a few years back- it was a column by Maureen Dowd [the liberal columnist]. She gave her conservative brother a free shot to use her column to blast liberals. He went at it- in pure tea party fashion. As he went down the list- hitting all the favorite sore spots- he got to a line where he spoke of his senator- obviously a liberal- he simply said ‘Sheldon Whitehouse- you sir- are an idiot’ and that was that. As I continue to read Hitchens book- this line comes to mind.
 HITCHENS- BLOOMBERG AND ADAM- Okay- being I’m finishing up my last book, I made the mistake of going to half price books yesterday- mistake? Yes- I’m going thru some courses right now on philosophy and really shouldn’t be starting any new books right now- but heck, I couldn’t help myself. So as my custom goes- my wife dropped me off [they know better than to wait at the store- I usually take a few hours] and I begin the obsession. First I go thru all the shelves of the targeted category [theology, philosophy, etc.] and pluck out the books I think are relevant. Then when the process is complete I usually purchase 3-5 books from the collection [yes- I leave the rest on the shelf for the poor book worker to put back into the proper section]. So anyway as I was walking outside after the purchase I sat at one of the outside coffee areas where lots of people usually hang out [you know- the professors- one time there was a guitar playing hippie singing about the war in Vietnam- in 2009!]. But this day it was surprisingly empty- only one homeless guy. As I sat to start Christopher Hitchens best seller ‘god is not great- how religion poisons everything’ I realized that the reason the spot was empty was because the homeless kid was sitting there at one of the tables- playing with one of those kids toys- you shake it back and forth and it claps- and he seemed to be talking to himself. To be honest- some of these guys are my best friends- I’ve spent thousands of man hours just hanging out with these brothers over the years. I really didn’t talk too much- trying to dissect Hitchens- then my wife drove up and beeped the horn. As I got up to leave- I saw the brother kinda look my way- seemed to be waiting to see the scared- or violent type response they usually see- you know ‘stay the hell away from me’ type thing. I caught his eye and just gave him a friendly ‘hey brother- how you doing’ he was so glad to be seen as a human being. I walked over and figured I’d talk for a minute or 2. I didn’t realize it at first, but he was wearing headphones and listening to music- he wasn’t talking to himself after all. He told me he was listening to Floyd- I told him I too am a big classic rock fan- that while living in Jersey I missed their concert in 1979-80 ‘The Wall’. He knew the year- it was 1980. I just spent a few minutes having a friendly talk with him- maybe the first real communication he’s had all day- most of these brothers are nice guys- yet they often struggle with mental issues- he looked to be in his late 20’s, originally from some northern state- probably headed south for the winter. As my wife was waiting in the car- beeping the horn- probably thinking ‘Oh know- another one of his homeless friends’ [yes- I’ve met hundreds over the years- and they’ve all been to the house many times] I told my buddy I got to go- he asks ‘what’s your name’? John. Hi John- my name is Adam. Strange- the man who was made in God’s image- Jesus said ‘in as much as you helped one of the least- the down and out- you have helped me’.
Okay- once again I really needed to do a post or 2 on philosophy- before I get too ahead of myself in the study; but let me make a few comments on Hitchens book [see- I told you I shouldn’t have hit the book store!] Okay- I’m gonna try and be nice to Hitchens- he is one of the famous atheist writers of the past few years- these guys are referred to as ‘the new atheists’ the group consists of some notable names- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris- a few others. These guys kind of became popular in reviving some of the old arguments against religion and God- most modern readers are not aware that they are simply re-hashing the same old arguments that have been refuted in the past- and to be honest this bunch make a whole lotta errors in their thinking/arguments. Most well trained Christian apologists have thoroughly refuted them. But being Hitchens is dying [or died? I haven’t checked recently] of cancer- I’ll try and be nice [try!]. Okay- like some of the book reviews I read- Hitchens is crude and mean- and yes- at times ignorant of his glaring mistakes. He describes a nice old teacher he had as a youth- as a young boy growing up in England- she taught the schoolboys about nature and science- and yes- God. I thought he was being nice telling the story. Then he calls her ‘a pious old trout’. He refers to the sex abuse scandal that’s rocked the Catholic church- he calls it the ‘no child’s behind left’ scandal [a takeoff on the no child left behind policy]. So yes, this book- while containing some real good history- also sounds overly crude. Hitchens also appeals to mans great intellect and sophistication as being all we need for true morality- he says man does not need God, religion or the bible to be moral- after all we have the great works of literature! Sounds good- right? He then goes on and mentions the names of the great authors- he mentions Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy among others- and makes the argument ‘see- we have morality and truth contained within these books without needing religious truth’- geez- every well read person will tell you that these authors are known for their books being inundated with religious morality- it’s no secret that these 2 authors are considered some of the greatest Christian/religious writers of their time. How Hitchens could appeal to the ethics contained in their writings and say ‘see- we don’t need religious ethics- we have these guys’. I mean these types of obvious flaws jump right out at you- to be honest I have only read the reviews from these famous atheists in the past- but most of the reviews have pointed stuff like this out- I just didn’t think these guys would be this ‘amateurish’ [geez- don’t want to call the guy an idiot- or an old trout- that wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do]. So anyway I guess I’ll hit a few high points of the book the next week or so.
Last- but not least. Have we had our own Greek crisis? Those of you who follow the news are aware that this last year the European Union has suffered from a severe debt crisis- many states that make up the union have struggled to try and cut costs and sure up their economies- Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are still very much in trouble. So the other healthier economies in the union [Germany] have put pressure on the weaker ones to get their houses in order- they refer to this as ‘austerity’ taking measures to reign in the financial crisis. As a response to these cutbacks- like raising the retirement age and hiking college tuition- many citizens have taken to the streets in protest- govt. workers going on strike and all. People have wondered if stuff like this could happen in the good old U.S. of A- it looks like it might just have! In sort of sneaky way. The blizzard that has wreaked havoc on the north east these last few days has caused problems for N.Y. and N.J. [my old home turf]. The mayor of N.Y. – Michael Bloomberg- has come under fire for not getting the streets cleared in time. Word has gotten out that some of the street workers were told by their bosses ‘go slow in the clean up’ so to put pressure on the mayor to not eliminate their jobs- sort of like an under the cover strike. If this is true [we don’t know for sure] then it would be our own workers rebellion against our austerity measures- while it’s not as bad as what Europe has gone thru- never the less it’s still bad.
 POPE’S BOOK- FINAL COMMENTS- Let me try and make my last comments on the Pope’s book [almost done with it- a few pages left] which I have been reading on and off for about a month [I’m in the middle of a study on the Western intellectual tradition- making radio programs- and have been too scattered to do a complete book review]. Let me hit a few high points of the last few chapters that I felt were really insightful. Benedict gives an overview of a Rabbi’s perspective on Jesus [a book the Pope read from the Rabbi]. The Rabbi does not accept Jesus as the Messiah- but is respectful in his approach and the Pope shares the common reason why the Jewish nation rejected Jesus as their Messiah in the 1st century. Being faithful to a theme that runs throughout the book- Benedict shows how Jesus presented himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy about Moses/Jesus ‘that God would raise up a prophet like Moses’- Benedict shows that Jesus presented himself as the ‘New Moses’ and took the position of God himself in the statements he was making concerning his authority. In the Rabbi’s book- that the Pope is explaining- the rabbi covers the sayings of Jesus and comes to the conclusion that faithful Jews could not/ did not receive Jesus as their Messiah because his call to them was for Israel to accept his authority over and above what they knew to be true- their attachment to the Torah [the first 5 books of the bible- the law] and for Israel- as a nation- to accept Jesus- they would be saying ‘we accept a new Moses- and place his authority and words over and above the very foundation of our existence’. Now- these insights are deep- they are coming from a Jewish rabbi who has come to the conclusion that Jesus was presenting himself ‘as God’ to the nation of Israel- and Benedict says he learned a lot from reading this perspective from the Rabbi. I just felt that this section of the book was real valuable. The Pope goes on to explain that Jesus was not repudiating the law- but fulfilling it- and in his explanation he also does a very good job [secretly!] at putting out a hand to the Protestant churches and attempting to reconcile the teachings of Paul on justification by faith [and Paul’s neglect of the law] and the biblical view of Jesus fulfilling the law. Benedict even shares very good insights into the apostolic calling of Peter- and the separate calling of the apostle Paul- his insights are excellent and you can see that he is really making an attempt to bridge the theological gap between Protestants and Catholics. Overall this book [Jesus of Nazareth] is the most Cross/Christ centered book I have read in the past 5 years! [We call this Christology- for those of you who want to learn the terms]. Over these last few years I have made an attempt to read some of the top Protestant writers of the day [Men like N.T. Wright- former Bishop of the church of Durham- England. Not talking about the top best sellers that are basically filled with pop psychology and void of any real learning] and I must confess that no other book has come close to the insights that the Pope has on the Cross and the necessity of believers to identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection- the Pope has done an excellent job at presenting Jesus and the Cross in their proper light. For all you theologians/preachers- the Pope also comes down on the conservative side of historical criticism. That is he certainly is familiar with the whole debate over Liberal/Conservative approaches to scripture [not talking politics here!] and he does another excellent job at dissecting the critics [Bultmann] and challenging many of the false assumptions that the higher critics made while rejecting the historical content of the gospels. The church went thru a century or so debating how reliably accurate the gospels were- many challenged their accuracy in a way that was not fair- that is they began holding the bible up to critical methods of historicity that no other documents were ever held to. These critics came up with methods- called historical criticism- that were quite frankly ‘loony’. And then they used this new criterion to say that the Historical Jesus was a different person than the Jesus from the bible. The Pope does a thoroughly scholarly ‘dissection’ of these faulty approaches- and quite frankly takes them apart in a ‘nice’ way. Yet Benedict also respects the historical studies of the church and handles very well the ‘contradictions’ that some find in the gospels. Many critics have shown how the various gospel writers [especially John’s gospel compared to the 3 others] do show differing accounts on certain aspects of Jesus and his life. To be honest- some of these differences can be problematic- many preachers/believers are generally not aware of some of these differences. The Pope knows them well- and deals with them well. So he does not simply reject the ‘higher critics’ by saying they are wrong, but he shows his familiarity with the subject, and makes a scholarly attempt at representing the ‘conservative’ side of the argument; which basically says ‘the gospels contained in the new testament do very much present to us the historical Jesus’. Needless to say- I agree. So anyway as you can see the book is chock full of excellent insights that would benefit all Christians- I recommend everyone pick up a copy and read it.
 PIETISM/ROMANTICISM- As we already covered, the Enlightenment thinkers struggled with the idea that religion and reason/rationalism can go together. The pure Empiricists [David Hume] would reject the idea that religion could be rational- Descartes claimed it could- and Kant drew a middle line; he taught that we cannot know God thru the sense realm, but it was rational to ‘Postulate’ the idea of God [John Locke said reason can accept Revelation- Divine truths that have no Empirical evidence to back them up- Kant simply taught that it was rational for the mind to accept the idea that a first cause must exist, even if we can’t ‘prove’ him thru sense evidence]. Okay- as you can see much of Enlightenment thinking was infused with religion, reason, rationality- etc. Did all thinkers ‘think’ that these ways of approaching religion and reason were profitable? No- many thinkers/philosophers saw too much ‘head knowledge’ in the whole endeavor to make faith reasonable. Many religious leaders rejected the over emphasis on rational religion. Romanticism was a cultural/religious movement that primarily affected the Arts and Literature- but also had strains of religious thinking within it. The Romantics said we do and should experience life and God thru a real-felt type of living. There is much more to life than the rational proofs of things- in fact they felt the very essence of life was about experiencing the beauty of things thru the Arts and the creativity of man- some felt that God himself was revealing who he was thru the artistic creativity of man- the great Christian pieces of music [Bach- etc.] were not these beautiful works of music that transcended the ‘rationality’ of man and caused him to experience the beauty of God/religion thru this form of Art? The same for great literature. Pietism had her roots in the early modern period- and in the 19th century also pushed back against the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment thinkers. Pietism- much like Romanticism- said there was much more to religion than simply knowledge- Pietism challenged the ‘dead faith’ of Orthodoxy and focused on the religious experience of Regeneration- they spent much time answering the question ‘how do we know we are saved’. Romanticism had strains of religious thinkers within her- Pietism was mainly focused on the religious question. Pietism had a major impact on 19-20th century Protestant Christianity- and most Evangelicals today can trace their roots to Pietism’s influence on religious thought. In the 18th century revivals that took place in the American colonies- men like Jonathan Edwards would play a major role in shaping the religious thought of early Protestantism in America. John Wesley- the great Methodist preacher- would also challenge the ‘dead religion’ of the Church of England and eventually launch the Methodist church [though Wesley originally never meant to separate from the Anglican Communion]. So the 19th century saw a strong reaction against the reason/rationalism of Enlightenment thinking- they felt like much true religious experience was indeed meant to be ‘an experience’ that is something much more than simple knowledge. In Romanticism this challenge was primarily based in the cultural landscape of the day- in Pietism it was religious in nature. You had both Romantic atheists and Pietistic preachers agree on one thing- there is much more to life than the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment period.
 RATIONALISTS- EMPIRICISTS [Western intellectual tradition] – Okay- for those of you who are following my sporadic teaching on modernity [philosophical period between the 17th 20th centuries] let me overview a little of what we have covered so far. We discussed the Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- and how in the 17th century he challenged the faculty at the university of Paris [the leading university of the day] to argue for the reasonableness of Christianity thru rational means- he said we can prove the existence of God without having to appeal to church tradition or the bible. The Empiricists [those who challenged the ‘rationalists’] argued that all knowledge comes to us from the senses- so we can never prove God’s existence from reasonable/natural means. In fact they argued that religion in itself is irrational and any attempts to make it rational/reasonable were futile. David Hume and Denis Diderot [one of the first openly professed atheists of the time] would argue from this position. Then in the late 18th century the very influential German thinker- Immanuel Kant- would respond to Hume’s pure skeptical Empiricism and ‘awake out of his dogmatic slumber’ [a term he himself used to describe his reaction to reading Hume] and challenge the skeptics. Kant did accept the Empiricist’s idea that we can’t ‘prove God’ by rational means- thru knowledge obtained thru the 5 senses- yet he taught that it was perfectly ‘reasonable’ to come to the conclusion that God exists. Just because you can’t prove God like Descartes’ said [according to Kant- I personally believe Descartes’ was right] it is still rational to ‘purport’ the necessity of God- in essence we ‘need God’ and natural religion for man to function in society- and it is logical to conclude that there must be an initial cause to all creation-even though we can’t discover him thru natural means. Okay- just a brief overview of what we already covered. I guess at this point I better go ahead and start a separate study under the title ‘The Western Intellectual Tradition’ [on the blog]. Why should Christians [especially preachers/pastors] even be concerned with stuff like this? While I agree it is not necessary for all Christians to study all subjects about all things- yet these historical/cultural movements play a major role in the debate going on today between believers and those who reject God. Just like in the scientific field- if Christians simply give up the fight- that is if we come to the table of ideas- trying to engage society in a coherent way- then we need to have some ability to argue intelligently for our position. To have even a ‘surface’ understanding of some of these cultural movements that have shaped the way we think and know is important when we get into debates with unbelievers who have appealed to the skeptics [Hume] to argue against the existence of God.
 REALISTS-NOMINALISTS- Let me do a little more on the development of philosophy and how Christians played a major role in new ways of thinking and ‘knowing’ [epistemology]. I mentioned Rene Descartes the other day- Descartes challenged the Christina thinkers of his day to approach apologetics [arguments for God’s existence] from rational grounds; instead of saying ‘God exists because the bible/tradition teach it’ he showed we can argue from the ground of reason. Descartes was a ‘realist’ that is a thinker who believed in Universal principles- the ancient philosophers [Aristotle, Plato- etc.] taught that there were universal ideas that existed- the example was if you think of a Horse- or a Chair- that in the mind of people we all have this concept of what these things are- but the reality of the universal idea of horse/chair exist outside of us- they are not only thoughts in our minds. The Nominalists rejected this idea- they taught that we interact with our 5 senses with things in the world- and thru this interaction our minds passively receive this knowledge and we come up with ideas- not because these ideas are universal ideas that already exist- but because our minds have ‘discovered’ them thru the senses. These thinkers were also called Empiricists. Men like David Hume would take this approach. Then in the 18th century you had the German philosopher Immanuel Kant challenge the skepticism of the Empiricists and he would become one of the most influential thinkers for our time. You would be hard pressed to find another philosopher who has had more influence on western thought than Kant. Kant too believed that man could not prove God absolutely thru natural means- but he did teach that it was rational/reasonable for man to believe in the existence of God- though he said you can’t totally prove him thru natural means. This was a different approach from the pure Empiricists- they taught that God/religion were irrational. Kant put a twist on Empiricism- he said that man does interact with the world thru his 5 senses, but instead of ideas/knowledge being a product of the mind of man passively receiving this knowledge- mans mind categorizes these interactions and it is thru this function of mans mind that we have knowledge. He carried the idea a little further than Hume. In the end of the day Immanuel Kant believed that not only is it rational to believe in God- but it is necessary. For society to ever function properly man needed to believe that his soul was immortal, that an eternal being existed that would some day judge man [or reward him] for his actions in this life. Though Kant did not accept the Realists view that we could prove God by rational means- yet he did believe in the necessity of man to believe in God. It has been said that Kant kicked God out the front door- but snuck him in thru the back. Okay- know some of this gets dry at times, but I think it is important for Christians to have some idea of the development of thought and philosophy thru the ages- many atheistic philosophers have argued against the existence of God- but many Christian thinkers have made just as strong [if not stronger] arguments on the other side- we need to know both sides.
 I really want to cover a little more Philosophy/history- but let me mention a few recent news/political developments. This past week Richard Holbrook died. He was our special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I actually wrote a post about him a week or so ago. The Wikileaks revealed him to be less than truthful in his dealings with the public. The reason I want to mention him is because after he died the media [both left and right] praised him as a wonderful man- a great humanitarian- on and on. Holbrook was said to have been the highest diplomat in his area of foreign policy who never became secretary of state. If you remember during the presidential campaign many thought he would be picked to take the position if a Democrat won. He was also said to have had a ‘big’ image of himself- he saw himself as a very important figure. I saw an interview he did with Rachel Maddow one day- he simply gave the same justifications for the war in Afghanistan as Bush and Cheney gave- no difference. Holbrook was involved with our actions in East Timor in the late 70’s [Carter administration] and also played a role in our ‘war’ in Yugoslavia. During the 90’s under the Clinton administration we ‘sided’ with the Muslim’s who were fighting the ‘Christians’. Slobodan Milosevic was the president and we backed the Muslims because we claimed the Serbs were practicing Genocide. So the Muslims did the same against the Serbs when it was their turn. Holbrook had a hand in those killings as well. So whatever a persons political leanings are- we should also be truthful about the history of people. If someone has leaned more heavily towards the justification for U.S. action- and has pushed for the more aggressive role- than let the record show that. When Cheney or Rumsfeld die- I’m sure you will have some who will praise them- and others who won’t. In Holbrook’s case there seemed to be no one telling the other side.
Okay- let me quickly cover a few more things. I’m doing a study right now on the Western Intellectual tradition- covering the period between 1600-2000. Some if it gets a little dry- but it’s important for believers to have a basic grasp on this period. Many thinkers went thru a transformation during this time- in the pre-modern era philosophy and theology went hand in hand. But during the enlightenment and scientific revolution many new ideas arose. In the midst of the 17th century  the famous Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- sent a letter [called the Meditations- it would be released in book form later] to the university of Paris [the leading university of the day- theology and philosophy were the main fields of study] and he challenged the thinkers of the day to ground their arguments for God in Reason as opposed to Revelation [meaning tradition and what God has ‘revealed’ to us thru the bible]. Descartes’ believed that the Christian thinker could argue his case in a more powerful way if he based his argument on reason. Now to be sure this idea was not new- you had men like Thomas Aquinas advocate this in the 13th century- and as far back as 400 years before Christ the philosopher Aristotle used this line when speaking of the ‘prime mover’ [God]. But Descartes is credited with challenging the church of his day to do philosophy on this new ground. John Lock, Immanuel Kant and others would take certain aspects of Descartes ideas and develop them more fully. Some were more skeptical than others- and some rejected the idea that any reason/rationality could ever be combined with religious belief. Later on in the 19th century you had many openly advocate a type of reasoning that would totally exclude God from the picture. But for the most part the earlier thinkers did not go down that road- they thought it foolish to deny the existence of God- all things coming into existence from nothing seemed be a non starter for them- yet many of today’s most famous atheists seem to have no problem espousing a view that is absolutely proven to be false [you can never- ever- ever get something from nothing- which is the most popular view of the big bang theory among many atheists today]. So I think Christians today should be more aware of making the argument for the existence of God through rational/reasonable means- the other day I heard a radio preacher trying to debunk the theory of Evolution- he argued that it can’t be true because the bible says God made everything. Well this argument doesn’t cut it with people who don’t believe the bible! Likewise we need to be able to give a defense for the faith- without always appealing to the articles of the faith while doing it.
(1554) MODERNISM- okay- need to take a break from politics [current!] and news! Let’s do some history/philosophy. Modernism [modernity] refers to the time period between the mid 17th century to the mid 20th century [loosely]. During the scientific revolution, coming off the heels of the Reformation- there were many challenges to past ways of thinking about religion, knowledge, politics and existence in general. Many new thinkers felt the old forms of thought were outdated- and as man advances he needs to ground his existence in rationality as opposed to religion [Descartes’]. Not all thinkers rejected religion- John Locke and Immanuel Kant tried to show that religion could be rational- not all religion had to be ‘blind faith’. Others rejected that idea [David Hume] and said if you wanted society to be rational- you had to reject religion as a foundation for thought. Modern atheists- like Sam Harris- would say the same thing. In Harris’ 2004 book- The End of Faith- he teaches that all true religion is radical in nature- that those who believe you can be moderate in religion are wrong- that the religious texts themselves [Koran- Bible] call for radicalism and violence and therefore the only hope for peace in the world is to eliminate religion. Basically I think Harris should stick to atheism and not delve too deep into Christian philosophy. The Christian ‘religion/ethic’, while possessing scriptures [Old testament] that certainty do advocate violence- yet the central historical event in Christianity is the event of the Cross and the person of Christ- whose message said ‘Moses said- but I say’. Christianity contains within her texts the mandate to reject the old forms of violence and to embrace a new way of love- so Harris missed the boat on this one. But you have had thinkers [past and present] who have said ‘we need to eradicate the world of all traces of religion in order for man to reach his highest good’. The thinker Nietzsche would pronounce ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book called The Gay Science [I’ll leave it alone]. Both Marx and Freud would join him in their rejection of God in the last half of the 19th century. So many felt the rise of modernism- along with the descent of religion was mans ultimate goal- as man advances he would mature from this ‘psychological’ weakness and accept a world without God. Than in the 20th century you had some major events that questioned whether or not modern man could survive without true religious morality. We had the world wars and the most violent century in our history as ‘moderns’. The election of Jimmy Carter- the first self professed ‘Born Again’ Christian to become president- and the Iranian revolution in 1979- the rise of an Islamic state based on radical interpretations of Islam. These events challenged the ‘hope ‘of those who felt like religion was waning and mans rationality was winning the day. So that’s why you had the rise of the new atheists who began a campaign to revive the ‘death of God’ movement and to advocate for what they felt was necessary for man to advance along the modern path. Today we are actually living in what’s called ‘the Postmodern Era’ but for the purpose of this short note we don’t want to go down that road at this time. Has man advanced- ‘modernized’ to the point where he does not need ‘God’ anymore? Can man simply build a Utopian society without God? All those who advocated for a society without God- ultimately failed in coming up with a rational basis for law and order- for who has the right to ‘make the rules’ in this new society- in essence those who tried the Freudian way could never come up with a system of govt. and law without having to borrow from the Christian world view- man cannot simply govern himself based on some atheistic principle of ‘reason’ apart from God [who decides whose reason is right?]. The atheist’s charge that all religion at its core is radical and dangerous- without reason- has been proven false. True religion can very much be reasonable- that is being rational and religious can go hand in hand- all religious adherents do not have to be ‘Fundamentalists’ as Harris claims- and the Modern experiment has not shown us that mans ultimate destiny is to rise above religious belief and attain some type of society without God and faith- that experiment has been tried- and found wanting.
 [to my blog- facebook readers. I know I have been pounding you guys with news and politics these past few days. Figured I’d give it a break and share this critique I shared with Scot McKnight. This is a critique of an article Scot wrote in the current Issue of Christianity Today. I recommend all of you subscribe to the magazine. It’s the best one out there at the time [First Things- Commonweal are good- maybe a little too scholarly for the new reader- C.T. covers a broader audience].
Scot- just finished reading your article in Christianity Today magazine. Liked the way you choose to harmonize Paul and Jesus thought. A few things; I never struggled personally with ‘whose gospel do we preach’? Or I never really saw it in terms of Jesus’ gospel versus Paul’s’. I prefer to see Jesus ‘kingdom message/gospel’ as the overriding message for believers and the church- yet Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith was due to the ‘crisis mode’ of the letters he was penning- in essence he was dealing with the 1st century Jewish mentality of ‘works of the law’ versus ‘believing in Jesus’ in essence Paul is battling with the very essence of who gets in the kingdom [justification by faith] and who doesn’t [those who seek it by works- Romans 4-9,10]. I would also note that you mention how the synoptic gospels use the word Justification only a few times- true. But even before I read the article I thought ‘I hope Scot deals with the many times John’s gospel says ‘believe- eternal life’ in the same verse’. In essence that’s John’s way of saying ‘justification by faith’. Overall- liked the article- God bless. John
 POLITICS, RELIGION UPDATE [11-30-2010] Recently there have been a few notable news stories; The Popes new book- Light of the World- and the media frenzy over a MINOR statement about condom use [I was gonna name this post ‘Condoms- Condoms everywhere’ but heck- I post the blog all over the world- figured I’d reign it in a little]. The other story is the Wikkileaks release of hundreds of thousands of secret documents that give insight [and in some cases cause risk] to the major players in the theatre. A week or so ago I wrote a post named Risk- I spoke about the reality of other countries trying to manipulate our soldiers to do the dirty work for them- sure enough that’s the biggest story coming from the leaked documents. Many Middle Eastern states have been exposed thru the leak- leaders of those nations doing their best at getting us to strike Iran. The news is very damaging for these leaders- many of their people were unaware of the leaders desire to hit Iran. Now- what about the war? As I cover the ongoing war in Afghanistan, I am trying my best not to misrepresent the story. Yes, I’m against the war- want our guy’s out- within a year! General Petraeus has said [privately- Bob Woodward’s book] that this is a war our kids and their kids will be fighting- hope not. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan- they were attempting to establish a communist state. We backed the ‘resistance’ fighters- the Mujahedeen. After 10 years- and an estimated 1 million civilian casualties, the Soviet Union pulled out and in 3 short years  the Mujahedeen toppled the puppet govt. A few years later the Taliban would rise to power. The Soviet invasion destroyed the country- they did indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and did not limit civilian deaths. So far the NATO forces have killed around 10 thousand Taliban and about the same number of civilians. Afghanistan has experienced around a 10% annual economic growth rate the past few years, many children are in school and medical aid has improved- over all our ten year venture has not been like the Soviet one. Yet- our people have died [around 1500 in Afghanistan- under 5 thousand in Iraq] and we have killed civilians. Our stated goal is to help the Afghan people establish a strong enough govt. that would be able to resist any future attempts for Al Qaeda or other terrorist networks to operate out of the region; the 9-11 attack was launched from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet there are talks going on right now to make a peace deal with the Taliban- so I do feel that our guys dying in the field, fighting the Taliban- and at the same time Karzai is sitting at the table with them- it just doesn’t seem right. We also have our aircraft carrier doing ‘war games’ in the Yellow Sea [right off Korea- inside Chinas economic zone] and the tension for all out war between North and South Korea is as high as it has ever been. A few months back the North torpedoed the Chenoan- a South Korean warship- and killed 40 something men. Last week they hit the South Korean island right off of their coast and killed 2 civilians and 2 Korean marines. Our response has been laughable at times. We said ‘look- we don’t want war- lets all calm down’ [good]. Then the media say’s ‘the president is standing up to them- he is still going to do the war games’. We looked stupid- to be honest. Many South Koreans have been demonstrating for a stronger response- they want to go to war. So these past few weeks have been hectic- I don’t fully see the Wikkileaks thing as a total disaster- many have demonized the guy who runs Wikkileaks- Julian Assange- in some ways I think he’s doing the world a favor. Okay- guess I won’t get to the Condom story- maybe another day.
 HAPPY THANSGIVING! ‘In Jesus Christ, God has revealed himself in descending- we ascend to God by accompanying him on this descending path- as we witness the abuse of economic power, as we witness the cruelties of capitalism that degrades man to the level of merchandise, we have also realized the perils of wealth- the man destroying divinity- Mammon- which grips large parts of the world in a cruel stranglehold.’ Pope Benedict.
‘What has been the greatest sin on earth so far? Surely the words of the man who said ‘Woe to those who laugh now’” Friedrich Nietzsche.
In Matthews gospel we read that Jesus came from ‘Galilee, of the Gentiles’- strange. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, Luke’s gospel was targeting the Gentiles. Yet Matthew describes Jesus home turf in terms that would offend his target audience- the Jews of Jesus day honored Jerusalem, Judea- but Galilee? Right from the start Jesus entered the scene in a way and style that offended the religious mind of his day. The prophet Isaiah says Jesus was this Rod- this branch that would grow from the ‘root’ of Jesse. Jesus came from the lineage of Jesse, King David’s forefather- royal blood indeed. Yet the prophet says he will be set up as a sign- an ‘ensign’ that the people will look to- they will see things they never saw before. In the gospels we see Jesus as a highly unusual preacher/teacher- he simply does not fit the mold. Isaiah also says he will judge the poor of the earth with equity- he will defend them in anger! The prophets tell us ‘The zeal of thine house has eaten me up’. This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered the temple courts and saw the merchandisers selling their stuff- he had it- in a rage he grabbed the tables and turned them upside down ‘My father’s house was supposed to be a place of prayer- look what you have done to it! You’ve made it a Den of Thieves’. Yes, anger was a part of his persona- at times it would eat him up- in a sense. Yet as he flustered the religious aristocracy- he was a breath of fresh air to the out casts, to those who society drew the ‘black line’ on. Dylan’s son would sing ‘the same black line that was drawn on you was drawn on me’ surely Jesus would ‘allow’ the black line to be drawn on him too. The common people heard him gladly. Again- Isaiah says ‘blessed are the women who are barren, who have not been able to have kids- for more are the children of the desolate than of the married wife’. In the Old Testament [and Jesus day] not being able to have kids was seen as a mark ‘the black line’ if you will. The poor wife would be stigmatized, looked at as someone who didn’t have what it took to fulfill her ‘womanhood’. Again, in a sense an outcast. Yet Jesus said ‘blessed are those who mourn now, who cry- who are empty’ for theirs is the kingdom. In the above quote, that’s what Nietzsche was decrying- he saw the words of the Master as contrary to mans inner greatness- his humanistic abilities to achieve- to fulfill all of his desires- to live for the full! Much like the gospel of our day. Yet Jesus emptied himself, he was ‘a man of sorrow- constant grief’ [Isaiah]. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself, he did not see his divinity as something to be used for self gain- some type of quest to reach this stage of religious Nirvana- no he emptied himself- he too became ‘barren’. Yes Jesus was quite a character, he simply was not what the people expected- he seemed to break the rules. Yet at the end of the day- this unorthodox preacher- this man from Galilee- yes he would change the world.
 Jesus of Nazareth [pope’s book] chapters 3-4. Okay- I’m having a hard time ‘dummying down’ the Pope’s book- trying to explain it in simple terms- so those of you who don’t get into it- just skip these posts and read another part of my blog. Okay, Benedict covers three different ways of looking at the central message of Jesus –The Kingdom of God. He borrows heavily from the church father Origen [form the Alexandrian school- Origen is very influential on early Christian thought- he also was a Universalist- in the end everyone gets saved- even Satan!]. The Pope shows how Origen viewed the kingdom as the person of Jesus himself- that is when you see Christ- you’re seeing the kingdom. Origen also spoke of the ‘interior kingdom’ a spiritual reality of the kingdom ruling over people’s hearts. Then the Pope speaks about the 19th- 20th century emphasis as the Church as the Kingdom- he shows how the church began seeing the kingdom as present in the world thru her- that is the church herself is a divine presence of God in the earth- and the kingdom is here right now thru the church. I agree with all 3 of the above views of the kingdom- I would only disagree a little with the Popes perspective that the 3rd view is primarily a late development [probably just reads that way because the book is an English translation form the German- I can’t imagine a Pope as learned as Benedict [one of the most intellectual ones in many years!] would miss this]. Right from the early days of Saint Augustine [City of God- 4th century] the idea of the kingdom being present thru the church has been around. The Pope also gets into those who saw the kingdom message of Jesus- and teach that Jesus true Kingdom message was never grasped- and instead we messed up and started ‘the church’. Liberal thinkers like Albert Schweitzer and Adolph Von Harnack all played a role in this type of thinking, and early 20th century ideas about re-thinking the kingdom in general- as well as the philosopher Heidegger. In chapter 4 Benedict does an excellent job at portraying Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who delivers the New Law thru the sermon on the mount- contrasting Moses receiving of the law at Mount Sinai. Jesus goes up on a mountain and ‘sits’ [showing the plenary authority of the teacher- being seated]. In the New Testament [Hebrews and the gospels] the religious leaders are said to ‘sit in Moses seat’- or Hebrews says ‘Jesus sat down at Gods right hand’. In Catholic theology the ‘seat’ [chair- cathedra] denotes the place of authority. I live in a ‘cathedral city’- Corpus Christi. New York’s Saint Patrick’s church is the cathedral for that area. That means the authority over the regional diocese is ‘seated’ at the cathedral- where the regional Bishop resides. So Benedict does a good job showing us Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who sits on the new mount and takes the plenary authority- he also says that Jesus authority did not rest in the religious institutions of the day- like the priests and Pharisees- that Jesus authority was real. The religious leaders was too- but they were not sincere. Once again I find these types of observations consistent with my own thought [and Protestants thought in general] and I find it very surprising to see the Pope thinking along the same lines.
 Was just reading a debate on the doctrine of Transubstantiation [the actual Body and Blood of Christ present in the Eucharist- I have studied the development of the doctrine thru the centuries, eventually Thomas Aquinas would come up with the final wording- very technical indeed- he tried to harmonize ‘Aristotelian thought’ and sort of did his best- it gets a little too deep for the present post!] What I was thinking about, was Jesus sitting at the last meal with his friends- he knows he will be leaving them soon- yet they don’t fully comprehend the mission he needs to accomplish- there lost in a way. He sits down with them and takes the bread and wine and tells them ‘SEE-LOOK- this is ME! I HAVE TO BREAK. This is the plan- all along my Father planned it like this’ and he says ‘look- I’m going to break for you- I will soon be broken on the Cross- and the result will be life for you and many others- all who will eventually hear the story’. So he breaks the bread, he pours the wine- and he knows what’s coming next. The prophet Isaiah said ‘God will see the TRAVAIL of his soul, and be satisfied’. He struggles with the reality of the whole thing- he sweats blood in the garden- he says ‘God, if there’s another way to make this thing happen- let’s do it’! He resigns himself to the reality that he always knew awaited him. I just thought it strange to have read the debate over the Eucharist- while we don’t really see the broken man. This was all done for us- he had to ‘break’.
 MORE ON THE POPE’S BOOK- Let me cover a little more Catholic history, being I’m still reading the Pope’s book [Jesus of Nazareth]. The last 2 chapters I read dealt with the temptations of Jesus by the devil- and the concept of the ‘Kingdom of God’. I like Benedict’s interpretation of the temptations- how he applies them to today. He sees the temptation of turning stones into bread as saying ‘God- if you’re really there- then why are there so many starving people in the world- why don’t you provide! Just ‘turn the stones into bread’’ if you will. The Pope develops this thought as a general cause of doubt that occurs in the world; how many people seem to question the existence of God because of the many injustices we see in the world [in theology we call this Theodicy- the Pope I’m sure knows the term- but he’s trying to write for the common reader so he doesn’t use the term]. All in all I liked the argument. He also [surprisingly!] equates the temptation of the devil to Jesus- when the devil says ‘fall down and worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world’. Interestingly the Pope applies this to the ongoing temptation that the church has always had to deal with- the temptation of the church ‘bowing down’ in order to exert control over the kingdoms of the world. He compares the church’s ‘marriage’ to Roman govt. [4ht century Constantine] as a weakness of the church- that she in essence opted for outward political control and in a way rejected the kingdom of Jesus- the meek kingdom that would inherit the earth. Now, this observation has been made many times before- but mostly from Protestants! It’s surprising to see a Pope make the same observation! Also liberal Catholic theologian Hans Kung has made this argument- he’s not a theologian in good standing with his own church- a few years ago he openly made the argument that the church should reject Papal infallibility [the doctrine] and got an official censure from the Vatican. So any way I found the observations of Benedict enlightening and surprising- over the next few weeks I’ll probably hit a few more notes from the book [probably should have done a complete book review now that I think about it- but I’m in the middle of making some new radio programs and didn’t want to focus too much on a book review]. Anyway- if you get a chance pick up the book [published in 2006- but any Catholic bookshop will have it] it’s a worthwhile read.
CLASSICS (1379) HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO UNJUST GOVERNMENTS? One of the most famous dissidents of the soviet era was Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Alexander was a simple school teacher who would serve in the military when Stalin was in power. He had written some critical things about Stalin in a letter to a friend and was put in the communist prison camps. While doing time he met believers and returned to his early faith as a Christian. In the year I was born  he wrote the famous ‘A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich’ it was a fictional account of a man in the prison camps and how he dealt with his captors. The main character would meet a Baptist believer while doing time and sort of represented Alexander’s own plight. Alexander came to fame when Khrushchev would permit him to publish his book, Khrushchev was advancing his own program of Destalinization and he underestimated Alexander’s criticism of all communist type systems, not just Stalin. He would also expose the evils of the prison camps in his other work titled ‘The Gulag Archipelago’. Eventually he was exiled to the U.S. [Vermont was his home] and received much notoriety as a prophetic voice who spoke out for justice. He gave a controversial speech at Harvard [1978?] and the western media came to dislike him; he was critical of loose morality and the evils of western society as well, he was not the sort of liberal crusader that they mistook him to be. Eventually he would return home to Russia and live to see the fall of the system he despised. History is filled with people who stood for what was right against all odds and impacted society for the better, Alexander was a school teacher whose life took a turn of events that he simply followed; he was not ashamed of the gospel and did not tailor his message to please the audience. I like that style; it reminds me of another revolutionary who gave his life to save the world.
 I AM THE TRADITION!- Just started reading the Pope’s book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ it came out in 2006, but never had a chance to read it. I recommend all our Pastor/Preacher friends to read it- especially those of you who are familiar with the Historical Critical method of scholarship, and those involved in the Prophetic movement. Benedict critiques the historical method very well; he’s even funny at times! [In a scholarly way]. Just the preface and intro give enough meat that if you’re not a ‘full book’ reader, these would be enough! The critique for the modern prophetic movement is that Benedict shows the real purpose of Prophets, as pictured thru Moses- he does a superb job at explaining how Jesus fulfilled the ‘prophet like Moses’ prophecy spoken by Peter in the book of Acts- excellent insights! Okay- let me cover a little more Catholic history- at the risk of losing my Protestant readers- but hoping to gain some Catholic ones. Being I’m talking about Popes and all, let me cover some 19th century history. In France you had the French Revolution [right at the end of the 18th century] and the feeling at the time was to throw off all outside control- many of the nation states rejected the Roman church for that simple reason, it was Roman! That is the states were flexing their new felt independence and the spirit of enlightenment and reformation that was running thru the land. In France you had 2 groups who were at opposite sides; The Gaulincansist’s versus the Ultramontanists. The first group represented the feeling of ‘lets break from the Roman church and be free’ the latter group wanted to maintain ties with Rome- the term meant ‘beyond the mountains/alps’. Meaning from Frances geographic perspective, they wanted to keep looking towards Rome. It was in this environment that the Catholic Church would convene the first Vatican Council [called Vatican 1]. Pope Pius the 9th started his pontificate as a liberal type Pope- open to new ideas and all, but as time progressed he took a more conservative stance. The council- starting in 1870- would take a very hard line stance against all the new ‘ism’s’ that arose over the last few centuries. Communism, Democratic spirit, Protestantism- the church took a hard line and seemed to come off as arrogant and unwilling to change with the times. The council would affirm for the first time the doctrine of Papal infallibility and the Immaculate conception of Mary- 2 doctrines that would make it much more difficult to bridge the Protestant/Catholic gap. It’s important to note that the church had a tradition of Papal infallibility for years- but it did not become official Catholic doctrine until Vatican 1. All Catholics at the council did not agree to the doctrine- a famous Priest by the name of Guidi would dissent and challenge the Pope, he asked ‘what about the tradition’? Meaning what about the authority of tradition that has come from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation among the Bishops- if you push a strong doctrine of Papal infallibility- the tradition will lose its power. Pius famously responded ‘I AM THE TRADITION’. The council would never officially close- Victor Emmanuel would sack Rome- The Vatican would lose most of the Papal states and there would arise a sympathetic attitude towards the Roman church! Many felt bad that she lost her standing in the world, this caused many Catholic states to rise up in Support of the Vatican, and she actually gained more good will than before! I would also note that when the council broke up, the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Durlinger- did not accept the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Others broke away with him and these Catholics survive till this day-primarily in Western Europe [Holland, Switzerland, etc.] they are called The Old Catholic Church and are Catholic in every way except for the doctrine of the Papacy. Some view Pope Pius as a stubborn man who was not willing to change with the times, but if you look at the overall political reality of the day- you can see why he took such a tough stance, the church was feeling threatened from the outside by many new movements and she felt that Christianity was under attack- Pius felt it necessary to exert Papal authority, so he did. Vatican 2 [1962-65] would ‘un-do’ the harsh spirit of Vatican 1 and be seen at a much more open and ‘liberal’ council- Pope John the 23rd [Pope during the council] would shape the mood of the council with the saying ‘let the windows be open’ implying a new freshness and openness for the church. Vatican 2 would refer to the Protestants as ‘separated brothers’ Vatican 1- heretics. Okay lets end for now, I encourage all of our readers to try and know the various Christian positions- don’t just allow rumor or gossip to form your opinions of others- strive for an honest conversation with other Christian groups- give others the benefit of the doubt- and if you still have sincere differences of belief, at least they’ll be informed differences- not simply hearsay.
 CATHOLIC/PROTESTANT POSITIONS ON THE BIBLE. Let’s do a little teaching today. To all my Catholic/Protestant readers- when I teach on our respective faiths- understand that for the most part I’m giving you the official position of our churches. Now ‘official’ is a lot harder to say among Protestants- but the ‘best’ statements on Protestant doctrine probably come from the Reformed positions as stated by the creeds and statements of faith that came out of the 16th century Reformation- and yes, there other good statements as well [Baptist confessions, etc.]. When I talk ‘Catholic position’ I’m giving you the official position as stated thru the Catechism of the church- as well as the Encyclicals and decisions that have come from the councils. The Catholic Church does actually have official positions on stuff! [They call this the Magisterium- the church’s official teaching office]. It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant churches have ‘dissenters’ within their ranks- Priests, Preachers, Scholars- who break ranks with the actual teaching of their own churches [Hans Kung- Catholic. Rudolph Bultman- Protestant. Just to name a few]. In some situations where the clergy are ‘less educated’ [I’ll be nice] sometimes they don’t know what the position of their church really is. So that makes stuff a little harder. Okay- what do Catholics and Protestants believe about the bible? Both groups believe the bible is the inspired word of God, infallible- with no errors. Both groups also have notable teachers within their ranks who dispute this- but remember- for the most part this is the official position. The Catholic church’s most ‘meaty’ statement on faith and doctrine still dates back to the 16th century Council that took place in Trent. Though there have been other important councils [Vatican 1 and 2] yet the council of Trent is the most definitive. That council was for the most part a clear restating of the historic position of the church, especially reaffirming the 7 sacraments. The council also produced a document on the church’s position on the bible- the church used stronger wording than most Protestants, they said the bible came to us by the ‘Holy Spirit DICATING’ the words! In fairness, the Catholic Church does not hold to a mechanical type dictation- that God actually said the words to the writers, but never the less, that’s the statement. The Protestants are known for the famous 3 ‘Sola’s’ of the Reformation [Sola= alone] Faith alone, Grace alone, Bible alone- basically ‘alone’ meant the bible was the final authority on the matter- though creeds and councils were helpful, yet they can ‘err’. The able Catholic scholar, John Eck [maybe Cajetan?] forced Luther to admit that the Pope and Councils could make mistakes, and this was a fatal blow to any agreement between the warring sides. Now, many Protestants also seem to be confused on the statement ‘the bible alone’. The Reformers did not mean that we were to cast off all the good things that came down to us from the church fathers- Calvin quotes Saint Augustine a lot in his writings- the Reformers just meant that when deciding on final matters, the bible has the last say. The Catholics held that both Tradition [oral tradition passed down thru the church] as well as scripture had a say. The main point today is both Catholics and Protestants agree that the bible is ‘the word of God’. Catholics have a few more books in their bibles, but we all agree that it is God’s word. [Just a side note- The Catholics say the bible is ‘an infallible collection of infallible books’. The Protestants would not accept this statement- they said ‘we have a fallible collection of infallible books’. Most Protestants are not aware of this. The main reason the Protestant side would not agree to ‘infallible collection’ is because that would side with the position that the church did indeed possess infallible authority, given by God, to make certain decisions that were binding- obviously the Reformers would not go that far.]
 LENNY BRUCE- Last night I caught the movie ‘Lenny’, it’s the true story of the shock comic Lenny Bruce. Rose to fame in the 50’s for his vulgar comedy and social commentary. His story is much more than some George Carlin rebel comic- in a real sense he tapped into his Jewish Messianic roots and was fulfilling a prophetic type role; he spoke on issues that were hot [war] and he had an audience who were ready to hear. He would go thru lots of legal and personal problems- he would get hooked on heroin and die. The other day I mentioned Obama’s strain of Christianity- Liberal [reverend Wrights church is what you would call a social justice congregation]. In the late 19th, early 20th century liberation theology was in her hey-day. Men like Walter Rauschenbauch [spelling?] introduced a form of Christianity that was less focused on personal conversion- but tried to expand the churches thinking on social issues. The fundamentalist movement of the 20th century pushed back and labeled the liberals as heretics. Now, theologically speaking many were- some rejected the resurrection of Christ and the vital doctrine of reconciliation thru the Cross of Christ. But they were mostly right on the need for the church to engage in social justice issues, to deal with things like world hunger/poverty. To speak out against oppressive regimes [which the Catholic Church was doing all along]. The church should play a role in these areas- things that Bruce was talking about at the time. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, prophesies of John the Baptist future coming- it says ‘God will raise up one like Elijah’ John would come 400 years later and challenge the corruption that he saw. He was this radical loner who seemed to be unhinged at times- I mean who tells the king ‘your sleeping with your brother’s wife- your in sin’. He told it the way he saw it, and it would eventually lead to his death. There is a verse that speaks of John, it says ‘the law and the prophets were until John, but now the kingdom of God is preached and everyone is pushing their way to hear what he has to say’. John changed the atmosphere of his day, he was a kind of Lenny Bruce- he began speaking openly about issues that no one else would touch, sure- the regular ‘church folk’ had their preachers [rabbis, synagogue] but John was different- he wasn’t out to make a name for himself [though that would happen] nor was he trying to make a living [or get rich!] from ‘my ministry’. No he was a different breed, he could spot hypocrisy a mile away- but when he saw Jesus, he knew he was seeing the real thing ‘I am not worthy to tie your shoes’ he would say. Jesus himself would have his run in’s with the religious crowd- showed up at the temple and told them ‘what are you doing, merchandizing in Gods house!’ he made a whip and beat them, he turned over their tables and thru them out. Yes, Jesus made John proud. I think we as God’s people need to be willing to speak out about the social justice issues of our day- not enough voices are speaking out against things that need to be dealt with. A heroin addicted shock comic would be used to speak out against things that he saw were wrong, sure- he was definitely an imperfect vessel, but people never heard it like that before.
- Let me just give a short intro to these end times posts [on facebook]; the reason I think these posts are important right now [10-2010] is because our country is going thru a political conversation that ‘behind the scenes’ these end times views are effecting the most prominent voices. Last week Glen Beck played a bunch of clips that showed Obama saying ‘my individual salvation is tied to your corporate salvation’ now, Beck is a sincere man who comes from a fundamentalist background- the problem is most branches of Christianity- Obama’s [liberal] and conservative view Becks religion as problematic, beck is a Mormon [I love and respect Mormons!] but theologically- they have some serious flaws. But when Beck criticizes Obama for his statement- in reality this type of statement [corporate salvation] has very strong biblical and historical roots! I remember during the campaign, Obama was asked who his favorite philosopher was [Bush said Jesus!] Obama said Reinhold Neighbor [spelling?]. I thought that was interesting- he is a very influential theologian, somewhat on the liberal side of the argument- but the fact that he picked him showed me that Obama’s Christianity is real- though liberal. Now, you have Palin, Beck and others who hold to a fundamentalist/dispensationalist perspective- they have an end time view of the world that is closely tied in with the popular ‘left behind’ series of books from fundamentalist preacher Tim Lahaye- a view I don’t hold to. So that’s why some of the presidents critics really view him as some type of secret Manchurian candidate that wants to overthrow our country and institute socialism- this paranoid belief system permeates their religious view. So anyway keep this in mind as you read this next post- that’s the background.
 WEEK [OR 2] IN REVIEW- Okay, I haven’t been commenting as much these past few weeks, basically doing a lot of posting of old stuff. But these last few weeks have been important so let’s do a little. First; the Pope made an historic visit to the U.K. – he went first to Scotland, than England. It was the first official visit- where the titular head [Queen Elisabeth] officially greeted the Pope, the first time since the official split in the 16th century! I kinda covered the history of it in the past and don’t want to do it all over again here- suffice it to say that Henry the 8th wanted his divorce, the Pope said no and England split off- the church of England [Anglican church] became the official church of England. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. is part of this communion. Now, the visit was historic for these reasons, the Pope surprised some church historians by making a speech where he invited the Anglican Church back into the Catholic fold-many thought he would not do this. Actually, it just seemed to be the right thing to do, being it’s the first official visit since the historic split [never mind all the theological issues involved]. So I was glad to see the very good reception he got. Europe in general has suffered from a severe case of rationalism/skepticism that has left many of the great church buildings either empty or they have been converted into Mosques! The Pope challenged them to have both faith and reason, a theme that Pope John Paul emphasized a lot during his pontificate. Overall I think the visit went very well, and all Christians should be happy about it. We also had Newt Gingrich write an article [or comment?] on Obama being an ‘anti colonialist Kenyan’ [Yikes!]. Basically Newt read an article from Dinesh Desouza, a fine Catholic writer/intellectual, who espoused the idea that President Obama is the first U.S. president who has a socialist mindset- that when most European nations went the way of socialism in the last few decades, that the only real holdout was the U.S. But in the economic world all the smart money fled the socialist type economies and would find its way into the U.S., leaving the socialist economies to suffer. So when Obama became president, as a believer in big govt. [a form of socialism] he would eventually bring the U.S. into alignment with the ‘enlightened’ world and that would balance out the scales. In Desouza’s mind [and Gingrich] this is why Obama is so loved in the rest of the world, while his ratings are not so great at home. Okay, it’s an interesting idea, but a little too ‘Beckish’ for me. But it shows you where the country is at right now, that some serious thinkers are making this case. I like Desouza, he is a fine Catholic Christian, he wrote ‘God is great’ in response to Christopher Hitchens [the atheist] ‘God is not great’ but I have read a few articles from Desouza and I thought he was a little ‘lacking’ in the field of theology [like he really didn’t know his stuff as well as he should have].The liberal columnist Eugene Robinson has basically said the same thing. So any way these last few weeks have had some notable events happen and we should be grateful that no bad incidents took place when the Pope was in England. I was happy to see the good response he got, though I’m not Catholic- as a fellow Christian I respect the effort that the Pope made to defend the Christian faith and to challenge a secular society to return to her Christian roots.
- Jesus said when people hear the ‘word of the kingdom’ and don’t understand it; that the devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts. Right now in our country there is a rise in anger over the Muslim versus Christian traditions; many have made a ‘cause célèbre’ over the mosque being built close to the 911 tragedy. Over the years as I have studied the various faiths and the history of Christianity, I have come to see that many sincere people of various faiths have been a victim of the ‘devil stealing the word of the kingdom’ from their hearts. That is many sincere people have never truly understood or grasped the real kingdom message of Jesus. As the Christian church progressed thru the centuries, many have come to define the faith as a strict orthodox interpretation of the Trinity, the 2 natures of Jesus, and other historic declarations of orthodox Christianity. While I fully agree and hold to these historic creedal truths, what has happened is the other 2 major world religions- Islam and Judaism- have come to define the historic faith by these statements. They have never really understood the main Christian message of God reconciling man thru Christ. They see Christianity thru the lens of ‘that religion is the religion of western civilization’ and they have never been able to grasp the ‘full world’ nature of the kingdom. A few years ago I had a chance encounter with a Muslim. As we talked I asked him if he knew the history of Abraham and the story of Isaac and Ishmael; to my surprise he was not aware of the story found in the Old Testament. I then did about a 20 minute ‘bible study’ and explained to him how God always had a purpose and destiny for the Arab world- many trace the lineage of the Arabs to Ishmael, the step brother of Isaac. It’s a little too much to do right now, but I tried to break down the cultural barrier of viewing Christianity as an ethnic/western mans religion, and presented the ‘kingdom’ in a way that he could understand and see the main message of reconciliation of all races of people thru Christ. Too many people define the Christian message as a political agenda- or they see the very technical orthodox interpretations of the various doctrines of the faith- and they never really hear what the kingdom is all about. Jesus said this was a strategy of the enemy to prevent people from coming to the faith. As we are entering into a time of increased tension over Islam, let’s be good stewards of the faith and present a non ethnic/cultural message of acceptance and reconciliation of all nations thru Christ. I am not saying all people will automatically believe in the gospel, but I fear that many of them have never really heard it.
- ‘Guilt is the loss of the integrity of the soul, and the soul’s recognition of that loss’ Thomas Aquinas. I heard this a while ago and liked it. It has been said that man is the only creature with the ability to self evaluate; we can look back on our lives and make course corrections by Gods grace. I have been reading in the gospel of John a little- Jesus is talking to the disciples [John 14] and he’s getting ready to ‘go away’ he has spent time with them and tells them ‘the words that I have spoken unto you are not my own, but the Father that dwells in me- he does the works’. Notice, his revealing of God to his men was not so much an intellectual pursuit, but a thing he lived out among them. ‘The father is doing these works’ they ask him to show them the father and he tells them ‘I have BEEN with you for a while now, why do you ask me to show you the father’? His incarnation was the only way that God could reveal himself to man, there was nothing more that Jesus could say or teach that would trump the revelation of God to them by Jesus simply being with them for 3 years. He tells them that after he leaves he will send the Spirit and the Spirit will more fully reveal to them what’s going on, he will bring to their remembrance the things Jesus taught them- in essence they will have many ‘aha’ moments- times where they will say ‘now we see what he was talking about’. Saint Thomas taught that there will be times in life when we experience real guilt, not condemnation, but honest to goodness guilt. That thing the world thinks is bad, the therapists try to ‘soothe’ by saying ‘it’s not your fault’ but sometimes things are our fault! We have the ability to look back and say ‘now I see some of the mistakes I have made, things that I didn’t fully understand until now’ and this process is a good thing, something that we should expect to happen. Many believers practice a daily examination of their souls. At the end of the day they look back on their day and ask the Lord to show them any faults and they pray for forgiveness ‘I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters- that I have sinned thru my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words- in what I have done and in what I have failed to do’ trust the Lord today to lead you in right paths, and at the end of the day allow him to reveal to you the things that you don’t fully see right now, and if at the end of the day you realize you have gone off course, then yes- you have experienced guilt- the soul recognized some loss of integrity. That’s a good thing, not bad.
 ‘submitting to each other in the fear of God, wives submit unto your husband’s as unto the Lord…husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it…this is a great mystery, Christ and the church’ Ephesians 5. The apostle tells us that in marriage the 2 become one, just like our ‘marriage’ to Christ. In 1st Corinthians Paul rebukes them for a specific sin; incest, fornication. He tells them that when they sleep with a person outside of marriage that the 2 become one- he then says ‘shall I take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot’. The point he makes is as Christ’s body we are actually parts of him. The various debates that the church has had over the communion table have centered around whether or not the elements become the actual physical body and blood of Jesus. One of the sad things that has happened is while we have had this debate [centuries old] we have missed the agreed reality that yes, our bodies are actually considered parts of Christ. These verses have also come under fire over the years because they speak of the wife submitting to the husband- the reality is this submission is not some type of bigoted thing, it’s a willing submission done in love as the husband expresses Christ like love to the wife. Paul said the great ordinance of marriage points to the great reality of us being joined to Christ in a very real way- if you will, it can be said without contradiction that the Real Presence of Christ is in the world today thru the church, the people of God.
- ‘Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love as Christ also has loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour’. Ephesians 5:1-2. The early church had a tag stuck on them- they were called ‘followers of the way’. Paul exhorts the believers to be followers of God; he goes thru the first half of the chapter and speaks about ‘not sinning’ yes- those who commit adultery, lie, cheat, use bad language, these do not inherit Gods kingdom. Strong stuff indeed. The early church saw Christianity more along the lines of being a follower of a person [Jesus] than embracing a set of doctrines. Now, there was a core set of beliefs that the early church did hold to, the New Testament defines it as ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’. Many believe that the statement of Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ many believe that this portion of scripture was first an oral tradition among the early believers; that is they might have used this as an early creed. And the church did have what was called a ‘krygma’ a compact set of beliefs that was considered to be the core beliefs of the Christian faith. The point being we had a concise set of beliefs, but we also had a strict moral code, one that was to be lived by the power of the Spirit, but yet strict as compared with today’s standards. Paul tells the church ‘be followers of God’ we are told to imitate Christ, to be like him. As Christianity progressed down thru the ages many came to define authentic faith as embracing the more orthodox set of beliefs that were being hammered out thru the creeds and councils of the church- some came to see Christianity strictly along these lines. I think it would do us all some good if we began seeing ourselves once again as followers of ‘the way’ that is people who call Jesus Lord and ‘follow God’. Yes, we appreciate and hold to the historic Christian faith, that’s important- but we also ‘follow God’.
- ‘I therefore…beseech you that you would walk worthy of the calling…with all lowliness and meekness, putting up with each other in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all and thru all and in you all’ Ephesians 4:1-6. Last night I caught Tim Lahaye [famous end time’s preacher] on the fox channel, he was talking about the one world govt. system and the one world banking/economic system. He was saying how he believed that the Obama administration was a tool that would lead up to the apocalypse. The host, Mike Huckabee, was kind enough to let Tim speak but kind of gave a little more mercy to the president. I felt bad for Lahaye, you could see he is getting up in age and you could tell that that’s the way he saw the bible, the lens of end time dispensationalism and the one world order was what he saw, and that’s that. Often times in the various debates that believers have amongst one another, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater purpose of God. In the above passage the apostle talks about the necessity of seeing God’s people as one body, to avoid as much as possible any divisions that would rise up among us. In our day we have many sincere believers who see many things differently, how far down the road of practical unity we will get- I don’t know. But it is imperative that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, that we make room for the different views that other believers have- yes even those who espouse the end time scenarios that seem to be a little off base! As a student of the bible and church history, I realize that there are many doctrinal differences that are deep seated- these will not go away simply because we love one another; but at the same time there needs to be an overriding view of the desire of God for unity among his people. I need to make as much ‘room’ for you as possible when it comes to being a fellow believer in the Lord, I should not allow my beliefs in certain areas trump the unity that we all posses in Christ. This chapter speaks of the gifts that Christ gives to the church for the benefit of the whole body, if I am using my gift in a way that causes division, then no matter how gifted I am, I am working against the purpose of that gift. In the above passage the apostle speaks of the need for humility and meekness, we need to stop seeing each other thru the lens of ‘our group is better/knows more truth than your group’ even if we believe that ‘our group’ really is more doctrinally sound than the other members of Christ’s church, yet we are called to lowliness and meekness when dealing with one another- yes there will be times of honest and robust disagreement, but we must not forsake/forget the high calling to strive for unity amongst the people of God. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt- if we disagree with them, whether politically or in areas of belief, let’s not jump to the conclusion that they are going to personally play a major role in bringing in the apocalypse for heaven’s sake! If these people are believers then it is our duty to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if we disagree with them strongly in certain areas.
 ARIUS- a priest from Egypt who would challenge the deity of Jesus in the 4th century. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternally the Son. He said Jesus was a created being whom the father ‘bestowed’ son ship upon. He taught that Jesus was ‘like God’ but not God. The emperor Constantine would call the famous council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. and the council would agree with Athanasius and say that the Son and the Father were of ‘the same substance’ [homoousios] and Arius’s belief would be rejected. The debate would still rage on thru out the century as Constantine would die and the new emperor from the east would hold to ‘Arian’ views. Eventually Orthodoxy would win out and Arianism would be rejected by the majority of believers. I should note that many of the oriental churches would go the way of Arianism till this day; some of these churches are not like the modern cults that we would automatically reject, but they do hold to beliefs that Orthodox Christianity has rejected. As I have written about before, it’s easy to see how various believers have struggled with these issues over the years, some of the ways people express things can be deemed heresy a little too quickly in my view. There are believers who express the deity of Jesus in ways that some Arians express it, and they are not full Arians! The point being, yes- Arian went too far in his belief that Jesus was a created being, Johns gospel refutes this belief strongly [as well as many other portions of scripture] but too say that Jesus was/is the full expression of the father, because he ‘came out from God’ is also in keeping with scripture. Today we should be familiar with the issues and also use much grace when labeling different groups of believers; and we should strive for a unity in the Spirit as much as possible. As believers we accept the full deity of Christ, one who is of the ‘same substance’ of the father- true God from true God. He who has seen the Son has seen the father- Jesus said to Phillip ‘I have been with you a long time, if you see and know me, you have seen and known my father’ Jesus is God come down in the flesh to dwell among men, the true Immanuel, God with us.
 ‘And you hath he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins… but God who is rich in mercy for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when WE were dead in sins, hath MADE US ALIVE together with Christ [by grace ye are saved] and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus’ Ephesians 2: 1, 4-7. The other day I heard the common question on some Christian show, the person asked ‘why is there evil in the world’ and the normal answer usually says that in order for God to have had men willingly love him, he could only accomplish this by giving men free will; then because of this ‘forced’ environment of choice some men would chose to sin and ultimately evil is the greatest ‘necessary evil’ there could ever be. I’m sure I’ve used this argument a few times myself, and I’m also sure that there is some truth to it. But from another angle it does seem strange that evil exists because this was the ‘best’ God could do to create an environment where men would willingly come to him; maybe one of the reasons for evil is not so much a result of God trying to create an environment that would ultimately please him [willing lovers] but maybe a part of it has to do with us, that is the reality of redemption and the great grace and mercy that we receive from God would not have the same effect on us if evil and damnation were not a real option. The above passage tells us that one of the reasons that God freely saved us is so in the ages to come he might show the great mercy and grace that he possesses thru this redeemed people, a people who by all rights deserved judgment. Though I didn’t get into it in the previous chapter [too much] yet the apostle delves into the doctrine of predestination right in the greeting of the letter! We usually view the doctrine as an ‘in the closet’ doctrine that shouldn’t be discussed in mixed company. The fact that God chose us and redeemed us because of his purpose and will that he designed for us before we were born, this extravagant grace poured out on us for ages to come- this work glorifies the Father. We are ‘his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works that God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ we are corporately Gods work, the WE, US verses speak to this. All of this is a free work of grace that has been activated by faith, a faith that was also given to us as a gift, not of works lest any man should boast.
[Just a comment I left on a C.T. book review of Phillip Jenkins book ‘the Jesus wars’] I read the book review a week or so ago [in the hard copy of C.T.] great review. One thing; You seemed to indicate that Jenkins might have missed it by thinking the statement ‘God died on the Cross’ was out of line with historic orthodoxy- Actually I think he probably was right on this. I believe historic orthodoxy would not accept the ‘God died on the Cross’ theme. I know these debates get confusing at times [the dual nature of Christ, etc.] but just thought I should mention it. God bless
 ‘When I heard of your trust in the Lord Jesus and the love that you have towards all the saints, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you, every time I prayed I’d think of you…I ask the God of our master, the God of glory to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so you can see exactly what it is that he’s calling you to do’ Ephesians 1. Notice what the apostle prayed for; he asked God to open their eyes so that they might know Jesus more personally- that is he did not request that they simply have a better grasp of the doctrine of Jesus Christ [which is important] but he was asking that they might actually increase in their relationship with him. It has been said that Christianity is the only religion in which the founder actually lives inside the follower. I like that, it keeps us focused on the reality that God wants us to be more than simple intellectual assenters of the truth claims of Christianity. There is a major theme in the New Testament that runs along these lines, the apostle says ‘I count all things loss that I might increase in the knowledge of him’ once again meaning to know him more. Now I must admit that there are times when believers seem to disdain other groups of believers because they deem them wrong or lacking in some area. It is common to hear certain groups refer to other groups as ‘lost’ that is they see the traditional expression of Christianity that they follow and they judge them as never having received Jesus ‘into their hearts’. I think this is a mistake that we make; notice in the above passage that Paul was thanking God for their faith and the love that they showed to all the saints; that is they had a grasp on the corporate wide nature of the church. While it is important for us to increase in our relationship with Christ, it’s also important to see that God is at work with many groups of believers, not just those who seem to be the most like us! Let’s ask God to increase us in the area of knowing Jesus more personally- that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened, that we might grasp the length and depth and height of the love of Christ as the corporate people of God. It takes a body of people to fully grasp the greatness of ‘their head’ Jesus is the head of the church, the people of God that transcend time and space. As members of this mystical people called the church, we need each other to come to a more mature understanding of who he is and what he wants us to do- we are not in this thing alone.
- WHOSOEVER BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST IS BORN OF GOD- 1st John. I am almost finished reading the Jesus Manifesto, by Viola/Sweet. About a month or so ago I read an article by Scot McKnight on Historical Jesus studies; these are the men who approach the study of Jesus while trying to not be ‘biased’ by the gospels and the church’s traditional teachings about Christ. McKnight spoke as an insider who spent many years engaging in the study. He basically concluded that the system itself was flawed; they tried to use certain ‘historical’ criteria and ended up in this hopeless process of never being able to agree on who Jesus really was! The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis spent many years rejecting the faith, but as somewhat of an intellectual he said he could not escape the deep roots of Christianity that he would find while reading the classics, studying the history of society; no matter where he went the testimony of the church was this unified declaration of who Jesus was and what his life and death and resurrection meant to humankind. The apostle John told us that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, these are of God. Our bibles, as well as Christian orthodoxy declare to us who Jesus is; we do not need the testimony of those who are trying to examine him while being removed from the person, historically, by two thousand years. This is not to say that all historical study is wrong, but the flawed attempt at trying to restructure the Jesus of the gospels by embracing some historical method, a method that actually goes against all reliable historical studies, we surely don’t need this. There are 2 groups that reject the tradition of the church; those from the ultra liberal historical approach [Jesus seminar types] and the rigid fundamentalist camp. Now, in some ways I too am a fundamentalist, but I am speaking of the more extreme groups that reject the historic church and approach Christianity and the bible from a virgin perspective; that is these believers ‘believe’ that each new generation of Christians should read the bible without any historical context, both of these approaches can become hotbeds of heresy. I thank God that both the bible and the church have declared to us who Jesus is, the apostle John says ‘we have declared to you that which we have seen, and that which we have handled’ John and his companions spent time with the Lord, these original apostles are called ‘the foundation stones of the church’ [being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets] we today are part of a corporate temple that spans 2 thousand years; our forefathers have left us a great legacy, let’s not squander it by trying to reconstruct that which has been faithfully passed down to us- whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.
 JESUS MANIFESTO, 2nd post. Okay I read some more from Frank Viola/Leonard Sweet’s book. I really like the emphasis that they place on the importance of Jesus and on self sacrifice as major themes of the Christian life; a good quote would be ‘Jesus is in the self transcending business, not self fulfilling one’. This book is a change of pace from the normal fare of self help books that rank high on the Christian book lists of our day. A few problems; at one point you can hear the sound of the post modern emergent voice, they admit that the bible contains ‘logical contradictions’ [ouch!] and they also challenge the ‘modern’ [as opposed to post modern] view of absolute truth. Descartes name is thrown out and they use a strange reference to the 13th century theologian/thinker John Duns Scotus. They rightly trace the famous nick name ‘Dunce cap’ to Scotus, but then they say that the famous teacher earned the name by resisting ‘mystery’ as a legitimate means of knowledge , while embracing pure logic. My understanding of how Scotus got the nickname is actually the opposite of this. Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas, during their day there was a rediscovery of the writings of the famous philosopher Aristotle; Aquinas became popular among the Dominicans for his embracing of Aristotle and his scholastic approach to learning [pure logic]. Scotus resisted Aristotle’s view that all learning comes to man thru the ‘5 senses’ and he taught there was a sort of 6th sense that man needs while approaching God. The point being it seems to me that Scotus got the nick name ‘Dunce’ not because he rejected mystery, but because he favored it! Anyway that’s just a technical historical point, as Will Farrell says in the movie ‘Anchorman’ let’s just agree to disagree. In the argument against the modern view of absolute truth, a few pages over they defend it! They explain that the reason the schools shy away from teaching character is because they won’t allow for ‘universals’ or ‘morals’. To be honest its trendy now a days to challenge the system, and most emergent’s will say stuff like this; I don’t think this to be a major problem with the book, just thought I should mention it. All in all the authors do a good job at re directing us back to Christ as being the center of the Christian experience; lots of excellent quotes from many historical figures, even one or two from the Pope! [Frank doing some penance over Pagan Christianity?] I am not sure if I’ll do another post on the book, I have a few pages left and I will certainly finish the book; but overall I do recommend the book, it is a must read for the ‘modern’ believer, we do need to be challenged in our day and this book does a good job of it. You will not find this book on the self help shelf of modern Christianity, and I think that’s a good thing.
 AQUINAS, THOMAS- Thomas is considered to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. Born in Naples around 1225, he studied in Cologne under the Dominican order. During Thomas lifetime there was a rediscovery of the ancient writings of the philosopher Aristotle. Thomas would write commentaries on the philosophy of Aristotle and he would attempt to introduce reason into the arguments to prove the existence of God. He was a follower of that form of Christian teaching called ‘scholasticism’ this method used reason and logical debate to arrive at truth. Other scholars would reject this method [Bonaventure] they felt that using these rationale methods was a contradiction to faith. Thomas would become famous for his ‘five ways’ also referred to as Natural Theology. Thomas taught that there were 5 basic ways man could examine the natural created order and come to a rational belief in the existence of God; Thomas taught that the first cause of all things had to be God, you logically needed a first ‘causer’ to start the ball rolling [prime mover]. John Duns Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas and he disagreed with the scholastic method. Scotus would become famous among the Franciscans; Aquinas would be famous among the Dominicans. Today many Catholic scholars pride themselves in being ‘Thomistic’ in their thought. Thomas also spoke much about ‘just war’ theory, originally introduced by Augustine. He taught that the means of war had to be just in order for the war itself to be ‘justified’; in today’s wars [Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan] I believe the use of unmanned drone attacks that kill civilians can be considered an unjust method. Thomas’ great works are Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae, Thomas is called the ‘angelic doctor’ of the Catholic faith.
 BE OF GOOD CHEER, MASTER RIDLEY, PLAY THE MAN; WE SHALL THIS DAY LIGHT SUCH A CANDLE, BY GOD’S GRACE, IN ENGLAND, AS I TRUST SHALL NEVER BE PUT OUT’ Hugh Latimer, 16th century Bishop of the church of England. Many years ago when I first read this quote, it struck me. I recently came across it again, and it struck me again! Over the years of reading the lives of the saints there are certain words that were spoken at the point of martyrdom that for some reason have a lasting effect. One of the church fathers attributed this to the fact that the words that are spoken at this point are actually the words of God, not of men. Latimer was around 80 when he was burnt at the stake, under ‘bloody Mary’s’ reign. These words were to a fellow martyr, Ridley, who was also an influential Christian during the time of back and forth between Protestant and Catholic debates. During the reign of Henry the 8th he had various key influential figures that advocated for the Protestant position; many argued the Protestant position for the political expediency of not having to answer to the Papacy, or to continue to ‘pay tithes’ to Rome. Henry the 8th is usually known for his penchant for executing his wives, but a careful study of history shows us that at a younger time in his reign he was a great king. He informed himself about the debates surrounding the reformation; he knew both sides and at one point wrote a rebuke to Luther and defended the 7 sacraments of the church. For this noble effort he would be given the title ‘defender of the faith’ by the Pope. But as time went on Henry would break from Rome and launch the English church. In many respects the Church of England was simply a Catholic church without a Pope; or to put it another way, the king became the new Pope. The reformation happened at a time in history that was politically ripe for it. The rise of the nation states and the yearning for national identity played a major role as the individual nation states sought to break away from Rome. Luther would receive special protection by the political leaders in Germany because they liked the idea of independence. The same would happen in England, many around the King [and queens] were jockeying for position and trying to influence the leader in ways that they thought were the most advantageous for their own cause. But you also had some committed believers from both sides of the aisle that gave their lives for their strong convictions of their faith. Thomas More would die for his unwillingness to reject the Pope and accept the king as the new head of the church. And Latimer and others would die for their rejection of Catholic teachings. Though the king had many wives, he would only have 3 children to ascend to the throne. Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. Edward would die young [15 years of age] and Mary and Elizabeth would take turns at the helm. Mary was known for her ‘bloody reign’ and Elisabeth would turn out to be an exceptionally great leader, the greatest one sided naval victory in history took place under her realm while Spain suffered a great defeat. They too would be influenced by those insiders who had personal axes to grind. At first Mary wasn’t ‘bloody’, but she would eventually be convinced to execute those who were deemed a threat to the realm. The poor folks of England were at times dumfounded by those who were being killed; under Henry you could die if you rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation [the bread and wine being the literal body of Christ] but you could also be put to death if you believed the Mass to be a sacrifice of Christ. So you weren’t always sure what would get you killed! But those who died for their faith and refused to recant gave at rue testimony of their convictions; at the age of 80 Bishop Latimer encouraged a fellow martyr to ‘play the man’ he knew if they died well their testimony would light a candle that would burn on; he was right.
 ANSELM- Over the next few months I will do some brief overviews on important historical figures from church history. They will be under a separate section after the same name. Anselm was born in Italy in the year 1033, he eventually became a very influential church teacher and is famous for a few things; he came up with an argument for the existence of God called ‘the Ontological argument’ ontology is a word that means the nature of being. His idea went like this ‘Because there is no other greater conceivable being than God, that means God must exist’ in so many words he said because humans have this conscious belief in God as the greatest being, that therefore he must be that being. I’ll admit when I first read this argument I had some difficulties with it, I think you can find problems with it. But he nevertheless introduced it and it has become one of the classical apologetic arguments for God’s existence. The second major teaching that Anselm gave us was the teaching on the Atonement; Anselm taught that Jesus died to ransom man back to God, the penalty of death was a penalty paid to God. You say ‘what’s so new about that’? Many other church teachers taught that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil, that at the fall of man satan gained dominion over man and that Jesus death purchased us back from satan. Though there is some truth to man being under the dominion of satan after the fall, yet Anselm was ‘more right’ in the way he approached it. As a matter of fact His teaching eventually became the norm for the church. Anselm introduced Reason into the argument for the existence of God. Many teachers used scripture and appealed to the church fathers to prove the reality of God, Anselm was one of the first to lean heavily on logic when arguing for Gods existence. He is considered one of the greats of church history and we still benefit from the influence of Anselm to this day.
 ON INFANT BAPTISM- I have been listening to an interesting debate on infant baptism; it’s being held between two good scholars. I have said before that I do not believe in infant baptism, but I also understand the case made for it. Basically those who practice it believe that baptism is a sign of the new covenant, and like circumcision in the old covenant, it’s alright to baptize new borns under the new. The minister presenting the adult baptism only side did a good job, as did the one who advocated for infant baptism. The only problem with the argument from the ‘adult baptism’ advocate was at the end of his message he appealed to the great 16th century reformers [Luther, Calvin, etc.] and made the case that those who practice infant baptism are not in keeping with the reformers character in rejecting the ‘old papal heresies’. In fact the reformers accepted infant baptism and fought against those who rejected it. The most famous example being that of the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli; he famously drowned the ‘Anabaptists’ [re-baptizers] for their unwillingness to baptize their new borns. The Anabaptists are sometimes called ‘the radical reformers’ they were a strain of believers who felt the reformers were still too bound by tradition, and they wanted a total return to the early practices of the church. And the centuries following would give rise to a whole host of various groups staking their claim on being the most accurate New Testament church. The point being that even though the minister who defended adult baptism only was standing on good biblical grounds, yet he used an example that was not totally accurate. It benefits all believers to be familiar with these arguments, if they are done in a spirit of friendship [which the above debate was done in] then they can help us progress along the lines of Christian unity. That is we still may hold to our peculiar position, and at the same time see the other point of view. Too often we are only familiar with our own position.
(1452) IMPUTATION- Okay, I am going to get a little technical today. Being we just came off of both a study of Galatians and a series on justification by faith, I want to hit a little on the doctrine of imputation. During the time of the reformation one of the areas of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics was the doctrine of justification by faith. Those of you who have read my studies realize that in this area I am Protestant, but my explanation on James chapter 2 [read the Justification by Faith study] leaves room for more agreement between Catholics and Protestants than we have had in the past. One of the other points of contention is the reformed position on God imputing the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Some Protestants teach it in a way that is not fully defined in scripture. Some teach that the righteous life of Christ, as a separate transaction from the sin bearing work of the Cross, is ‘imputed’ to the believer and this righteous account from Jesus is now counted towards us. I am not totally in disagreement with this doctrine, but some seem to teach it in a way that misreads some of the passages used to defend it. In my Romans study [chapter 5] I explained it somewhat. In Romans, Corinthians and Philippians we read verses that say ‘we are now saved by his life’ ‘we are made the righteousness of God thru Christ’ ‘thru the obedience of one man [Jesus] many are made righteous’- these verses teach us that the obedient life of Jesus qualified him to be the sin bearer of the sins of the world; he took our sins because he was sinless. He also lives at the right hand of God and is continually ‘saving’ us by his life. His obedience ‘unto death’ is also referred to in some of these passages- that is he obeyed the Father and went to the Cross for us- ‘thru one man’s obedience many are made righteous’ ‘he was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross’ [Philippians]. Some seem to have confused some of these verses by teaching that they are saying ‘the obedient life of Jesus is now credited to us’. In actuality these few examples are really not saying it in this way. To be fair we do have the verses that say we are made the righteousness of God in Jesus- that Jesus is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification, and of course my last study showed all the verses that speak of us being justified by faith. But technically it is not a clearly taught doctrine that the positive account of Christ’s righteousness is taken and put on our account. At least it isn’t as taught as clearly as the actual doctrine of justification by faith, and as I just showed you some of the verses that are used to teach it are being read in a particular way that might not be in keeping with the text. Why wade into this discussion, isn’t it true that we are made just in God’s eyes because Jesus lived a holy life and died for us? Yes. It’s just some areas that are not clearly defined in scripture should be left open for further discussion and thought. As of the time of this writing this area is one of contention between some reformed theologians and other Orthodox/Catholic/Anglican believers [Anglican scholar Tom Wright being one]. I do not totally reject the doctrine; I believe the righteous life of Christ was a requirement for him going to the Cross for us. And I do believe God makes us righteous as a free gift of God, as Luther said ‘an alien righteousness’ it’s just not taught as clearly as some reformed teachers have developed the doctrine, and we want to be honest when dealing with these issues. I know for some of you guys these types of posts are a little ivory tower, but for others these things are important as we strive for greater unity among the Christian faiths.
(1451) CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM BELIEFS- As I did the study on Justification by faith I hit a few verses that I felt were vital for our day; things that said Gods kingdom is not based on ethnic/racial lines, but it is based on faith in Jesus Christ. One of the major divisions between Christians and Muslims is Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet from God, but they reject his deity. They claim that the Christian church fell into apostasy and over the centuries heresy was introduced thru the councils and creeds of the church. They believe that in the 7th century God restored true monotheism [belief in one God] thru the prophet Muhammad and that Jesus [Isa] agreed with this. In the 19th century you had the rise of religious liberalism and many theologians espoused a belief that ran along these same lines; many taught that the early message of Jesus became distorted thru the over intellectualizing of the faith, and that Greek philosophy and Latin legal minds [Tertullian] ‘extended’ the faith to parameters that went far beyond the teachings of Christ. The Muslim scholars saw this as proof that they were right all along, after all these Christian scholars were basically saying the same thing! And then within the past 30 years or so you had the rise of historical Jesus studies, and men like John Dominic Crossan [Jesus seminar] would basically deny much of the gospels. They used a skewed method of determining what was real or fake, and when all was said and done you basically had a few verses from Johns gospel that were deemed true as well as a host of other ‘questionable’ sayings of Jesus from the other gospels. Why was this an important development for the rejecters of Christ’s deity? John’s gospel is the strongest teaching in the New Testament on the deity of Christ. We call this ‘Logos Christology’ John’s gospel teaches us that in the beginning was the word [Logos in Greek] and the word was with God and the word was God. So you have a distinction between the word [Jesus] and God, and at the same time the word is described as God. So to be fair about it, the deity of Jesus was not a latter development that was spawned out of the Greek/Latin mind, but was a part of Christianity right from the start. Grant it that the later creeds and councils [4th century Nicene, 5th century Chalcedon] did use some technical language to distinguish between the nature of God and Jesus, but the teaching of Christ’s deity is found within the body of the New Testament. Islam teaches that Jesus was born from a virgin, and that he was a prophet sent from God- isn’t that enough? No, they also teach that at the Cross another person died in Jesus place and that Jesus never died and rose again, this my friends can never be accepted by true Christianity. I believe we as believers should respect Muslim people, we should not denigrate them or their religion- but to have an honest conversation we need to tell the truth. Jesus was given for the sins of the whole world, he was God in the flesh dwelling among man- he died, was buried and rose from the grave. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
(1450) BUT NOW WE ARE DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, THAT BEING DEAD WHEREIN WE WERE HELD; THAT WE SHOULD SERVE IN NEWNESS OF SPIRIT, AND NOT IN THE OLDNESS OF THE LETTER. Romans 7:6 I think this will be a good chapter to end our series on justification by faith. Paul uses one of my favorite analogies to describe the new relationship we have in Christ; he says a woman, as long as her husband is alive, is bound by the law to her husband. If she goes out and sleeps with another man, she is convicted by the law and is committing adultery. But if the husband dies, then the same act of being with another man [in marriage] is no longer called adultery, by virtue of the death of the husband she has become free from the law that condemned her. Now Paul teaches that we too have become dead to the law thru the death of Christ, so that we should be married to another; even to him who died and rose again! I have often said it’s sad that believers in our day know all the catch phrases, they are familiar with the pop Christian culture verses and all, but these very important themes are often overlooked. Would to God that all believers were familiar with this scripture, walking around in life quoting ‘we have become dead to the old law thru Christ, we are now alive with him and are married to him who rose from the grave’. Thru out this chapter Paul once again shows that the law is holy and good, but its purpose was to arouse in us our sinful nature in order to reveal to us the need for a savior. The old way of life for Paul was one of condemnation and never being able to do enough to appease his sinful conscience, when he saw the realities of the new covenant he was delivered from that old mindset and began to see a new way to approach God, a free liberating walk with God, apart from the daily grind of trying in his own power to become righteous. Many good believers struggle with this for years, and there really is no trick or gimmick to the spirit filled life. Paul will go on and teach the need for self discipline; he said he ‘beat his body to bring in into subjection’ he obviously was not espousing a Christian walk that never had struggles again. But he was telling us that there is a fundamental difference between approaching the Christian life thru a legalistic mindset, or thru the freedom that comes from Christ. In conclusion we have learned that right from the early days of Abraham God had revealed to us that there was coming a day when men would approach God upon the grounds of faith, and not by works; that God included this great promise in the bible since the beginning; it was not an afterthought! Paul showed us that this new way of life was ordained of God before the law was given; it just took a couple of thousand years to get to the promised ‘seed’. Paul showed us that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised child, and now that he has come we are no longer under the schoolmaster [law] but we have been freed from the old law thru the death of Christ, we are now married to another, even to him who rose from the grave- AMEN!
(1448) ‘Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no person become just in God’s sight: for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all that believe’ Romans 3:19-22. Once again Paul makes clear that people become right in God’s eyes when they believe in his son, the attempt at becoming right with God by obeying the law is futile. Why? Because that was never the intended purpose of the law. God gave the law to reveal to man his sin; when men would try to live up to the standard, they would fall short and realize their need for a savior and then would turn to Christ. Paul says before the law came [before he personally became aware of it] he was without guilt, but once he realized the statutes of God and saw Gods holy standard; he said that sin in him revived and he died. Or the law caused a reaction in him that made his sinful nature appear to be much worse than he originally thought. Paul said in Galatians that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but after faith has come we are no longer under a schoolmaster. He said ‘wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come [Jesus=seed, offspring] to whom the promise was made’. Paul taught that the purpose of the law was to reveal to man his own sin, that there never was a law given that a man could obey in order to become saved. The other day I googled the ministry name and was glad to see that some Catholic friends have been posting our site on Catholic sites. Great! My goal is not to convince fellow Christians to change churches, or become Protestant; my goal is to accurately teach the truth to all who want to hear. To some of our Catholic friends these verses seem unbelievable, that is they might seem too good to be true. I want to assure you that the Catholic church believes the things that I just taught! But like all Christian churches, sometimes we don’t effectively communicate these truths to the people. Many people do not realize that the current Pope, Benedict, is one of the most able theologians that the church has had in this office. John Paul the 2nd was a great man, don’t get me wrong. But he was more of a philosopher/humanist charismatic figure; Benedict is more of a teacher. Why mention this? Because you will notice that the last year or so the Pope has made an extra effort to teach Paul’s epistles and to focus more on a strong Christology than in past years. This Pope has made efforts to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics; he also has come closer to the Protestant view of certain passages that speak of justification by faith. A few years ago a joint statement was made that many Protestants saw as a major breakthrough in this very area. I want to assure my Catholic readers, yes- it sounds too good to be true, but it is! Even your church believes it! That is we all believe that we are freely saved by Gods grace that comes to us thru the Cross of Christ. I would be dishonest to say there are no more difficult doctrinal issues between the great Christian confessions, but I can say for a surety ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’. Note- I am not saying the Catholic church does not believe in the importance of keeping the 10 commandments, they believe that all Christians should keep the commandments.
(1447) THE BARNES AND NOBLE JESUS? WAS B.P. A GOD CAUSED DISASTER? Yesterday I saw my recent issue of Christianity Today had arrived, I planned on reading some news papers and catching up on the weeks past events; but instead I spent about an hour going thru the mag. Found it interesting to see many of the ruffled feathers among the elites of the day. Brian McLaren finally responded to Scot McKnight’s criticism of his most recent work; Brian defended himself as not being anti evangelical. Tom Wright had a book review done by Michael Horton [that could be trouble!] but Horton was pretty fair, and pointed out how Wright pictures the Reformers as neglecting virtue and morality on the altar of faith. Horton exposes this weakness in Wright, surely many of the reformers [particularly the Puritan strain] emphasized virtue and morality. Found it interesting that some of these authors responded to recent critiques in a way that seemed to indicate that the critics served a good purpose; it caused the authors to have to defend themselves and make statements saying they were closer to the evangelical faith than their critics indicated. As I read the back and forth between these fine men, I couldn’t help but wonder what practical effect all this is having on the church at large. Are they simply hashing things out amongst the book store crowd [of which I am one] and in the end the church at large is preaching/believing in a Jesus who would probably be uncomfortable hanging out at the Barnes and Noble? Okay, this week my governor said the B.P. oil spill in the gulf was an act of God; the critics got on him and he had to defend himself. It does seem strange that a failed oil rig can be blamed on the Most High. The broader question being, how do we explain the real natural disasters of the world? In the 18th century [1755 to be exact] believers from all over the world were in church celebrating All Saints Day, just off the coast of Portugal a major earthquake struck, thousands of believers who were attending services in the capital city of Lisbon were crushed under the collapsing buildings. Many fled to the coast and were swept up in the tsunami; it was a major disaster for the time. One of Christianities critics, Voltaire, used this event to refute the popular notion that God was sovereign over all things and good as well. Voltaire, who is often accused of being an atheist [in actuality he was a theist- believed in a God but rejected Christianity] found evil in the world as proof of God being absent from the daily affairs of men, a common accusation from atheists/agnostics. How do believers explain these types of events? Did God purposely cause the earthquake to happen on that day, knowing that all the worshippers would be in church that morning? God of course knows all things, and nothing happens outside of his sovereignty. But we also live in a world that is a result of mans choice to sin and plunge the creation into a cursed situation [Genesis, Romans] so things happen in the world that are a result of the curse that came upon creation when man sinned. Things like the B.P. spill are obviously not God caused disasters, but we also can’t blame every natural disaster upon God. True, sometimes they can be a divine act of judgment [Noah’s flood] and there certainly are scriptures that speak about God revealing himself and his wrath thru these types of events, but we also should not discount the reality that some events happen as a result of mans failure to properly take care of the creation that God put under his dominion. The fact that God is not directly involved in all these types of events does not mean that he is removed from the scene, but we also need to be careful when we blame God for things that are clearly not his fault.
(1446) ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no man be justified’ ‘I do not frustrate the grace of God, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith’ Galatians 2:16, 21, 3:11. Okay, these verses [as well as the book of Romans] strongly show us the New Testament doctrine of being justified when we believe in Christ. To many people this idea seems contrary to the normal belief that being a good person, doing good, going to ‘church’ trying to keep the 10 commandments; these are the normal ideas on what people think they need to do to ‘be saved’; yet the apostle shows us that our redemption is solely based on Christ’s death for us. He even says ‘if righteousness [being made just legally] comes by keeping the law, then Christ died in vain’! It almost seems strange for this doctrine to be found in the bible! Yet it is the basis of New Testament Christianity, which is based on a New Covenant [in contrast to the old one, which was the law] this New Covenant is grounded on the death and resurrection of Jesus; as Paul says ‘if Christ died for all of us, then we are all dead- so let those who now live, live unto God’. When I first became a Christian and started reading the bible, I saw these promises as saying ‘all who believe in Jesus are saved’ but I noticed how many believers taught a type of conversion that watered down this doctrine; some said ‘yes, you accept the Lord by faith’ and they seemed to add all types of steps that needed to be ‘done in faith’ in order to be a true believer. Whether it was an elaborate evangelical scheme that eventually led to kneeling at an altar in some church, or whether it was the exact memory and dating of the day you asked ‘Jesus into your heart’. Now I’m sure there are many fine believers who have come to the journey this way, my point is not to doubt their conversion; but the more I became aware of these many ideas, the more I studied the scriptures to see if faith really meant ‘faith’. My own conversion came from truly seeing the promises in John’s gospel on believing and having eternal life. It was more of an awakening, sort of God breaking thru and revealing grace to me. Now, my conversion was rather drastic, it wasn’t a slow coming to the Lord, but it didn’t fit the sinner’s prayer scheme that many of my Baptist friends embraced. I also noticed how many of my friends, after hearing the evangelical version for so long, would then ‘get saved’ for real! They would be convinced by some well meaning evangelist that their initial conversion was shot thru with holes, then they would sort of fabricate a ‘more legitimate’ conversion. Even strong believers would do this. So then you had to deal with the fact that these fellow believers, who were truly walking with the Lord for a while, were really lost all along! This process struck fear into the hearts of all the other church members, after all how many of them were deceived too? So I began to study the bible to see if bible conversions really meant this often elaborate schema. One thing I noticed is all of these verses on being justified by faith were based on the main promise to Abraham from God, which consisted of God taking Abraham outside and telling him ‘see the stars, your offspring will be like this’ and it actually was a passive act of belief, not some act of Abraham doing something, that is defined as the day God justified Abraham. Then I ran across Acts chapter 10, and this story shows Peter preaching to the gentiles and they simply believed the message and the Spirit fell on them- Peter was not expecting a conversion, they were surprised. This also was a passive type conversion. In the letter we are quoting from in this post [Galatians] Paul describes it like this ‘He that works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law or the HEARING OF FAITH’ Paul will describe their conversion as a point in time where they heard and had faith, again another seeming violation of the active conversion model. The main point being that yes, there are cases where the conversion is reduced to the simple act of believing in the gospel when it’s first preached. To be fair, in the New Testament the outward ‘act’ that usually took place on ‘conversion day’ was water baptism, so if we were totally honest with ourselves we could say that water baptism was the altar call of the New Testament, but the fact is faith itself is identified as the basis of our justification, faith in Christ.
(1445) WAS NOT ABRAHAM OUR FATHER JUSTIFED BY WORKS WHEN HE OFFERED ISAAC HIS SON UPON THE ALTAR- YE SEE THEN HOW THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFED AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY- WAS NOT RAHAB THE HARLOT JUSTFIED BY WORKS? James 2:22-26. Okay, in Genesis chapter 22 we read the story of God telling Abraham to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar. Abraham obeys God and at the last minute the Lord stops him; but the angel of the Lord says because he did this, that now God knows he can be trusted and God will fulfill his promise to him. James uses this story to define what he means when he speaks of ‘being justified’ in Gods sight. I believe there have been many noble attempts at trying to reconcile this passage with the passages in Romans and Galatians where Paul specifically says ‘a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith’. Paul clearly teaches us that men cannot be justified by the works of the law; James says ‘see how men are justified by works’. The explanations I have heard go like this ‘James was simply saying the faith that saves is an active living faith’ ‘James is simply saying men are justified in the sight of other men by their works’ ‘James is simply saying true faith has works along with it’ while all of these things are true, they seem to not adequately deal with the 3 passages I quoted at the top. James says that when Abraham offered up his son on the altar that the scripture was fulfilled that said ‘he believed in God and he counted it to him for righteousness’. James is fully aware of the Genesis 15 promise to Abraham, the key verse Paul uses to define justification by faith; it’s just James is speaking about the process thru out life where men actually become righteous in practice, which is a result of being legally made righteous by faith. In essence when James says ‘see how men are justified by works’ he is describing the act of God being pleased with us, God having the right to say ‘yes, you obeyed me son, and I call you righteous in my eyes because you did obey me’. This process can be defined as being ‘justified by works’ while not contradicting Paul use of the term ‘justification by faith’. To me it is quite clear that James is saying more than just ‘real faith has works’ no, he is saying that the legal/forensic act of justification by faith [Gen. 15] leads to a life of actually doing just things [obeying God- Gen. 22] and when the legally justified believer obeys God, in a sense he is justified in Gods sight [not men’s!] by these works. Now, this does not mean men are ‘saved’ by doing good works, in the sense that Paul uses ‘saved’ but James is saying that when believers do good works, these works cause a response from God that can be defined as ‘being justified in Gods sight by our good works’ a totally different theme than Paul. This passage has been a difficult one for many years, Luther battled with it and at one point called James epistle a ‘straw epistle’ he doubted its canonicity. The Catholic Church used this very passage in their council at Trent to refute what they saw as Luther’s neglect of good works. I have had Mormons and other various Christian groups use this passage in defending certain aspects of their churches; this passage is well worn in the annals of Christian apologetics, I think the explanation that I just gave is the best one; the other efforts that have been made to explain this passage have some truth to them, but at the end of the day they don’t fully explain the clear text of the above passages. I think this explanation explains them.
(1443) NOW THE LORD HAD SAID UNTO ABRAM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY AND FROM THY KINDRED AND FROM THY FATHERS HOUSE, UNTO A LAND THAT I WILL SHOW THEE. AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION AND I WILL BLESS THEE AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT AND YOU WILL BE A BLESSING- Gen 12:1-2. I think for the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in both the old and new testaments that deal with the doctrine of justification by faith. I covered this subject in my Romans, Galatians, Hebrews [chapter 11] studies; and of course the doctrine of believing in Jesus and ‘being saved’ is found in the gospel of John study and the Acts study. But for the most part the main verses on the subject are these few in Genesis and the key chapters from Romans [3-4] and Galatians [2-4]. The doctrine simply means that God has chosen to justify [declare legally righteous] all those who have faith in Christ. There are many varied ways that Christian communions deal with the whole process of salvation, some churches are what you would call Sacramental [they believe in the process of God using the sacraments to administer grace to the soul of the believer, and that thru these sacraments, mixed with faith, believers become justified] and others hold more closely to the Pauline idea of faith being the actual mechanism that God uses to justify [which is my personal view]. Many modern Protestants who strongly disagree with the sacramental churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican] fail to see that most of the reformers embraced some form of sacramentalism along with their belief in justification by faith. Luther being the strongest example; his embracing of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist [body, blood, soul and divinity] caused him to split from the great Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, and Luther believed Zwingli to be damned because he rejected the body of Christ! So for today’s ‘neo-reformed’ [the resurgence among Calvinism in our day] to be so quick to condemn many other types of Christians [Like those who follow Tom Wright] these are not ‘being fair’ to the broad system of belief that many of the great reformers held to. Okay, the above verse begins the journey between God and Abraham, thru a series of events thru out Abraham’s life God will reveal himself to Abraham, and at those times Abraham has a choice to either believe the promises of God to him- or reject them. These promises center around God telling Abraham that he will have a future dynasty of children that will bless the whole earth. In this dynasty there will be a special son that comes out of the tribe of Judah [Jesus] and he will be the promised seed to whom the promises were made [Galatians 3,4]. Paul the apostle will use the great father of the faith, Abraham, to convince the Jewish people that God justifies people by faith, and not by the works of the law. Paul goes to these past historic events [Gen 12, 15] and shows his fellow Jews that God did indeed justify Abraham [count him righteous] when he believed in the promise made to him by God [Gen 15]. Paul says ‘see, God justified Abraham before he was circumcised, therefore justification [being legally made right with God] is by faith and not by the keeping of the law’. This argument from Paul is simple, yet masterful. His Jewish audience knew these stories well, they just never ‘saw’ what Paul was seeing; once he broke thru ‘the veil’ [Corinthians] that blinded their hearts from the truth, then they could not escape the reality of what he taught them- these cultural stories of father Abraham would never be the same again. As I progress over the next few days I want to note that when we get to the book of James, we will be looking at a different type of justification than what Paul focused on. James will use the great event from Abraham’s life, the offering up of his son Isaac on the altar [Gen 22] as the event to define justification from his view. Many reformed do not fully see what James is saying, in my view. This type of ‘bible study’ [the type where we try and make everything fit our view] is common among many good men, but it fails to see that the scriptures come to us more in the sense of a portable library of books that cover the various perspectives of the time. Now, I am not advocating the view that the scriptures err, or that the bible has ‘competing theologies’ what I am saying is James use of the word ‘justification’ is actually a different use than what Paul means when he uses the Genesis 15 example to explain justification. Instead of trying to reconcile James with Paul by saying ‘all James means is the faith that saves has works’, which is limited indeed, we should leave room for seeing how James is coming to the table from a different point of view. James being one of the lead apostles at the Jerusalem council from Acts 15, and his defense of the importance of works from the strong Jewish background. I think Hebrews 11 actually deals with this subject [go read my commentary on the chapter to see where I’m coming from]. Okay, let’s leave off for now- go read the studies I just mentioned, familiarize yourself with the key chapters and will do some more tomorrow.
(1442) WHAT ABOUT THE ARIZONA LAW? This week Arizona passed one of the most restrictive immigration laws in the nation. Many have opposed the new law; there is so much speculation by the media that it’s hard to get to the truth. I personally would be against any law that made a U.S. citizen have to show his birth papers or be detained. But I also understand the major border problem that Arizona and the other Mexico/American Border States have to deal with; I live in Texas, one of these states. Last night I caught an interesting interview on the Rachel Maddow show, she had on some guy from a group that supposedly had something to do with crafting the new law. I never heard of the group before but they seem to be one of the right leaning groups that at times espouse things that can be taken as racist. The interesting thing was Rachel’s staff looked up all sorts of past statements and beliefs of people associated with the group; she then grilled the representative on the air. The problem was she found past statements that held to the belief that some races of people are more ‘evolved’ than others, statements that said some humans possibly have a better learning capacity than others. And she also brought out those who held to the belief that it would be better for humanity as a whole if we did not encourage the ‘lesser groups’ to breed! What Rachel did not realize is she was quoting to the tee many of the beliefs of social evolution. At one point she brought out a picture from a magazine associated with the group, the title of the article was ‘Homo Erectus walks among us’ it actually showed a picture of a half black/ape like being. In essence Rachel was rightfully condemning social Darwinism, a belief that she personally holds to! I have written on this before and don’t want to re teach the whole subject, suffice it to say that many have warned that these racist views of evolution are extremely dangerous, but if a person truly believes in Darwin’s theory, then the logical conclusion is yes- there are races on the planet that are less advanced than others- you can’t get around it, evolutionary theory breeds racism. I like the Rachel Maddow show, and like most North Eastern liberals they are usually able to see the faults and racist tendencies of the right, but are totally blind to their own racist views. I personally am weary of any law that puts people under suspicion because of their race; whether it be White, Hispanic, Black or any other group. If the federal govt. did not drop the ball on immigration and border security then Arizona would not have been pushed into what looks to be a bad law, I hope that we can come to a fair solution to the immigration problem. For the record I am pro immigrant, I have said this before and want to be up front about it. I take the Catholic view on immigration; I side with treating the immigrants with mercy and grace. I know there are legitimate arguments on both sides of this issue; I just wanted to be upfront about where I stand.
(1437) FOR HE HAS ESTABLISHED A TESTIMONY IN JACOB, AND A LAW IN ISRAEL…THAT THE GENERATION TO COME MIGHT KNOW THEM, EVEN THE CHILDREN THAT SHALL BE BORN; AND THEY WILL DECLARE THEM TO THEIR CHILDREN. Psalms 78:5-6 I might overview this chapter the next day or so, it covers the history of Israel and Gods dealings with them. God set a testimony among his people for future generations to come and be influenced by it. This testimony was not only the written laws and statutes, but also the great works that he did; they were to memorialize them thru their holidays and holy feasts, just like the church does when celebrating the Lords Supper. This chapter will go on and tell us how God took King David from following the sheep and brought him to a position of authority in the kingdom. The Lord brought his people to a special border and mountain that he had foreordained for them to dwell in. He set up his tent among them and he poured down manna like rain all around their camps. This picture shows us how God dwells among us; he gives us certain prophetic people/leaders who will come from places of pastoral concern [following the sheep] and they will speak/teach things that are destined for generations of people to hear; that is this testimony is not simply a word about how to deal with your current problems, but it is a word meant to be transmitted to generations of people to come. God will let this ‘manna from heaven’ drop down all around the tents and camps where the people dwell, they will see/hear the works of God and be so impacted that they will declare it to their children and their children will also speak it to the following generation. I have found it interesting over the years when dealing with various subjects amongst the people of God. The other day I mentioned how some of my favorite theologians/scholars might have great insight into certain areas of God’s kingdom, yet they might have blind spots in others [like the nature of the ecclesia]. Yet I have found that there are whole generations of young believers who are now 2nd generation ‘organic churhcers’ and these kids, for the most part, have a better grasp on the principle and nature of the church. They don’t disdain the older guys, it’s just the idea in scripture of the organic church comes easy to them; they see right thru the old paradigms that many from the older generation can’t really see. Just a humble process of one generation of organic church movement ‘fathers’ having passed off to the next generation a ‘testimony in Israel’ a specific word/teaching that was meant to have long term effects for many generations to come in specific locations [mountains boundaries]. That is the things being taught by the Spirit are not simply one time truths that fade away in a few years, no these types of testimonies have staying power and future generations to come will all be affected by it. Have you been on the receiving/giving end of this type of testimony? Pastors, do you now say/see things differently in a permanent way? That is have you been taught in such a way that the things you have seen have changed certain ways you see church and the kingdom of God to the point where you will ‘never be the same again’? We all go thru stages like that, it’s important to remember what Jesus said ‘a good steward brings forth both new and old’ sometimes the new way of seeing things can be so overwhelming that we forget to teach the old stuff as well. It’s never good to neglect the great doctrines of the Atonement, justification by faith alone, solo scriptura, etc. But we also need to remind each other of the new things, the stuff that we have been corrected on during the journey. Gods purpose was to establish a testimony among his people that would be strong enough to reach down into future generations of people to come; he would rain this manna down from heaven all around their dwellings- it was an inescapable word from God that would become imbedded in the minds of many generations to come; when these things happen with Gods people, it’s always wise to get in on it at the beginning, it will benefit you more if you do.
(1436) COMMON CONSENSUS- The last few months believers from various philosophical/theological backgrounds have been debating various issues and there has been some good give and take in the process. Last night I caught a Larry King interview with Jennifer Knapp, the Christian singer who has announced she is a lesbian; once again you can read the debate raging in the blogosphere. Often times Christians can get a little confused when they see intellectuals debating things from opposite sides, the question comes up ‘if these learned men/women have sincere differences, then I guess that means there is no final word on anything’ and that’s where the Catholic apologists jump in and say ‘see, we have the magisterium [the teaching authority of the church] and that’s the answer’. To be honest, I have heard certain Catholic apologists use this argument a few too many times against a straw man; some have said that Protestants have a thousand beliefs on just about every subject, so that’s how you know they can’t be right. Actually most believers worldwide have come to a consensus on the main things, the things that matter. Now I do understand that there are still areas where we all fall short in our thinking, but there has been a fairly stable stream of truth coming down to us thru out the centuries. We can often look back and see how certain generations saw clearly in one area, yet might have had a blind spot in another. Then a little further down the road they correct that area, and other following generations repeat the pattern. Let me hit on just one example that I have seen a lot; as someone who likes to read/study good theology, listening to reformed and orthodox thinkers, reading the current scholars of the day, I have found that most of them come to the table with a certain view of church [this study is called ecclesiology] that is limited in perspective. They have usually been influenced by their background [as we all are] and they might have thought long and hard about many theological issues [the sovereignty of God, apologetics, etc.] but when challenged in some way [like a popular book on church government] they usually resort to arguments that are common across the spectrum, but limited in view. I don’t know how many times I have heard believers defend a certain form of church and tithing by going to the famous passage in the book of Malachi ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’ but yet have never really given serious thought to what they actually mean by applying this scripture to the New Testament church, they usually simply see storehouse as ‘the church building’. Now, it takes very little time to do a good study of this passage and see that this is a very limited view of the passage. And many scholarly men have done extensive study in the area of ecclesiology and these men have truly seen things that for the most part the other groups haven’t yet seen. But in time, as generations roll on, these realities of God eventually seep into the Christian populace at large. The problem is we all need lots of grace during the process; I have learned much good from many theologians who I know don’t fully see the truth in every area, yet many who agree with me on the nature of the church would never give the time of day to other scholars who have limited views of the ecclesia. So these will never benefit from the broader insights of the world wide Body of Christ, they only listen to those directly related to their own view of the church. Many of these believers will master the art of ecclesiology, to the degree where it can become an unbalanced focus, reading too much into the proper way to ‘do church’. I only share this as one example, you can find things like this all over the Christian landscape. But overall the Christian church has arrived at truth, has had real consensus on the major things. Yes, you will have debates about lots of stuff, but we shouldn’t resign ourselves to the hopeless excuse of ‘well, everybody has their own interpretation of the bible’ sort of like saying ‘you believe your way and I’ll believe mine’. No, this really doesn’t work in the long run. We need grace when dealing with each other, especially an issue like when a believer comes out and is dealing with sexual identity issues; we need to not set these individuals up as targets, but at the same time deal honestly with what the scriptures teach [yes, the bible is pretty consistent on the issue]. At the end of the day we can, and do arrive at a common consensus most of the times, it’s important that believers know this so they don’t fall into a snare of thinking that everyone has their own view of what the bible says- to be honest this really isn’t the case.
[Comment I left on McKnight’s Jesus creed blog] ‘I read what I said, and this is what I think I meant’ this can only be said by someone who has ruffled some theological feathers. I agree with you Scot, I never read you saying ‘historical work is wrong’ I read your criticism as being against the actual faulty method of hj [historical Jesus] studies- faulty in the sense that it ‘strives’ to present an unorthodox Jesus as its goal. Do we really want this Jesus?
[Comment I left on Trevin Wax’s site on an interview with Scot McKnight] I have noticed that Scot’s article was kinda like Stephen Barr’s recent shot against the I.D. movement! That is he seems to have stirred up a hornets’ nest. I agree with Scot on most of what he is saying, and I have noticed that many of his critics think he is against history itself, which is not what he is saying at all. Good interview Trevin, you might need to do another one with Tom Wright so you won’t be accused of taking sides. God bless, John
(1432) WHEN I RECEIVE THE GREAT CONGREGATION I WILL JUDGE UPRIGHTLY- Psalms 75:2 Many years ago when I was the youth pastor of a fundamental Baptist church, I had a new boy join our youth group; it was common to get new comers from the navy base where the church was located. He was an older teen [17?] but would attend our little group’s outings and all. Good kid. One time he shared how he needed to recommit his life to God; that he had slipped away from his earlier time of being baptized with the Spirit and speaking in tongues. Now, the church we were in did not look upon these experiences in a good light, it would have been easy for me to have challenged the boy on his past experience with God, but that would not have been the right thing to do. As his youth pastor I just encouraged him to remain on course and stay in prayer and fellowship. There are times in our walk with the Lord where we need to simply judge uprightly, that is we need to do what’s best for the person at the time, not necessarily always win the argument or prove our point. In the Christian experience we interact with many various groups of believers who have come to the table with different backgrounds. It’s a common thing for believers to not really appreciate that other believers might have come to the table with a different background. We all have a tendency to view our particular background as the best one out of the bunch; at times we feel a sense of security ‘knowing’ that our groups particular slant is the best slant. Then we approach other groups with a less than sincere acceptance of their ‘slant’. We all have groups of people that we will speak into thru our lives, ‘the great congregation’ so to speak. God wants us to do what’s right when we receive them, when they cross paths with us at various junctures in the journey. There will be times for reproof and correction, yes sometimes that’s ‘judging rightly’ but there will also be times when we need to look past our own concerns and simply do what’s in the best interest of the other person. Jesus said the Pharisees went high and low to make one convert, and after they made him he became a ‘child of hell’ more than they were. Paul said the Judaisers were glorying in the fact that they convinced the Galatians to become circumcised; these examples show us that we can be in leadership roles with the wrong motive, we might even be fooling ourselves, thinking that ‘hey, I wouldn’t be doing this stuff if I weren’t sincere’ but in these scenarios the thing that was motivating the leaders was the fact that they were able to convince others that their group was the right one, they were winning converts for their own glory, not for the sole benefit of the people. I want to challenge all of us today, what are we in this thing for? Are we more concerned with fighting for our particular view point than we are for the people? Do we have a tendency to present our views as the only views that can be right? Are we able to actually give a fair hearing to other sides of the issues, sides that we think are wrong, but to be willing to come to the table with an open heart and mind. You and I ‘receive’ the great congregation in many ways thru out our lives, let’s try and do what’s right when it’s our turn.
[note I left on the current controversy over Warren and Piper] Good conversation. If we see ourselves as believers thru the paradigm of our group [whatever group that be!] then we will always have difficulty with the Warren’s of the world. If we take the more open approach of the mystical church of Wycliffe and Huss, then we won’t get so upset about this stuff.
(1428) THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A STRONG TOWER, THE RIGHTEOUS RUNNETH INTO IT AND ARE SET ALOFT [ARE SAFE]- Proverbs. Been reading a little in Psalms and Proverbs these last few weeks, so much of it deals with receiving correction; seeking wisdom, going after knowledge. The Christian life is a process of dealing with things that we thought were true, or that our viewpoints were the ‘best’ on a particular subject, and then we get challenged on those points and divide over those views. I was listening to a radio preacher one Sunday, comes on the same channel that we broadcast on. I listened to him, not because he was really knowledgeable [to be honest, he wasn’t] but because he reminded me of all the drug addicts/ex con’s that I have worked with for many years. He was a brother that has been down that road. One day while talking about Jesus’ baptism he described it as ‘the day Jesus got saved’. Most teachers cringe at a statement like this [for many theological reasons] but I managed to overlook it and tried to see what the sincere brother was trying to say. To my surprise I recently read some article by an able scholar, he spoke of Jesus’ baptism as ‘being baptized and washing away his sins’. Frankly, I was shocked that he would say something like this. But I understand that people see things, and use common phrases, that others are uncomfortable with, over time if these brothers are simply stating things in ways that seem highly unusual to our common Christian language, but are still embracing orthodox Christian beliefs, then we need to approach these things with much grace. Recently I have posted various comments on excellent sites that have been re-hashing the historical critical method of scholarship, I have written lots on this before and don’t want to go into the whole thing again. But I found it interesting that many of today’s most able scholars, men whose sites I have on my blog roll, have disagreed strongly with each other. Now these are good scholars, not men who are simply uninformed about the subject. As I have read some of this back and forth, I see how even some of the best men can read past each other, and not fully see what the other side is saying. We all have a tendency to put our critics in the worst possible light, and to represent our position in the most noble light. Sometimes the only way we can arrive at a ‘more noble’ understanding of the subject [whatever the subject may be] is by returning to a trust in the Lord, letting our souls be renewed by Gods grace. I have this gazebo in my yard, I built a deck on top and placed a chair on it. It’s like a loft, sometimes I’ll just sit up on top and enjoy the escape from all the things that surround me. I’ll be praying early in the morning, the stars out and the planets beaming; and I’ll climb the loft and sit in the presence of God for a while. I just want to encourage you guys today, spend time in ‘the loft’ seek the face of God- if you are embroiled in controversy, maybe have been the target of criticism; then just spend some time with God. King David said how he wished he had the wings of a dove so he could fly away and be with God. The bible says ‘our souls have escaped like birds out of the snare of the fowler, the snare has been broken and we have escaped’ we do have these wings, this ability to be free from the snares and dwell in the presence of God. Our wings are prayer.
(1427) THE LORD GAVE THE WORD; GREAT WAS THE COMPANY OF THOSE THAT PUBLISHED IT- Psalms 68:11 In the 14th century you had the Oxford scholar, John Wycliffe, challenge the church and publish an English bible that would be understood by the common man. His view of the true church was that all those who believed in Christ comprised the mystical Body of Christ thru out the ages; he held to the same view that many believers would later embrace. His works would eventually influence John Huss, the great Bohemian priest, and Huss too would preach a doctrine of the universal church which transcended institutional boundaries. In the 16th century William Tyndale would take up the charge to get the bible into the hands of the common man; he longed for the day that the simple plowman would know the scriptures as well as the trained clergy; Tyndale would die for the faith [as Huss] but would pray/prophesy that God would touch the heart of the king of England and make his word known. Henry the 8th would eventually place an English bible into every church building thru out his realm. The history of God getting his word into the hands of the common man is great, many divine interventions [or inventions!] came along just at the right time to aid in the efforts. Guttenberg would invent the printing press in the 15th century and Luther’s reformation would take off as his books and tracts would get published by the boat loads [as well as many other great teachers’ stuff- like Erasmus Greek New Testament bible]. The institutional church would resist the free flow of these writings, they feared that the people might teach wrong doctrine, or that the masses might interpret the bible in a wrong way. Were these fears groundless? Not really. Many did mess up in their reading of the bible, and others would start their own sects based on faulty interpretations. But for the most part God was in the business of getting his word out to as many people as possible. I have found over the years that believers have a sort of blind spot when it comes to the ‘sacred’ modes of transmitting the bible. For instance many well meaning men believe that the process of meeting in a building on Sunday, and the bible being preached to as many as you can get to come to the meeting; many feel that this expression [being only one of many] is the actual God ordained way of getting the bible taught to the people. Many who hold to this singular idea, to the point where they feel the doing of this is actually called ‘the local church’ will look down upon other means of getting the word out. The explosion of the internet has truly been the printing press of modern times. Many average believers now have the ability to reach the world from their computers; are their dangers with this process? Sure. Will some teach wrong stuff? As Sarah Palin would say ‘you betcha’. But all in all people should embrace the reality that we live in a day where once again the average saint has the ability to get the word out to the masses with little, or no cost. I don’t want people to get me wrong, going to ‘church’ to hear the sermon is fine [most of the times!] but the bible does not teach the concept that the meeting of believers in buildings on Sunday is actually called ‘the local church’. For sure this is an expression of ‘local church’ it is a way that many believers have come to practice their faith; but it would be wrong to exalt this view of church to the point where we hinder others who are getting the word out in many different ways. In the New Testament, the ‘local churches’ referred to communities of believers who lived in your city/region- the term does not refer exclusively to meeting in a lecture hall environment to hear a lecture! Psalms says God gave the word and great was the company of those that published it; lets rejoice in the fact that we live in a time where a great company of people can ‘publish it’.
[Comment on Ben Witherington’s site on his recent historical Jesus book] I like it Ben. Went to the first post and read the intro; good and balanced. I have been critical of ‘historical criticism’ and recently made some comments on Scot McKnight’s article on rethinking Jesus studies. Overall I think its okay to do historical research and harmonies like this; as long as we add the warning that these studies are not meant to challenge the canonical accounts [which warning you gave in the intro!] God bless Ben thanks for sharing excellent scholarship like this in a free format. John
[comment I left on Trevin Wax’s site] Really interesting, she seems to deal with many issues that do need to be dealt with among believers. We often do not see the inconsistencies of our own ideas. I heard a Catholic convert share how she always looked down on Catholics for having statues; she one day realized that they too had mangers every Christmas. They seemed to have no problem with ‘little’ statues of Mary, only the big ones! God bless from Corpus.
[another note I left on Trevin wax’s blog post on the fervor over John Piper inviting Rick Warren to a conference] your very correct Brian, many reformed do not see the reality of many reformers holding to a sacramental theology along with a strong stance on justification by faith.
[just a comment on an article critiquing Scot McKnight’s recent CT article] Good response- Just a note or 2; Scot doesn’t seem to be saying that all historical studies of Jesus are wrong, but that the actual process called ‘historical criticism’ is actually flawed. Also the example in this article ‘how can we know the meaning behind the act of Jesus and the money changers without 2nd temple context’ most believers have a good grasp of the prophetic challenge of Jesus to the religious leaders of the day by simply reading this gospel account in context ‘my father’s house was to be a house of prayer. You have made it a den of thieves’. Simply reading this account from the gospels gives us enough context to glean the truth of the passage. Good response anyway. God bless, John
(1420) THE DOCTRINE ON WHICH THE CHURCH STANDS OR FALLS- In keeping with the last post lets overview some stuff. One of the main themes in the New Testament is the theme of justification by faith; the great reformer Martin Luther called this the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. If you go thru this blog and read the Galatians, Romans and Acts studies you will see what a major subject this is in the bible. Read Acts chapter 15 and you will see 3 specific statements made about what exactly the Jewish teachers out of Jerusalem were trying to put on the believers at Antioch; the chapter says they were trying to make them become circumcised, then it says to become circumcised and KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES, and then James will say the same in the final decree that was sent out to the gentile believers at Antioch. The point being the question very much was whether or not the gentile churches were to submit themselves under the ‘law of Moses’. In Galatians Paul says ‘if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘I am crucified with Christ… and the life which I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God’ this theme runs thru out the corpus of Paul’s writings and there is absolutely no doubt that the apostle is saying the believer becomes right with God, by faith apart from the law. And that ‘the law’ in context means the whole law [ceremonial, sacrificial and the moral code- 10 commandments]. Paul himself told the Galatians ‘if you become circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing, for he that is circumcised has become a debtor to the whole law’ all of these statements in context would be meaningless if they simply meant the gentiles were not under the ceremonial law, but still bound by the moral law. When the decree made it back to the church at Antioch they rejoiced in the fact they they were not bound under the law, not so they could go on sinning, but because the New Covenant of grace frees us from the legalistic approach to Gods kingdom. Remember, Paul associated the ceremonial law [circumcision] with the moral law- if he were just speaking of believers not being under one aspect, but another, then this distinction would be meaningless. James said the church at Antioch were troubled by those who went to them and told them they needed to become circumcised AND keep the law of Moses, it is clear from these passages that the message of the New testament is believers are under grace and are not under the old law; once again we are told ‘does this mean we keep on sinning’? Paul’s response is always no, not based on the fact that we are still bound to the law, but based on the fact that we have been risen with Christ, we are ‘new creatures in Christ, the old has passed away’- I do not frustrate the grace of Christ, if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain!
(1419) ARE WE STILL UNDER THE LAW? I am a little of course this week; one of my favorite theologians who I hear just about every day on the radio is doing a series on how the believer is still under the law. He is a great reformed theologian, but in this area I have so small dissent. Just to be clear, I consider this a major error that strikes at the foundation of the gospel of grace. Many good men have held to this idea, they are confusing the gospel of grace when they do this. In reformed theology you have the majority of believers holding to ‘covenant theology’ versus ‘dispensational’. I agree 100 % with the dispensational view of the reformed [that is they reject it] but their understanding of the covenants also has some problems with it. They see the old covenant and the New Testament as 2 covenants [true] that have an overriding covenant of grace that works independently between them both. Again, another major error in my view. The idea is that in the old covenant people believed in the coming Messiah and as they looked forward to his future coming they were ‘saved’. There is some truth to this, Paul does use this example from the life of Abraham to prove this very point, but to than develop an idea that all the old testament saints sort of had this working knowledge of looking forward to Jesus and understanding that they were all saved by faith, well this goes too far in my view. First, Paul in the New Testament clearly lumps all the law together [ceremonial, sacrificial, moral] when saying Jesus nailed the written law to his Cross and freed us from it. You can’t read Romans and Galatians and not see this [Colossians too] the New Covenant in Jesus Blood is exactly that, a new covenant! [it did not exist before!] To carry the idea that people generally knew they were saved by grace under the old covenant seems to miss this truth. The law came by Moses, but grace and truth thru Jesus. While I agree that this reality does not mean we have the right to break Gods moral law, yet we are clearly not under it in an Old Testament sense. I can’t stress enough how much I think this doctrine is a major error in the understanding of many reformed theologians, it is often presented in a way that says this is the very reason why there is so much sin in the church, because Gods people don’t realize they are still under the law. Big, big mistake in my view. I still like much of reformed theology; it’s just in these areas I have major disagreements, to say the least.
(1418) IS COLSON A MODERN DAY ERASMUS? I have been re-reading volume 6 of the Story of Civilization by Will Durant; this volume covers the Reformation period. It resounds with the warnings of the Catholic humanist Erasmus to his fellow critic of the church, Martin Luther. Many good men challenged what they saw as the corruption of the church, they wrote and spoke out against her abuses, Erasmus was one of her strongest critics. He was a true renaissance man who traveled a lot during his career. At one point he settled down in Basel, Switzerland and would thoroughly enjoy the metropolitan character of the region. He loved being in a community where the classics were widely read, as well as the modern ideas on theology. Calvin himself would eventually wind up in Basel for part of his education and he too would be influenced by Erasmus’s works. One of the fears that Erasmus and others had was they felt like Luther’s protest was going too far, they feared the toppling of order in society if the nation states would throw off all ecclesiastical control. They were afraid of anarchy [the same fears that the Ultramontanists in France would feel a couple of centuries later]. In my recent Christianity Today magazine I read an interesting column by Chuck Colson [the famous brother of water gate fame- he went to prison and converted to Christ] Colson seemed to strike a tone much like Erasmus, he was speaking about the current Tea Party movement. Colson warned that a popular uprising in and of itself can be dangerous, that Christians have every right to be upset and protest against what they feel is unjust, but believers need to heed the teachings of the new testament in being good citizens who submit to earthly authorities [a theme found thru out the New testament, especially in Paul’s letter to the Romans]. Colson warned that believers need to counter what they see as bad government with positive ideas and other options; we should not simply be a party of rebels! I sensed a sort of fear in Colson, sort of like he sees a danger in the country which can lead to bad things. Luther would eventually reject the warnings of his less rebellious contemporaries and follow thru with his rebellion; Germany would divide as a nation state between catholic and protestant churches, other nations would soon follow. The actual term Protestant speaks of a technical protest over a proposed rule that would allow the catholic churches/regions to remain catholic without any interference from the protestants; this was protested by the ‘protestants’ and thus the name stuck. The point being the reformation moved forward with a viable alternative to what they saw as a corrupt system, Luther himself rejected others who did advocate for what he saw as leading to anarchy. The famous Munster prophets believed they were to cast off all control of human government and establish their own New Jerusalem as an earthly city that would be governed directly by God. Luther eventually would sound like Erasmus in warning against a total rejection of human government and would appeal to Paul’s writings as well, showing us that good Christians submit to human authorities as much as possible, this warning fell on deaf ears- they read some of the caustic language that Luther himself used against the church and they saw him as a hypocrite. All in all we as believers should voice our protests and displeasure with human government when we see its failings, but we also need to understand that the changes that we want to be made will be done thru prayer and the ballot box, not thru any actions that can lead to the things that former ‘reformers’ warned against. Let our voices be heard, but let our non violent action be a witness to the kingdom from which we derive our beliefs.
This was a comment I left on Scot McKnight’s Jesus creed blog; it was a response to his latest Christianity Today article on rethinking the historical Jesus school of theology. I advise all our readers to go read it. As of now it’s only in the print version- ‘Scot just finished reading the article in CT on the historical Jesus, it does seem you have come some distance back from earlier beliefs. I remember reading you defend McLaren’s contradictions once by showing us how he uses that type of method to get his points across [the method of overstating something and then retracting it a few pages later!] Anyway I did like the article, will go read Tom Wrights response now. God bless from Corpus Christi.’
(1417) THOU HAST GIVEN A BANNER TO THEM THAT FEAR THEE, THAT IT MAY BE DISPLAYED BECAUSE OF THE TRUTH- Psalms 60:4. I wasn’t sure which way to go today; either discus the media hyped charges against the Pope or overview the Scot McKnight article in the current issue of Christianity Today magazine. First, I have the news article right in front of me over the so called comparison that the Vatican made of its current troubles with the Holocaust. The article gives the quote of the personal preacher of the Pope during a service he gave during this holy week. The Priest is quoting a Jewish friend who said he felt like the accusations against the church reminded him of anti Semitism; in that people who are anti Semitic usually stereotype whole groups of people in inaccurate ways. This simple letter, read by a Priest has been portrayed by the media [New York Times] as saying the Vatican has compared their recent struggles against accusations that the Pope knew more than he admits about covering up for Priests who abused children, the media said the Pope has compared himself to the persecuted Jews during the holocaust. This is an outright lie that the media has chosen to engage in. The Vatican did not compare themselves to Jews who were gassed during the holocaust; a Priest read a letter from a Jewish friend who said he saw the same stereotyping and group accusations against the church that he himself has seen by those who also attack Jews. That’s it. But what do you expect from a paper that reported as a front page story, weeks before a presidential election, that one of the candidates [John McCain] had disgruntled staff who were fired and also said there were rumors going around that McCain was too friendly with a female staffer. Now, there were no reports of any indiscretions, just that there were rumors that others felt he was ‘too friendly’ this ran as a front page news story! And another candidate who was known by the insiders in the media to have actually fathered a child with another woman, they deemed this story unworthy as news. The media are upset that the Catholic Church inserted influence in the health debate and they have been fabricating a scandal against the Pope when there is no scandal. When the Pope was Bishop in Munich there was a priest transferred to another diocese that was involved in a child sex scandal. The truth is the Pope did not personally oversee or know about the details of the transfer, this job was the responsibility of another administrative person under the Bishop. The Pope at the time was already involved in universal doctrinal issues that the church was engaging in, he would soon become the main person in charge of doctrine for the church. So in reality the story is the Pope did not personally involve himself with these types of decisions, yet the media is saying he was involved in a cover up, that’s just not true, they have ‘a banner’ but they don’t use it for displaying truth. Okay, I guess I won’t do the McKnight article. Today as I write it is Easter morning, God bless all our readers today, Jesus truly is alive!
(1415) BENNY HINN VERSUS JOHN PIPER- Yesterday I was reading some Christian news on line, I was surprised to see that the famed author/pastor, John Piper, was stepping down from his pastorate to take an 8 month sabbatical. As I read the story there was no scandal, he just simply examined his soul and felt like he saw pride creeping in and thought it good to re focus. I also read the latest from Benny Hinn, the famous healing evangelist, his wife recently filed for divorce and his web statement said ‘I will keep going, and not slow down one bit’. I would note that Benny and his wife also have no sexual scandal to deal with, it must have been the pressure and all, it caught the family by surprise when Susanne filed for the divorce. Now, many view Benny as a false prophet and an outright huckster- I don’t. I have major problems with the entire character of ‘ministry’ that platforms the Holy Spirits gifts in such a public way that draws great attention to the gifted person, the New Testament warns against various gifted people becoming the center of attention in the community of believers. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for centering their spiritual lives around the persona of any man [this would even include prominent well meaning pastors, who often don’t see this dynamic in our day-many feel it’s scriptural to have the life of the community centered around the weekly speaking gift of an individual, there really is no mandate in scripture for this. It’s okay for gifted leaders to teach, prophesy, function in some spiritual gift, but the New Testament does not show us a pattern of local churches centered around the office of any individuals gifts. One of the common mistakes church historians make is we read some of the 1st, 2nd century writings of the church fathers [Clement of Rome, Iraneus, etc.] and we see how the able bishop rebuked the Corinthians for not submitting to the ecclesiastical office of Bishop, the letter portrays the Corinthian church as a bunch of rebels who are rising up against the authority of the Bishop and other leaders. It’s usually assumed that the Corinthian church was at it again, ‘there goes those darn troublemakers’ type of a thing. But it’s very possible that the Corinthian community was heeding the admonition from their founding apostle [Paul] and were actually resisting the idea of allowing any singular authority to take a position that was contrary to what Paul wrote to them in his epistles!]. The main point is you can have legitimate gifts being expressed thru a person [prophecy, healing, or even the pastor/teacher gift of speaking] but if these gifts are being used in a way that draws undo attention to the individual; then it is a violation of the character of New Testament ministry, although the gift itself might be legitimate. I was watching an ‘apostle’ out of Newark one day on Christian TV; they are a Pentecostal group that are heavy into spiritual warfare. The main leader was dressed in military type garb [corporal, cornel stripes and all] and they were doing the best they could. An interesting thing was they were doing a teaching on Paul’s words ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty thru God to the pulling down of strongholds’ [Corinthians] and they actually taught it right! The apostle shared how many people mistake the meaning of the verse and apply it to strategic spiritual warfare prayer directed at territorial spirits and stuff like that. But the apostle explained how it was really speaking about apologetic type arguments that Christians make against the false ideas and strongholds of false doctrine. But then they went on to say that they arrived at this true understanding thru the apostolic gift of ‘revelation knowledge’ sort of like if it weren’t for the gift of the ‘apostle’ they would never have known this truth. I would venture to say that the majority of scholarly works that deal with this verse probably have it right; in the world of ‘intellectual Christianity’ [which is usually disdained by these independent type churches] most teachers knew this all along; we did not need the ‘gift of apostolic revelation knowledge’ to know this. Okay, the point being we have good people, who operate at times in true gifts, but also have a long way to go in growth and maturity. In the above example of Piper versus Hinn, I believe both of these men are good men, Piper comes from the baptist [reformed] tradition, Hinn from the charismatic wing. Maybe the Lord directed Benny to ‘keep on going, don’t slow down a bit’ and maybe Piper felt the Lord saying ‘slow down, take time off’ I just felt it striking that Piper was doing this because of what he sensed was the hidden sin of pride, no big scandal, just time to examine his soul. While Benny felt like ‘slowing down’ was not an option. These 2 examples give us a glimpse into the present day expression of church/ministry, and how we have all been affected by the times we live in.
(1412) IN DEFENSE OF JEREMIAH WRIGHT- Last night an interesting thing happened; as I was channel surfing the news shows I saw that Larry King had on a few ‘ex’ conservatives who are now under fire for their left wing leanings. These are traditional white guys basking in their new found social justice beliefs. I could only watch for a minute or so, it just came off as inauthentic. Then as I scrolled thru Fox, MSNBC, and a few of the CSPAN channels I came across a Tavis Smiley forum that was being held in Chicago. I was fixated for 2 hours [or more!] The panel included many of the famous Black progressives- Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Michael Eric Dyson, just to name a few [Rev. Wright was not there by the way] and in the center of the roundtable discussion there was a simple sign that said ‘love’. The amazing thing was though these men were espousing many of the same ideas as the white liberals on the Larry King show, yet I was not offended in the least. I listened intently to Farrakhan freely quoting scripture along with the Quran, he actually only quoted from the Quran one time, and he quoted the bible more than all the others. But the bible was also quoted freely thru out the discussion; many of the questioners from the audience also were pastors and Christians. Now, I have written on the Nation of Islam before [under the cults section] and I do not accept that religion as even a legitimate expression of Islam, so don’t take me wrong on this. It was the simple reality that these Black leaders would freely see their cause for racial justice tied in with scripture. Some did express the belief that the older Black church did hinder the Black people because of their ‘wait on the Lord’ attitude; but all in all they were up front and willing to speak what they felt was the truth in an open way. Tavis Smiley also brought out the fact that many Black leaders felt like doing a public forum discussing the short comings of the president would be wrong; many on the panel challenged the presidents ‘bi-racial’ stance in political matters. Many in the Black community feel like the president has let them down because he does not hold to the more radical ideas of Black justice. Overall it was an excellent discussion that I was glued to, and to repeat, there was absolutely no feeling of offense or animosity with any of the speakers. I found it odd that I couldn’t stomach a few minutes of the white guys on Larry King, but was enthralled for 2 hours with this forum. When Reverend Wright came under fire during the Obama campaign, he obviously was demonized by the media and the repeated showing of his statements that were wrong and offensive to many people [including Blacks]. Yet Wright comes from a Black liberation theological background, it’s in his DNA to challenge the current system of government and to see strains of the gospel in communistic type systems; he isn’t the first to embrace these beliefs. Many Catholic theologians in Latin American countries hold to the same ideas; the Catholic Church officially rejects this idea. One of the tragedies of the Black people is the fact that so many young Black kids make bad choices that land them in prison, many of these young men become effected with the Black Muslim leanings in the prison system; they are sold a bill of goods that simply is not true; if we really believe as Christians that Jesus is the only way, then how can we sit idly by and not be concerned over the Black exodus into Islam? Though I disagree with many of Rev. Wright’s ideas and beliefs, yet if I had the choice between sending my Black brother to the Nation of Islam or to Rev Wright’s church, I would choose Wright 7 days out of the week.
(1410) ‘But the Jews were so exasperated by HIS TEACHING, by which their rulers and chiefs were convicted by the truth…that at last they brought him before Pontius Pilate, at the time Roman governor of Syria, and, by the violence of their outcries against him, exhorting a sentence giving him up to them to be crucified’ Tertullian, [160-220 a.d.] church father from Carthage- North Africa. Proverbs tells us that wisdom was dwelling with God before the earth and hills were brought forth, that this wisdom from God rejoices with the father in the ‘habitable parts of the earth’. Jesus told the disciples that they were clean [set apart] by the words he had spoken unto them, that he chose them before the world was made to use them to bring forth fruit. In a sense God has pre-ordained a skill set of wisdom and understanding that he foresaw us communicating in time. He pre-planned this wisdom before the actual land/earth even existed! In each generation God has ‘set people’ whose job is to deposit these words/truths from God into a set area [city, nation, world]. It is thru the depositing of these words that others will be ‘set apart’-be made clean thru the words that we have spoken unto them. Be clean- how? The word also means being sanctified, that is God setting you apart in a specific way in order to carry out his purpose. When Nehemiah started out he had a burden for the city of his father’s that was broken down and destroyed, he then embarked on a special mission to a set pace to build, yes he had lots of resistance and opposition, but God called him to finish the task for a set season at a set time. Leaders, have you learned and heard things these past few years that have caused you to make course corrections? Were there things that you never saw until now that have affected the way you see God’s kingdom? These things are for the purpose of God to be fulfilled, he wants you to impact large ‘open spaces’ he has pre-planned areas for you to speak into, but he had to first set you apart, make you clean thru these words that he has spoken unto you.
(1405) THE APOSTLES CREED
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
HE SHALL SEE OF THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL AND SHALL BE SATISFIED; BY HIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFY MANY- Isaiah. This past year I have been doing some reading on the Emergent movement as well as always reading some book on the ancient church; there are many moderns who long for the old days, sometimes referred to as ‘the smells and bells’ liturgy. Then you have some who are drawn to 19th/20th century liberalism- the social gospel stuff. One thing that all these groups need to keep in mind is the classic message of the Cross, that God was ‘pleased to bruise his Son’ on the Cross [Isaiah 53]. Some in their efforts to make Christianity more acceptable to modern man began to reject this doctrine, the Atonement. Many are surprised to find out that one of the great evangelists of the first great awakening, Charles Finney, embraced some of these views in his writings. Today these views are deemed heretical [the denial of the Atonement] but at the time progressive thinking believers were affected by the charge of ‘how can a holy, loving God punish an innocent person on the behalf of other criminals’? So after hearing the charge for so long, some adjusted their belief to fit the times. There are some things that the church has said ‘I believe’ about; these things are the non negotiables; it’s not that we can’t discuss them, or should be afraid of others who do question them, but to say ‘yeah brother, I hear what you’re saying about these classic doctrines and I believe you are placing yourself outside of the borders of classic Christianity, I love you and like dialoging with you, but this is where I stand, along with the ancient church’. Many Protestants disdain the creeds of the church; they feel that they are simply tradition and that all we need is the bible. This attitude neglects the importance of listening to the council of our fathers and those who have gone on before us, a rule that scripture itself testifies about [Proverbs]. As the Evangelical movement struggles in our day for a unifying voice, I think the creeds are a good place to start.
(1404) UNLESS I AM CONVICTED BY THE TESTIMONY OF SACRED SCRIPTURE OR BY EVIDENT REASON [I DONOT ACCEPT THE AUTHORITY OF POPES AND COUNCILS, FOR THEY HAVE CONTRADICTED EACH OTHER], MY CONSCIENCE IS CAPTIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD. I CANNOT AND I WILL NOT RECANT ANYTHING, FOR TO GO AGAINST MY CONSCIENCE IS NEITHER RIGHT NOR SAFE. GOD HELP ME. AMEN- Martin Luther. This was the statement from Luther after previously questioning himself over his revolt in the church. The day before he was brought before the council and given the chance to recant his books. He acknowledged the books were his and said he needed time to think about recanting; Luther seriously questioned whether or not his revolt was going too far. The humanist Erasmus would write scathing criticisms against the Catholic Church, but would not join Luther in what he thought was a rebellious schism. It’s interesting to note that the pope of Luther’s day was actually quite a good pope [Leo] in Luther’s correspondence with him Luther regrets that the reform is happening under such a good pope. Luther will eventually call him the anti Christ! The interesting thing to note is in the midst of all the action and debate, Luther himself had questions. There were times when he thought other reformers were going too far. At one point Luther left the safety of a secluded castle hideout to return to the university at Wittenberg and reign in the radical teachings from the self proclaimed prophets who were teaching a total rebellion against the entire government of Germany; Luther said if the reformers do this, they will be siding with those who oppose law and government, things ordained by God. When the famous Peasant’s Revolt took place, Luther sided with the state and used harsh language in putting down the revolt. Many rebels saw Luther as the leader of their cause; they were shocked and disappointed when Luther would not join in their revolt. In all Christian controversies and debates there is always the danger of certain groups going too far in their view of things. While teaching on the true nature of the church [community of people] I have noticed that some mistake this teaching and embrace a radical anti clericalism and ‘anti church building’ mindset to the point where they are going to extremes at certain times. I admire Luther for his stance, after giving serious thought to whether or not he should recant and go the route of Erasmus, he chose to stay true to his conscience and lead the German reform movement till the end. In the current day, both Protestants and Catholics need to look at the past reasons for the protests, and allow room for unity where room exists. But to also acknowledge that there still exist official doctrines/statements from both sides that are quite difficult to reconcile; it is possible for Christian communions to work things out and truly achieve a greater degree of unity than what we have had in the past, but it’s also important for all sides to have a working knowledge of the differences. At the end of the day Luther sided with his conscience and what he felt to be true, the other side felt the same way- when working towards unity as believers we need to keep this in mind.
(1402) THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO, ASK THE FATHER FOR WHATEVER IS IN KEEPING WITH THE THINGS I’VE REVEALED TO YOU; ASK IN MY NAME AND ACCORDING TO MY WILL AND HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU. YOU’RE JOY WILL BE LIKE A RIVER OVERFLOWING IT’S BANKS- Jesus, message bible. In John 16 Jesus says the father will show us the things of the Son ‘all that the father has is mine, and he will take of mine and show it unto you’. I have been doing a little teaching on the nature of the church and how we as believers are affected by the way we ‘see church’. For instance in the bible the terms ‘where do you attend church’ ‘I am looking for a church to join’ ‘the tithe belongs to the local church’ all of these modern ways of viewing church are really not found in scripture. In the bible the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed, those in the local communities who believed were baptized and became openly identified with the Jesus movement. From that time forward these communities of believers would be referred to as ‘the church’- they were not looking for a church to join, choosing between a buffet of ‘meeting places’ in their respective locals, no, they were actually referred to as the church! Of course it’s fine for believers to meet in buildings and give money to ‘the church’ and all the contemporary things we usually associate with church, but a part of the ministry of the Spirit is he takes what is Jesus’ and shows it unto us; he reveals the nature of the church to us [the church being the Body of Christ, his Body]. Recently I did some blogging at a Christianity Today article on Scot McKnight’s critique of Brain McLaren’s latest book. I Like Scot and have read McLaren. One of the critiques of Brian by Scot [of a previous book] Is Scot felt like McLaren left out Ecclesiology while talking Kingdom. While I do not defend Brian’s works [too much rejection of orthodoxy] yet in this area I think Scot may be confusing contemporary ideas of church [ecclesiology] with the idea of church in scripture. For instance, many theologians teach that Jesus really had no ‘ecclesiology’ in his teaching [or very little] and that Jesus preached a Kingdom message that was different than the church, I think this idea is wrong/limited. It is in the preaching of the reality of the kingdom of God, and the people of God actually doing kingdom works, it is in this atmosphere that true church occurs; people are begin called out of the world unto Christ and these people are becoming the church. It’s really a matter of fully grasping the nature of the kingdom alongside the reality of what church means in the bible. Now, I think modern expressions of church are okay. Much of my criticism of modern church has a lot to do with losing the real message of Jesus in the bible and having replaced it with a modern success gospel, but there are some mega church expressions that are utilizing all the modern means of communicating while at the same time holding true to biblical teaching. Mark Driscoll pastors Mars Hill church in Seattle, Mark teaches historic reformed theology in a contemporary setting. So the reality of the church being much more than we usually understand, does not mean that every modern expression of meeting in huge buildings should be condemned. The point today is Jesus wants to reveal to us much more than we have seen up until this part of the journey. When we ‘see more’ it usually brings with it adjustments and changes that at times can be difficult; I want to encourage all of our Pastor/Leaders to be open to the ministry of the Spirit in the area of him revealing to us the nature of the church, there are many learned men [Kluck, McKnight, Galli, etc.] who I think are not fully seeing what the more mature Organic church movement is really saying, we also need to be careful not to write off the historic church in one fell swoop- both of these extremes do not help the church in the long run.
(1395) GLTB community [might have left a letter out?] Last night I caught an interview on CNN with a transgender person. Tonight they will be doing a special on him called ‘my name was Stephen’ he has ‘transitioned’ and is now living as a woman. Then the next show [Anderson Cooper] interviewed Chas [former Chastity] Bono, the daughter of Sony and Cher who also is transgender. A few years ago I saw a documentary on a phenomenon where people had this compulsion, sometimes from as long as they can remember, to want to rid themselves of a limb. The interesting thing was many of these people came from various backgrounds and had no idea that others too grappled with ‘this feeling’. Eventually a community formed around them to affirm them and tell them there really is nothing wrong with them, after all many others have struggled with the same feelings from their youth, so it must be an identity thing. During the show they interviewed family members who dealt with the fact that many of their loved ones went thru with these desires and found ways to get their limbs amputated [freezing them to the point where the ER had no choice but to amputate the limb]. One person who finally gave in to ‘who he really was’ found out that after the first amputation, yes he felt a sense of relief, sort of like ‘well, I was told by many others that it was the answer to my problem, so I did it’ he was later interviewed and described how he eventually sought counseling and he now realizes that both his desires, and the good intentions of others who tried to affirm his desires, were actually very damaging. Others felt affirmed in their acceptance of his desires, but they really did not realize that their acceptance and encouraging was actually harmful. He said that after the first amputation, some time elapsed and he began having a desire to amputate another limb. He thanks God that a good counselor treated this disorder and he is happy he stopped at limb one. In the interview with the transgender person it showed how he went for many years without any inkling of wanting to go from man to woman, then one day he watched a show and they espoused this belief as the answer to some people’s problems. This idea stuck in his head and through the process of time he acted on it. His son and wife dealt with it the best they could, but it no doubt affected his entire life. They went thru the whole procedure of surgeries and hormone treatments and dealing with severe depression [and a high suicide rate] that many of these people deal with, and yet the whole flavor of the show was geared towards saying it was societies fault [church, morals] that has caused these people to feel unwanted. There was really no thought given to the possibility that these decisions, acting out on years of feelings, might in the long run solve nothing and actually lead to more problems. In so many words the psychologist who was also interviewed admitted that the depression rate is almost 100 % after the ‘transition’ is made. How should we as believers respond? In John 13 Jesus is with his men at the last supper, he takes a towel and begins to wash the disciples feet, Peter gets upset ‘No way Jesus, I won’t let you wash my feet’! Jesus says ‘Peter, if you don’t let me wash you, you have no part with me’. Then Peter says ‘fine, give me an entire bath’ and Jesus says he really only needs to admit that sometimes in life we need foot washings, not entire body makeovers! Some in the progressive church are trying honestly to deal with these issues by saying ‘they don’t need a foot washing, that’s the way God made them’ they are trying to be affirming towards people with struggles, but in the long run this affirmation will not work. Imagine trying that with the brother who kept ‘feeling’ that it was right to amputate his limbs! Jesus shows us that all people get defiled in life, whether a person’s struggle is with a sexual identity issue, or a heterosexual issue, we all have times where we need to go to Jesus for cleansing. It might very well be that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will struggle and stumble in life with these things. We should help them ‘get clean’ even if it’s a life time struggle. But to espouse the idea of the world that says the answer is to affirm them in their sin, this is neither helpful to them nor the biblical thing to do. When the religious conservatives brought the woman in adultery to Jesus, Jesus received the woman; he accepted and did not reject her. He also told her to sin no more, he empowered her not by saying the lifestyle she was living was okay, but by telling her ‘yes, I love you, and this lifestyle you think is fulfilling you is not- you must let me wash you from it’. I know these issues are hot button issues, and I know many well meaning Christians are presently trying to work thru these issues, but the fact is many who have been told ‘to keep resisting this desire, to not give in to it is living a lie’, they are being misled. They are told year after year that to give in to whatever temptation they are facing would be the answer, this simply is not true. Many will eventfully find the same struggles all over again [remove another limb?] and finally realize that in life there are times when yes, our feet get dirty- we might fall and struggle for many years, but Jesus said you could still have a part with him, if you let him wash your feet- if you keep coming back, 70 times 7, he will keep working with you. The tragic thing is many of these precious people are told that this struggle, to keep trying to overcome, is not being open and honest, they are told this at times by the church. My brethren, we ought not to do these things.
(1388) 1, 2 MANY BISHOPS? In John chapter 6 Jesus is confronting the religious leaders, they are always appealing to some ancient hero of the faith [Moses, Abraham] and they are doing it in a way that violates the supremacy of Jesus. Jesus tells them ‘look, you guys are always appealing to the writings of Moses, if you really believed in the guy you would have also believed in me- he wrote about me!’ In ‘blog world’ there has been a scuffle over an overseas church that many have labeled as a cult. On the site ‘religion news blog’ they have been doing an expose’. The church is led by a man who calls himself a Bishop and one of his satellite churches had a Pastor walk out and split the church. The coverage of the ministry that I have read seems to place them in the prosperity/apostolic covering type movement. I have written on this before and have always felt that there were too many independent churches-ministries claiming ‘apostolic authority’ and these well intentioned people have crossed the line when it comes to the freedom of the individual believer’s conscience. Many are famous for rebuking ‘the maverick spirit’ while at the same time they seem to be totally mavericks themselves! In the above case I think the religious site went too far in calling them a cult. I have read from this site in the past and they are run by fine Catholic Christians, but they are too quick to holler ‘cult’. I personally do not recommend these types of church movements, but avoid the cult label. I also read an article a while back written by a leader in one of the more historic churches, they were rebuking the rapid spread of these types of churches thru out the world. The leader said they were sprouting up like wild fire, all with their self proclaimed bishops, who were basically starting their own independent churches and everyone in the organization is ordaining everyone else as a bishop, the leader saw this as a major problem. What exactly does the bible teach about this? The words for ‘bishop, overseer and elder’ in the bible seem to speak of the same office. Though different Greek words are used, most scholars agree that they seem to be used interchangeably. One thing we know for sure is in the New Testament there were no Bishops in the sense of an ecclesiastical authority over a number of churches. This developed over time and my purpose here is not to get into the whys and how’s this happened, I am not ‘anti clergy’ in that I reject the modern role today [in the historic churches]. Does the bible have any office that does show an extra local authority? Yes, the apostle Paul had a very effective oversight ministry to most of the churches we read about in the New Testament. So the idea of a church planting ministry to have a number of ‘satellite churches’ is okay. The Catholic Church has Bishops in the Cathedral cities who oversee the entire region. I live In Corpus Christi; the cathedral for this south Texas region for the Catholics is located in my city. San Antonio has another region. While living in New Jersey, Saint Patrick’s was the Cathedral in N.Y. that covered the region. So you have different views and out workings of how bishops work. The thing I would warn about is when these bishops [the independent ones] seem to teach a strong type of ‘covering’ authority over people. Many of these movements [sometimes referred to as the shepherding, discipleship movement] teach a controlling type spirit that has the main apostle as the person that the community submits to, but it is done in a way that violates the freedom that we see in the New Testament. The religious folk of Jesus day were enamored with Moses, to the point where they were never fully able to move on to Jesus as being the true authority figure that they would submit to, I think we could all learn from their mistake.
(1387) FOR THE FATHER HAS LIFE IN HIMSELF, AND HAS GIVEN TO THE SON TO HAVE LIFE IN HIMSELF; AND HAS GIVEN HIM AUTHORITIY TO EXECUTE JUDGMENT ALSO- In John chapter 5 one of the statements that irks the religious leaders is Jesus calling God his father- thus making himself equal with God. Those who doubt the deity of Christ should look at the way the religious leaders viewed him, they knew that he claimed equality with God. In some of the recent musings on the liberal ideas of ‘the evolution of God’ [those who see the church evolving in her view of God as time goes by] I want to say a few things. First, the incarnation is Gods way of saying ‘yes, your view of me was limited, the very fact that the incarnation is the full revealing of myself to man, shows that man never had the complete [full] view of me yet’. So in a sense, yes, our view of God ‘evolved’ [so to speak] from the wrathful God of the Old Testament to the merciful God of the New Testament. Now, are these contrary views of God? No. Are they views like some in the early days of the church taught- that the God of the Old Testament was a different God than the God of the New [Marcion and other Gnostic cults]? No. But our view of God from the Old Testament is a view of Gods holiness and judgment apart from the grace of the New Covenant. He is the same God, seen absent the Cross [for the most part, yet we do see Gods attribute of mercy even in the Old Testament]. Now, without getting off track too much, in the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the complete picture of God to us; Colossians says that ALL the fullness of the God head dwelt in Jesus bodily. We never had this fleshly reality of God before- the apostle John will say ‘we handled the word of life’ [1st Jn]. A few weeks back while watching an apologetic show I mentioned how some of the staunch apologists were labeling the UPC [united Pentecostal churches] as a cult because of their unique view of the oneness of God. The apologists at one point quoted the verse ‘all things were made by him’ referring to Jesus, and said ‘therefore Jesus is God’ true. But they were trying to combat the UPC brothers by using this verse, the apologists were using it in a way that said ‘see, Jesus created everything too, just like it says about God’ sort of in a disconnected way. In John 1 we read that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. In Genesis we read that God ‘spoke’ all things into existence. Jesus in the New Testament is called ‘the word of God’ to try and simplify it, when Colossians says ‘all things were made by him’ it does not mean that Jesus created things separately from God, it means God spoke and that ‘the vehicle’ of creation was the Son. The act of God’s word [also called Jesus] going forth created all things. God did not create separately from the Son, or the Son from the father. I really loathe teaching this stuff because church history is filled with names that get tagged on all the various views of explaining the oneness of God while at the same time upholding the reality of the Trinity. The main point today is mans view of God did ‘evolve’ in a sense, it became fully revealed in Jesus. Now the liberal view of the evolution of God is something different than this, but I wanted to make clear that if the only view of God is seen thru the Old Testament, than yes we are not ‘fully’ seeing God, the full view comes thru Jesus. We reject the Marcion idea of 2 different Gods, the Gnostic belief that the God of the Old Testament was the God of matter and thus an evil God, while the God of the new testament is the spirit God- this is true heresy, but as Christians we accept the incarnation as the complete picture and revelation of God to man. This in no way negates the wrath of God [eternal judgment] but it tempers it with mercy.
(1386) DROP THE BED [AND GIVE ME THE WINGS] – I was reading a news story about a Dominoes guy who was robbed; the brothers who robbed him found out he had no money on him, so one of them said ‘just give me the wings’, now that’s a brother that I could go easy on if I was on the jury. Recently I made a few comments on line dealing with the Emergent movement and stuff, all things I have written on before. Though I have been both critical and at times supportive of certain aspects of the movement, I felt some who also made comments were not leaving enough ‘room’ [grace] for the author of the book being critiqued. In John chapter 5 Jesus heals the guy at the pool of Bethesda and he tells him ‘take up your bed and walk’- take up my bed! That’s the reason I have not been able to get healed by making it into the water after the angel troubles the water, I mean if I could walk I wouldn’t be in this dilemma. The poor brother didn’t realize that he was talking straight to the source ‘forget about the angel thing, I am the Messiah man! Take up the bed now’ the man walks. Now that’s a real miracle, something that we could all be happy about, right? Not. The religious folk saw the man and their first response was ‘who in the heck told you to carry that darn bed on the Sabbath’? They immediately saw the perceived violation of their religious point of view, the bible says ‘they sought to kill him’. What! The same 10 commandments that speak about keeping the Sabbath has a little bit to say about killing people too. Sometimes we as believers [defenders of the faith] need to be able to look past the things we perceive as wrong- now there are times where we take a stand and say ‘enough is enough’ but there are also times where we need to ask ourselves if we are just looking for some guy carrying his bed- the person who seems to be violating one of our ideas. There is a difference between true rejecters of Jesus, and people who believe in Jesus but are coming at stuff from a different point of view. To shoot a pizza delivery boy in a robbery is a serious crime, to say ‘give me the wings’ I don’t know.
(1383) WHEN PEOPLE REALIZE IT IS THE LIVING GOD YOU ARE PRESENTING AND NOT SOME IDOL THAT MAKES THEM FEEL GOOD, THEY ARE GOING TO TURN ON YOU- Jesus, message bible. In keeping with the above comment [those reading from the ‘most recent- teaching section’] let’s talk a little. Some authors have reintroduced some of the more liberal versions of Christianity and it’s good for people to be aware of the pros and cons. Recently I received a teaching catalog from an excellent company called ‘the teaching company’ as I perused the courses they had some really good stuff; I ordered and have already started on a course on Einstein and Quantum theory [Physics] I love the course and these teachings http://and%20book are really at the university level. But I have noticed an area where the able professor is mistaken; he says ‘the universe is ruled-governed BY CHANCE’. Now, I know what he means, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is violating the laws of logic and reasoning by making this assumption [by the way this professor is also a philosopher, he should know better!]. Basically you can say ‘there are causes, things happening in the material realm that we are unaware of, as of now we have no definite identified cause’ but to say that ‘chance’ itself is the ruling agency is nonsense. The point being we should all have some background before accepting anyone’s teaching 100%. So in some of the recent Christian teaching some have resurrected the older liberal theories that arose in the 19th century out of the universities in Germany. Some teachers taught that the first 5 books of the bible couldn’t have been written by Moses because at the time of Moses writing was unpopular, and that the concept of ‘codified law’ was foreign, and that the commandment against idols was ‘too advanced’ for Moses to have written down around 14-1500 BC. So these liberal theories espoused a sort of view of God and religion that was ‘evolving’ over time. Von Harnack, Wellhausen, the philosopher Hegel all advanced this view [sometimes referred to as the documentary theory]. Well as time rolled on and we became more proficient in archaeology, low and behold we found out that 3-500 years before Moses societies were advanced enough to write down laws. The famous code of Hammurabi was discovered, it was a law code with 282 specific laws written down; something that supposedly was never done at the time. So how did the liberal theologians respond? ‘You are right, Moses very well could have written down the 10 commandments around 1500 BC, as a matter of fact we now think he copied it from Hammurabi’! Yikes! You see when people exalt their view-theory above the actual evidence, then you have problems. It’s not to say that we should blackball their ideas, it’s just we need to know that some of these ideas have been around for a while and they have been fairly well debunked by other able theologians. Just because a ‘new’ theory sounds interesting, doesn’t mean it’s correct. In the teaching course catalog that the teaching company sent me, they also have stuff on the bible and early Christianity and theology. I did not order those courses because I am familiar with the theology of the professor [Bart Erhman] and though I’m sure he is a good man, I know he espouses views that are really not in keeping with mainstream thought. Now, if I had the teachings already, sure I would work the course, but I won’t spend a few hundred dollars on stuff that I already am aware of and have rejected. The point today is historic orthodox Christianity has answered many of the critics questions over the years, it’s not ‘wicked’ for a teacher/writer to reintroduce some of these ideas all over again, but people need to be aware that these things have been floating around for a while and the historic orthodox view is really the better [more historically reliable] view. Yes, momma and daddy’s church, old fashioned as it may be, probably had it right all along!
[just a comment I left on Scot McKnight’s review of Brian McLaren’s latest book- can read it on line at Christianity Today magazine] Is it possible that Brian leaves out the atonement because the classical view seems to not fit with the more advanced [evolved] view of God? The problem with those who do theology from a sort of philosophical/historical lens is that they often find themselves in conflict with biblical theology. I like Brian [somewhat] and appreciate his stance on social issues, I just don’t think we need to ‘re-shape’ orthodox Christian theology to get to the place where he seems to want to go.
(1382) IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD; AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD- John 1:1 Jesus is called ‘The Word’, the Greek word for ‘word’ is Logos. In the first century this word was common among the philosophers, it stood for a sort of overriding principle that would explain and bring together all the fields of science and learning, the same obsession of Einstein in his search for a unified theory. The philosophers believed that there had to be some type of base principle of truth that would bring together all the other fields of wisdom and learning. In essence John was saying ‘This is it, we have found the Logos- the answer to everything- his name is Jesus!’ It’s always difficult to teach these types of verses, they are fraught with only seeing one aspect of what God is saying, and then dividing lines are drawn between the Christian camps. I was having a conversation yesterday with a person who was asking questions about a Muslim friend who used to be a Christian. The Muslim said that he wanted a religion that he could understand, that God is the only God and Jesus is not God. I explained the best I could and shared this verse and a few others, but I also explained that various ‘Christian’ groups have argued over the way to express the deity of Jesus for centuries. There are groups that say ‘Yes, Jesus is the redeemer, he is Gods Son, but only God is God’. From the catholic bishop Arius in the 4th century all the way up to the Unitarians in Boston in the 20th century, people have debated the language we use. I explained to my friend that the bible clearly does teach us that Jesus is God, but I do see how people have problems with the language. But I told my friend that for a person to use the difficulty over the Trinity to embrace Islam is going way too far in my view. I mean the fact that someone has a problem with the wording of the Trinity should not mean you abandon all the realities of redemption and Christianity and embrace a movement that was started by a ‘prophet’ who killed and murdered and had ‘many women’, I mean no other prophets ever had a track record like that! As we read the rest of John chapter 1 we see how John the Baptist says he came to bear witness, to give a record of Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’. The religious leaders come to John and ask him ‘who are you, we need an answer to bring back to the authorities, the movers and shakers of our day’ John says ‘I am the voice of one man crying in the wilderness, get ready, the lord is on his way’. John quoted Isaiah 40, he is also said to be the prophetic voice that Malachi spoke about- the Elijah that was to come. Johns only significance was in the fact that he was chosen by God to trumpet the reality of the Messiah, his purpose was not about him or his prophetic gifts, his purpose was to proclaim the last true prophet [in the sense of Hebrew messengers who came down the line- see Hebrews chapter 1] and John the Baptist said ‘this is the one, the one whom the Spirit descended on- he’s going to baptize you guys with the Spirit’ [and fire!]. John testified that Jesus was the end of the line for promised Messiahs, he was the ONE. Why look we for another?
(1377) Last night I caught a good program on Christian apologetics. Apologetics is the term used to describe the ministry of those who contend for ‘the faith’. In the early church you had men like Justin Martyr who defended the nascent church from those who would accuse her of wicked things [like cannibalism! A misreading of the Lords supper]. The show last night had a bunch of apologists that dealt with cults; they included the main ones as well as some Christian branches of Pentecostalism. They critiqued the UPC [untied Pentecostal churches] as a cult because of her unique view of the ‘oneness’ of God as seen thru Jesus. Now, I have written on this before [under the Trinity section] and don’t want to explain it again, but I do want to examine the way believers view other churches. During the program the able apologists used lots of wording from the early creeds and councils; Subordinationism, Monarchianism, Modalism, etc. These are all words I am familiar with and have used on this site, as a believer who loves to study church history I understand where these men are coming from. But at one point it seemed as if they were critiquing certain aspects of other churches, sincere believers who have certain views that they have developed thru their reading of the bible, and that these apologists were really not giving a fair shake to these other groups. You also had both the cults and some of the more extreme restorationist groups [restorationism refers to those Christian groups who reject the Protestant Reformation as being ‘the offspring’ of the Catholic church and view their faith thru the idea that we should return to the original sources, primarily the book of Acts, and start from scratch] share the view that the historic Orthodox churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed] were basically pagan expressions of Christianity and their creeds and councils usurped the word of God. I believe there are real expressions of Christianity found in all of the above [excluding the actual cults] and that the Christian church should know the historic creeds and councils, but also be willing to see how these other Christian groups have come to form their opinions thru actual scripture. I mean at one point there were so many categories being quoted by the apologists to refute the Pentecostal view, that they weren’t really allowing the scriptures to be the final authority on the matter [I agreed more with the apologists, being I am one myself, but at the same time sensed too mush rigidness]. I also believe it’s dangerous for any Christian group to leave the impression that most other historic expressions of Christianity are out right pagan. Overall we all need grace when dealing with others that we disagree with, yes there are times when we need to take a strong stand on stuff and let the chips fall where they may, but at the end of the day we should be striving for unity as much as possible.
(1372) JOHN 17:1-7 Jesus said his hour has come, ‘glorify me with the glory which I had with you before the world was. I have manifested your name [who you are] to the men that you gave to me, they were your men and you gave them to me. They have received the words that you gave me, and they know for sure that the things that I taught them came from you.’ There is an element in Christian ministry/teaching when the rubber meets the road, after a period of time people either say ‘you know, I believe what he is saying is accurate’ or when you say ‘enough, I really can’t take this anymore’. Now Jesus will also tell us later in the chapter ‘I have kept the men you gave me, but Judas had to fall away for the scriptures to be fulfilled’ Jesus also dealt with the pain of losing one of his guys. A while back I read an article about a famous evangelical in the UK, he made some waves by referring to the Mother of Jesus in a sort of Catholic way [I forget the exact wording] but he got some heat over it. While trying to defend his new view of becoming more open to the Catholic Church, he said ‘I am as sure about this as I was about the truth of the prosperity movement’ not too comforting for me. The point though is Protestants have a tendency to journey thru the Christian life in sort of a haphazard way, we often see a certain viewpoint about some doctrine [whether true or not] and that becomes what we teach the people, then we see another thing and that becomes the next road. Too often the individualism of the Protestant way of approaching Gods kingdom has us ‘revealing to them the next new thing coming down the pike’ as opposed to saying with Jesus ‘I have manifested thy name unto the men which you gave me’. We have all been put here with a predetermined purpose from God, we can’t say ‘glorify me with the glory which I had with you [father] before the world was’ but we can say ‘father, carry out the purpose that you gave to me before the world was, that eternal purpose that you destined me for, before I ever existed’ we need to grasp a better hold on the purpose of God for our lives. We need to stop following people, even good intentioned people, thru all their ups and downs and highs and lows of new experiences and teachings; in Ephesians Paul said the purpose of us being ‘a body/community’ was so we could be built up and not be tossed around by every whim and new doctrine that people come up with. The ‘Body’ imagery speaks of the people of God as a worldwide community, a living corporate being whom God indwells. When we hear and grow with the ‘whole church- of all time’ then we do well, when we follow too closely individual men/teachers we spend too much time going up and down.
(1368) FOR HE LOOKED FOR A CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD- Hebrews. In keeping with the last post, let’s talk some more on the debate between Evolution and Design. When the able Stephen Barr shot the round that was heard around the world [at least the world of IDer’s] he made some good points, even though I disagree strongly with the way he represented the other able scientists in the field. One day I had a talk with a geologist, it was a happenstance meeting [friend of my daughter] and during a normal friendly conversation I brought up many of the opposing views to ‘uniformitarianism’ and the challenges to a ‘deep time’ geology. While not a young earther myself, I found it amazing that this scientist was totally unaware of any opposing viewpoints to the standard theories. In the halls of academia the majority opinion is without a doubt that of Darwinian Evolution, it is also true that many people [even scientists!] are really not familiar with all the data [lots of data!] that challenge the standard view; many have come to challenge the basic Darwinian timeline [thus punctuated equilibrium] and have admitted that the tremendous ‘gap’ in the fossil record, along with the discovery of high complexity in the most simple cell, that these scientific discoveries have made it difficult to accept the Darwinian idea. Now the adherents of Evolutionary theory accuse the IDer’s of resorting to a ‘God of the gaps’ excuse. That is they claim that all the IDer’s are doing is finding places in the record that have no explanations [information, complex machines, etc.] and are inserting ‘God’ into these gaps. The Evolutionists say ‘given enough time, maybe we will find naturalistic explanations to fit the gaps’. And they claim that any ‘gap theory’ actually hinders scientific discovery, because it has a tendency to say ‘well, might as well stop looking for a naturalistic cause, God just filled the gap’. First, the IDer’s are not saying that because we have run across unanswered difficulties, lets stick God in there. What they are saying [for the most part] is that observable data [science] show us, in every case, that when you have complex systems that are ‘irreducible’ and stored data/info at the most simple level; that these facts point to an intelligent mind having been the cause of these things. Now, Stephen Barr and Francis Beckwith [two of the main scientists/philosophers in the debate] do not reject the idea that yes, an intelligent mind is behind the design/info, what they are saying is it’s still possible that science will discover a ‘naturalistic’ explanation/mechanism to it. That is God might have created some other unknown mechanism that is simple [or complex] that can be credited with bringing into existence the design/info. They are simply arguing that it’s possible, and not in contradiction with historic Christianity, to embrace this view. Barr also seems to be saying ‘yes, it is very possible that we will never find a reasonable, naturalistic explanation for this, and at that point the IDer’s might be right, but then you jump out of the field of science [observable data] and carry the argument into another classroom’. I believe the ‘God of the gaps’ accusation is erroneous, I also believe that far too many adherents to Evolutionary theory are not giving the proper weight to the gaps, some are not even aware of them! Thomas Aquinas is sometimes misunderstood and is said to have advocated a secular/religious division in apologetics; that is some say he taught that the natural sciences and religious truth were 2 totally different fields, sort of like the thought of Emanuel Kant [Physical/Metaphysical division] but Thomas taught that science could show us many truths about God, just because you have naturalistic explanations to things, this does not discount the Divine hand- but he also taught that science could only go so far down that road- for instance it would take many years to arrive at a naturalistic proof of Gods being, while revelation [thru tradition and scripture] could get you there quicker. Also science can prove that God exists [prime mover] but for truths on the nature of God [Trinity] you need revelation. So Aquinas leaves room for science to go so far, and if it ‘hits a gap’ then yes, you have every right to carry the argument into ‘another classroom’ so to speak. It is not wrong to say ‘yes, we are searching for a city, one that has been built by God’ but to also recognize that the city has foundations [whether discovered thru naturalistic or religious truth]; both seekers can be on the right track, arriving at different times/ways.
(1367) IS ‘I.D.’ DEAD? I read an article the other day on ID [intelligent design] it was written by an able scientist, Stephen Barr, and it severely challenged the science of ID. ID is a field of study that would fit under the apologetic category of ‘teleology’ the argument for the existence of God from design. That is we see design in the cosmos, in living things, etc. And all evidence indicates that design/information cannot randomly appear without an intelligent mind as the source. Many have challenged this idea; Richard Dawkins [the famous atheist] calls it ‘the appearance of design’. In the field of ID, many very capable scientists [Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Michael Behe] and others [lawyer Phillip Johnson] have shown us that you can ‘use’ evolution as a tool to try and explain how things got here, but as a tool it is utterly helpless in showing us where design/information actually come from. Sometimes this argument is referred to as ‘irreducible complexity’. That you can simplify things down to the most basic form of life, and even at that level you have an extremely high degree of information [DNA] that evolution has no way of explaining how this information got there [this field is called information theory]. So the basic argument from the ID standpoint is science shows us that evolution is not the answer to the origin of life [which Darwin never claimed it was- he claimed it was how species got here, thus the 1859 book ‘on the origin of the species’]. Yet most average students of science [high school stuff] think that evolution is a proven theory that has answered these questions. If the truth be known the more we learn, the less likely evolutionary theory will answer these questions. Now in the article the Christian scientist challenged the other Christian scientists over the validity of ID. Science has various definitions; the actual word simply means knowledge. But some say unless you can demonstrate a repeatable experiment in the lab, that it’s not technically science. Yet evolution, in all of its efforts to demonstrate the most basic plank of its theory, has failed miserably. Science has not been able to demonstrate how one species can change into another [common ancestry] the many hundreds of thousands of poor fruit flies who have been genetically engineered in trying to get this to happen, has failed over and over again. Science can’t even demonstrate the most basic plank of evolution, never mind all the other impossible things that evolution supposedly does. So if the truth be known, according to this definition of science, neither evolution nor ID work. But this is not the only way to define science, when dealing with origins [how things get here] you can never find a theory that can be viable according to the definition of ‘repeated, observable testing’- creation itself is not a repeatable event [unless of course God decides to create something!] The article stirred up a hornets’ nest among both sides of the debate [the article is on the catholic site ‘first things’ you can also link to it from Christianity Today- it’s called the death of ID]. As you read some of the debate it can get a little Ivory Tower, but for the most part it’s a good debate to have and many well informed points have been made by both sides, I would encourage all of our readers to go check it out.
(1365) THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT- I was reading Mark’s account of the last supper. The disciples realize the importance of keeping the ancient feast day and they ask Jesus ‘where do you want us to prepare the meal’? Just a chapter earlier they were glorying in all the ‘holy buildings’ of the temple and Jesus told them ‘see all these wonderful places- there shall not be one stone left upon another when all is said and done’- ouch! But now he seems to need a building, or at least a place to sit down and eat. He tells his men ‘go into town and you will meet some guy carrying a water container, follow him into the house and ask the master where the room is, he will show you a large upper room, all furnished- that’s the spot’. Jesus didn’t need to spend any money on building his own temple; he knew the voluntary community would provide places to meet. They sit down and he tells them ‘understand, this is the New Testament, the new ‘oath’ the scroll of redemption that John will write about in Revelation, it is being purchased with my Blood’ they seemed to not comprehend what he was saying. He often made statements that went right over their heads- then he quotes another one of those obscure prophetic scriptures that nobody seemed to focus on ‘the chief one will be smitten and the sheep will be scattered’ [Zechariah] he tells them ‘see, the prophets said you guys are going to be scattered, be offended and deny me’. Peter says ‘what! No way Jesus, maybe these other guys but not me’. Poor old peter, Jesus says ‘buddy, you will be one of the worst’. Man things don’t seem to be going good at this point, I mean when the leader of a community is about to face his toughest test yet, the last thing he needs is a bunch of offended staff! Nevertheless he takes with him Peter, James and John and they head off to the garden, you know the place where they crush olives to get the precious oil, very prophetic indeed. Jesus tells the guys ‘stay here while I go and pray’. He walks a little further and falls down and is in agony ‘Father, all things are possible with thee, I know I have come for this purpose in my life, but please, if there is another way to accomplish this, then let’s go the other route’. Who knows, maybe the father will do something that no one expects? He goes back to his men, hey maybe they will say ‘wow Jesus, as you were praying Moses and Elijah appeared to us, like before- and they told us ‘the father said there’s another way’. But instead Jesus finds them sleeping! What, you guys couldn’t even pray with me for an hour? I’m here pouring out my life for you, giving it all I got, and I was hoping that the 3 years I invested in training you might have had better results, you guys are letting me down. This happens 2 more times and Jesus says ‘enough, go ahead and sleep, I’m going to have to die and seal this scroll in my Blood- after 3 days I will be back and go before you into Galilee, but these will be the longest 3 days in the history of man’. Of course we know the rest of the story. As the church worldwide enters into Lent, let’s remember the price that Jesus paid for the New Testament signed in his Blood, as Protestants and Catholics let’s celebrate the historic churches 40 day season of fasting and prayer, you don’t have to do a ‘full fast’ maybe just a Vegan type fast, which was what the early church practiced, but let’s try and be a little more appreciative of the price that was paid so the ‘table’ could be set. Jesus said ‘this is my Blood, the whole thing rides on me’ he met the challenge and redeemed the world, may the world be grateful for it.
(1364) MANY SHALL COME IN MY NAME SAYING ‘I AM CHRIST’ AND SHALL DECIEVE MANY- Jesus, Marks gospel. Many years ago while reading thru this portion of scripture I saw this verse from a different angle; instead of seeing it like a false prophet claiming himself to be Christ [Sun Yung Moon] I saw it applying to many well meaning preachers who come in Jesus name and confess him as Christ, but yet are prone to propagating errors in an unconscious way. They say ‘Yes, we believe Jesus is Christ’ and yet mess up in other areas. I remember hearing a ‘revelation word’ [EKK!] on God’s creation of Woman. It went like this- Wo-Man means ‘wombed man’ and that after God made man, he then made woman [another man] and put a womb on him, thus the term ‘wombed man’. You might be laughing right now, but this silly way of interpreting the bible has been repeated over and over again on national TV networks where the network leaders agreed with the teacher and saw it as some deep truth, then the poor audience of millions is encouraged to give more millions so the word can be sent out into all the world. Basically well meaning people teaching fake stuff to the world, over and over again. Now, does ‘woman’ mean ‘wombed man’? No. Our bibles were primarily written in Hebrew and Greek, when these words are translated into English, the way the English word sounds has nothing at all to do with the actual meaning of the word. I mean this is very basic hermeneutics [way of interpreting scripture] so how can it be that a very ‘uneducated’ way of teaching would be broadcast to the whole world when even the most basic bible student knows it’s wrong? One of the great benefits of the 16th century Reformation was the return of interpreting the bible in a ‘literal sense’- now, many Protestants are confused by this term. Literal sense means the bible should be read as actual literature, like if you were reading history or poetry or any other book. So when you are reading portions of the bible that are historical narrative, you take it as history. When reading portions of poetry, you read it like you would read any poetry- in a literal sense, not taking the actual poetry as history! Like when the Psalms speaks of the hills skipping or the trees clapping their hands, you don’t take it literally in the sense that the trees have actual hands. This hermeneutic was not new, but it was a minority way of viewing scripture during the middle ages. Many teachers at the time were influenced strongly by the early Greek idea of scripture having 4 different ways it could be understood. Each passage having a moral, symbolic, literal meaning. In the third century you had the famous school in Alexandria, Egypt. This was the first ‘Christian school’ where you could learn theology and philosophy. One of the famous teachers was Origen, he was heavily influenced by a man by the name of Plotinus- a philosopher credited with the founding of a philosophy called ‘Neo Platonism’. This Greek philosophical way of seeing things impacted not only Origen [and many other Greek fathers] but also the highly influential Saint Augustine. So for many centuries you had very respected church teachers hold to this highly symbolic way of reading the bible. It’s important to note that when reading Augustine, if you are reading his earlier works they are more heavily influenced by Greek philosophy than his later works. Near the end of his life Augustine re-evaluated all of his former works and wrote a paper called ‘retractions’ in which he cleared up some of his earlier stuff. Anyway the Protestant Reformation returned the church to a more solid way of reading scripture. But ‘literal sense’ does not mean you take the portions of scripture that are poetic or symbolic and turn them into history! During the rise of ‘liberalism’ in the 19th century you had many holding to a view of scripture that rejected all the supernatural portions of the bible as ‘myth’. The story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale was considered a ‘well meaning’ story, but just a story. Was it only the ‘liberal’ theologians that rejected the historical truth of Jonah? No, you also have well grounded teachers that too take Jonah in a non historical way. Why? The book of Jonah starts out as historical narrative, but then you have portions [Jonahs prayer in the belly of the whale] that are a very high from of poetry. Does this mean the story didn’t really happen? No, but some good theologians would doubt the history of Jonah based on this [I don’t]. The whole point being when we read the bible, we should have some basic historical framework when reading it, that is how did other believers thru the centuries view these things. Be aware of the various different approaches to the bible, and for heaven’s sake, if a word sounds like it means something in English [woman= wombed man] do a little background study before proclaiming it to the whole world, for many ‘shall come in my name, believing that I am Christ, and shall deceive many’.
(1361) EUTOPIA OR BUST- Thomas More, the Catholic churchman who was martyred for his faith by Henry the 8th because he would not assent to the newly formed doctrine of the king of England being the head of the church, wrote the Latin book ‘Utopia’ in the year 1516. Utopia was this fictional island, ruled by ‘king Utopas’ and was the ideal society where wealth and power were not the characteristics of success. They lived a communal life where each person would take yearly turns of working on the farms where the people’s needs were met. No private ownership of property- just everybody living in this ideal world. Marxists would later lay claim to this idea and prove the futility of man in attempting to create this world. Scholars disagree over what More was trying to say; but for sure he was challenging materialistic worldviews and longing for some type of communal society as seen in the book of Acts [everyone sharing in the common purse type of thing]. Yesterday I watched Judd Greg rip thru Peter Orzag. Greg is the top Republican for finances and Orzag was defending the president’s new budget. The budget includes 30 billion for ‘jobs stimulus’ basically another tarp thing for business. The reason Greg was furious is because the tarp law said that any money eventually paid back, by law would have to go to reducing the debt. Instead the president wants to use this money as an open account that could be spent on a regular basis. Why? There are various ways any president can try and boost jobs/economy, you can implement serious fiscal discipline and make it easier for small business to operate [part of the 30 billion for small business] or you could say ‘lets spend tons of federal money on all types of things- 1st time home buyers, cash for clunkers, new billions every year for the next few years until my term runs out’ you can engage in simply digging the country deeper into debt for the next few years and this would initially make things look better. Walla, Utopia is here! When the administration makes the defense ‘we inherited these problems from Bush’ it is usually presented in a way that says the failed economic policies of the past president caused us to be dealt a hand that was bad. Okay, got it. But every president has been dealt some type of hand. Bush did inherit a recession from Clinton, grant it, it wasn’t near as bad as what Obama got, but it was real. Then 911 happened and this tragic event froze the global economy in just as dangerous a way as the banking crisis. And of course we had 2 wars. The point is all these things [except the wars] were also things out of the control of the former president; he inherited things that Obama too would ‘inherit’. But the administration does not include this when they make their case; they simply say it was the failed Bush presidency that led to where we are today. That’s why the blame game doesn’t work too well. We all want Utopia [in a sense] but we live in the real world and we can’t resort to tricks and schemes to make things look better, just for now. These policies often cause the disease to linger on longer than if we let it run its course. Many real estate experts are fearing another big drop [10 %] in home prices for this year. Why? They believe that the delaying of foreclosures and giving low % money and an extra 8 thousand dollar tax credit to buyers, that all these things prevented the market from reaching a real floor in prices, and so the market will still have to balance out and finally reach its low. It would have been better to have swallowed the medicine the first time around. For any president to have a ‘slush fund’ of billions of dollars that the govt. can dole out on a rotating basis is really not playing by the rules. Politically it can make it look like ‘see, we have improved things’ but not only is this fund limited by law from being used in this way, it often delays the real pain for another year- say in a non election one.
(1360) Lets do a little Catholic/Protestant stuff. First, those of you who have read this site for any period of time know that as a Protestant I am ‘pro Catholic’ that is I read and study Catholic scholars, believe in the ECT statement [Evangelicals and Catholics together] and for the most part am pro Catholic in that sense. I have offended more Protestants because of this stance than Catholics. But sometimes I need to state the differences and be honest about them, true ecumenical unity should never be achieved on the altar of doctrine, we should not sacrifice sincerely held beliefs while seeking unity for Christ’s church. Last night I caught the journey home show with Marcus Grodi as well as Catholic scholar Scott Hahn [EWTN- the Catholic network]. Scott was doing a teaching on the sacraments of the church and shared a common belief in the ‘incarnational’ aspect of matter. Some theologians believe [both Catholic and Protestant] that since God became man in Jesus, that this united/sanctified matter in a way that never occurred before. They will carry this thought into sacramental theology and teach a kind of ‘connection’ with God thru material things; both Baptism and the Eucharist would be major examples. I believe the historic church was well intended when they developed this idea, they were combating the popular Greek/Gnostic belief that matter is inherently evil, not a biblical doctrine. As Scott Hahn made the argument I simply felt that he gave too much weight to the idea that because of the incarnation [God becoming man] that now there is a special ‘sanctity’ to material things when connected with the sacraments. Does the bible teach that there are actual physical things in this world that carry out the truth of the incarnation in a material way? Actually it does, the bible teaches that the bodies of believers have this special aspect because Gods Spirit lives in us. In essence the idea of ‘special matter’ that is often taught by well meaning scholars can be applied to the physical church in the earth, all who believe. I do not totally dismiss sacramental theology, many Protestants who dismiss it out of hand are not aware of the strong beliefs that the reformers held too in these areas. Luther is often misunderstood when it comes to his disagreement with Calvin, many teach and think that he split with Calvin over the doctrine of Predestination, he did not- Luther’s written views on the doctrine were just as strong [if not stronger] on the subject. Calvin never wrote a book dedicated solely to the doctrine, Luther did [bondage of the will]. But they did split on the sacrament of the Eucharist, Luther’s view [consubstantiation] was much closer to the Catholic view than Calvin, and Zwingli [the Swiss reformer] was further away than both Calvin and Luther. Lutheranism would eventually be developed by a protégé of Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and the Lutheran church would bear the image of Melanchthon more than Luther. The point being many good men have held to very strong views on these matters. I believe the biblical doctrine leans more heavily on the ‘material body’ of the believer as being the major material change since the incarnation, I do not hold to the idea that ‘God becoming man’ fundamentally changed the nature of matter when dealing with the sacraments. Matter is not [nor ever was] intrinsically evil, Greek dualism got it wrong from the start- we do not need a strong sacramental theology to refute this, scripture itself will do.
(1359) ‘Now go, write it before them on a tablet [in a table] and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever’ Isaiah 30:8 ‘Take a large scroll and write on it with the pen of a man’ ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables [tablets] that he may run that reads it’ ‘all these sayings were noised abroad, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts’ [Jesus in the gospels]. Last night I caught an interesting movie ‘the book of Eli’ with Denzel Washington. If you haven’t seen it yet then don’t read the rest of this post. Eli lives in this future apocalyptic world [Mad Max] and is on this mission to travel west, he encounters all types of obstacles on the way [lots of blood and guts] and finally arrives at his destination, it’s a publishing house stuck on Alcatraz where these survivors spend all their time copying any books they can get their hands on for the future world; Eli announces ‘I have a King James Bible’ and he gets in. The book of Eli was the bible. In the above verses God shows us how important it is in the history of Salvation for people to write and record his words. In the middle ages you had the Monastic movement [Monks, monasteries] and these Catholic brothers separated themselves from the corruption of the world and became spiritual hermits. They were experts at 2 things; farming and the copying of important manuscripts. In the middle ages secular society learned farming thru the monks. The art of copying ancient books not only preserved theological works, but also secular ones. It was their dedication to saving these works that led to the Renaissance and rediscovery of the ancient works of philosophy and Greek thought. They were like the scribes of Jesus day. Do you value the ability to have and access great treasures? Even the bible, as history, is incredibly valuable. I mean how many other First century [and earlier] documents are lying all over the place and are being read and quoted by 1st graders as well as professors? With the great library system of our day [which I used extensively over a 15 year period] as well as the internet we have the ability to truly learn stuff that past generations would have given anything to have learned. Proverbs says wisdom is lying in the streets, at the crossroads of every city- yet fools have no appetite for it. I want to challenge you guys today, especially all our Pastors and leaders, take time to acquaint yourself with the great classics of western literature, read the great Christian [and non Christian] works of the centuries, don’t spend all your time reading/learning from one group or movement [especially if it’s one of these isolated Christian denominations] God [and men] have gone to too much trouble to get these valuable words copied and distributed to the world, take some time to read them.
(1357) I WILL UNCOVER THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN HIDDEN SINCE THE WORLDS FIRST DAY- [Jesus]. Yesterday I read an article in the paper that talked about an amazing dinosaur find in China; they found around 15 thousand fossils in a cave area. The amazing thing was the fact that so many dinosaurs would have been in one place right when they died. I immediately saw this as proof that would back up the creationist cataclysmic view of a worldwide flood destroying all life on the planet. As I read thru the article they explained how much of ‘fossil science’ has been done thru finds in the U.S., but over the last few years China [and the eastern world in general] have undergone their own industrial revolution and this has led to the unearthing of new ground for the purpose of construction and these new projects are unearthing these fossils. Much like what took place in the 19th century when many archaeologists were discovering ‘hidden things’ that seemed to be buried ‘since the foundation of the world’. In the 19th century it was popular for the intellectuals in theology to embrace the ‘historical/critical’ method of bible learning. Many began to reject the early dating of the New Testament [early- a.d. 50-70] and began accepting a theory that said much of the New Testament was written in the 2nd century. These ideas were promoted by men like Rudolph Bultman and were made popular at the German university which he taught at [in Marburg]. So it became ‘intellectually fashionable’ to accept this new way of critiquing scripture. One problem- as the industrial revolution took off in the west archeology rose as a new science and we now had the ability to historically search for clues. A famous historian by the name of Sir Ramsey went on this exhibition to see whether or not the bible was accurate when it spoke about ‘so called’ first century things. Our bibles do have lots of names of political characters and certain historical events that can be measured for accuracy. Ramsey found to his dismay that all the evidence leaned towards the ‘less enlightened’ view of an early dating of the New Testament. This was a tough pill to swallow by the intellectuals who had already formed their opinions on the subject, but in due time most trustworthy scholars would come to accept [for the most part] the earlier dating. So now back to the dinosaurs, as the article went on they admitted that it’s possible that a Tsunami might have caused the dinosaurs to gather in one place before their deaths- A FLOOD! It’s funny because some in the modern scientific community have argued, very convincingly, that the Geologic table and the extinction of the dinosaurs can be attributed to a world wide flood. Others have vehemently opposed this idea [most evolutionists]. And now the new evidence seems to be backing up a flood theory, they simply don’t want to admit it. Like the intellectuals of Sir Ramsey’s day, the smart thing to do is to go where the evidence leads. The facts don’t lie; these are ‘facts’ that are being now uncovered, things hidden ‘since the world’s first day’.
(1356) LET THE NATIONS BE GATHERED TOGETHER AND THE PEOPLE BE ASSEMBLED- In the gospels Jesus uses the imagery of a table to describe the kingdom ‘They shall come from the north and south and east and west and sit at my table in my kingdom’. Psalms says ‘thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ God has a way of ‘setting the table’ if you will. Now the church has been divided over the use of the gospels versus the epistles [letters of Paul]. Historically Protestants have focused more on the epistles, specifically Galatians, Romans- and the Catholic/Orthodox include much of the gospels in their services. When we leave out either we get into trouble. A strong focus on the gospels without the epistles can lead to a legalistic righteousness- trying to simply live up to the moral law type of a thing, without a good understanding of the Spirit empowered life. But too much of a focus on the epistles without a high regard for the gospels can lead to a view of Christianity that sees ‘right doctrine’ as being more important than ‘right acting’ [orthopraxy]. So for sure we need both. One of the other interesting things we see in the gospels is the ‘kingdom’ in action versus an ecclesiology focused on ‘church meetings’. For instance we read of Jesus sending out the disciples and telling them ‘go, preach, heal, do good- and whatever city/place rejects you then wipe off the dust of that place when you leave’ Ouch! Yet at the same time you find the crowds drawn to Jesus everywhere he goes. Sort of like a message/lifestyle that goes out into society to impact it, but not a whole lotta ‘come to my church’ type stuff. In American Christianity we see too much focus on ‘come to/support this ministry’ type of a thing, and not enough ‘shaking the dust off our ‘- that is doing the will of God and then being able to walk away. In John’s gospel John the Baptist [not the author] says ‘he must increase and I MUST decrease’ there really isn’t much of a choice. I want to challenge you today, are you [especially Pastors/ministers] spending too much time trying to raise support for ‘the church’? Do you primarily see your responsibility as filling up a meeting room? Reorient your life around the action seen in the gospels, impact people and give them leadership, but then be able to decrease, to let them see you ‘less and less’ as time goes by- and be willing to walk away from some things, not walk away from responsible leadership, but from things that center too much on our individual personas. Just because people want to hear us speak in person, or just because the crowds get bigger, this is not automatically a signal for building a bigger building! We need to re-look at lots of things, let the people be gathered together and the nations be assembled [i.e. be available to impact groups] but don’t be obsessed with forcing people to gather [come to church type of a focus].
(1354) O FOOLS AND SLOW OF HEART TO BELIEVE ALL THAT THE PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN; WAS IT NOT NECESSARY THAT THE SON OF MAN SHOULD SUFFER THESE THINGS AND ENTER INTO HIS GLORY? Jesus said this to his men after he rose from the dead, they were doubting and wondering about his crucifixion and he told them that all these things were written in ‘the prophets’. Jesus also said ‘Moses said this, but I say this’. Moses said- was a reference to the first 5 books of the bible [Torah, Pentateuch] and the ‘prophets’ is referring to the rest of the old testament, apart from the wisdom books [Psalms, Proverbs, etc.] The rebuke was the fact that they had the truth all the time, they were ‘slow to believe’ all of it. As I was finishing up the Galatians study a few days ago I showed how Paul was always making his case from the Old Testament, he used the stories in scripture to prove his points. When teaching on this site, I try and share a broad range of church history, from many various perspectives. In essence I try and include ‘the whole thing, all that has been taught by the church fathers’ it’s important to read and learn from a broad perspective, it keeps you out of trouble. Today’s word is simply ‘are you listening to all that the prophets have spoken’ are you hearing all the sides of the issues your church/denomination teaches? This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have convictions about your own beliefs [I do] but it does mean that we are all part of a broad community of believers, many various ‘camps’ and perspectives. In order for us to fulfill our mandate to be ‘one in Christ’ it is our responsibility to be challenged in our views and to also have the love and concern for other believers to challenge them too. This should always be done in love and for the benefit of the whole body, take some time to hear what ‘all the prophets have spoken’ it will do you [and me] some good.
(1353) THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS WERE UNTIL JOHN, SINCE ‘THAT TIME’ THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS PREACHED- When teaching Galatians we got into the ‘Kairos’ season- that is a time period when God said ‘the old dispensation has fulfilled its purpose and the new time has come’. In the above heading Jesus says it’s a ‘kingdom time’. One of the good things about the New Perspective teaching is they bring out Gods greater world purpose for the whole creation [Romans 8]. It is easy for believers to see their entire Christian lives thru the lens of individual salvation, while this is certainly an important subject, if this becomes the main focus of the believer he can become myopic and miss the greater intention of God- the ‘since that time the kingdom of God’ intention. When Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana, what exactly was he trying to show us? Do you find it strange that there just happened to be all these water containers sitting around? The Jewish religion was very familiar with the idea of ‘washings/baptism’ the temple system was surrounded by these baths and pools and in the gospels we see people linking water with ceremonial cleansing. No one said of John ‘what in the heck is he doing baptizing people in the Jordan’ they were familiar with the rite. Now Jesus doesn’t pick any old water buckets lying around, he is using the symbol of ‘old law’ cleansing, he’s saying ‘look, I just turned your water [old way of getting clean] into wine [my Blood which will replace/fulfill the old system]’. The significance of what he did was heavy. The appearing of Jesus in the 1st century and his death, burial and resurrection [ascension too] enacted a major change from old testament economy into a new kingdom age, the water served its purpose, but the new wine has come- party on.
(just a comment on Christianity Today’s top 10 books for this year] I Loved Kluck and DeYoung’s first book, but they did not really ‘see’ what the organic/out of ‘church’ movement is saying [theologically]. I really think their first work [why we’re not Emergent] deserved last year’s list, but would have given them a pass for this year.
[just a comment I made on a Christianity Today article] As an ‘ex-catholic’ who loves the catholic people, and has somewhat of a ministry to Catholics, as well as all believers, I do see a real need for both Protestants and Catholics to better understand the historic differences between the faiths. I quote, read and enjoy many catholic teachers and theologians [even the Pope!] but there are very real theological differences that need to be understood better on both sides. I love Catholics and appreciate the Catholic Church and voice for justice in the world; we just need to make clear where the real differences are.
(1352) ARE YOU A POLITICAL ‘DONATIST’ [what?] – In an effort to mix in a little ‘religion’ with politics, let’s do some church history. In the 4th century you had a debate raging in the church that was called ‘the Donatist controversy’ some taught that the efficacy of the sacraments were dependent on the ‘holiness’ of the Bishops/Priests, that is if your church leaders were really not regenerated then you also suffered spiritually as a result of their lack of integrity. The very influential bishop of Hippo, a city in north Africa, would refute this doctrine and argue that the sacraments and rites of the church did not depend on the spirituality of the leaders, that if you were baptized and believed in the Lord that the sacrament counted even if the Priest was an unbeliever. The famous bishop who argued against the heresy was Saint Augustine. In today’s world we often practice a form of political Donatism, we label our leaders as either liberal or conservative [or any other number of things] and we believe that depending on the tag, that they can either do no wrong or nothing good. I believe good [and bad] can come from all groups whether or not they hold to my political slant. Now, ideas do have consequences and if you are unwilling to change course and run against your own biases, then yes you will get into trouble. But like the argument Augustine made, everything does not depend on the holiness [political bent] of the leader, he might be wrong/hold different views than you and still be able to ‘carry out an effective baptism’ if you will. We need to have enough ‘faith’ in the institution of Democracy and free govt. that we can still believe it to work, even if a less than perfect bishop is running the show.
(1343) One of the other themes that spoke to me from Galatians was the idea that Israel and the world were under a ‘schoolmaster phase’ until the fullness of times arrived. This phase was the whole economy of Old Testament law and rule. I felt like the Lord was saying that many of us have been led, and actually have arrived, at places and purposes the hard way; i.e. – the ‘tutor’ phase. That is God allowed the process of trial and error and discipline to work in us until we arrived at the purpose and goal. Isaiah says that ‘I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction’ yes, this way of ‘arriving’ is much more painful, but it still gets you there. Now the entire discipline phase for the world was the time period before the Cross. The law and the Old Covenant were the only way to ‘get there’ so to speak. If people wanted to have a relationship with God, they were either born Jews, or converted to Judaism. Today of course we have access thru the Cross. One of the earliest ‘cults’ of Christianity was a sect call ‘Gnosticism’ these early adherents mixed Greek dualism [material world bad, spirit world good type of a thing] in with Christianity, they taught that the God of the Old Testament was the evil God who created the material world, and that thru Jesus we can come to know the true God of the New Testament, the God who gives us salvation by delivering us from the material world. Though it seems like there are verses in the New Testament that teach that the ‘world’ is evil and that God wants to ‘deliver us from this present evil world’ [Galatians] yet in these contexts ‘the world’ is simply speaking of the lost system of man and the ‘way of the world’. In Christian theology matter is not inherently evil. The Apostle John would deal with the Gnostics in his first epistle by saying ‘whoever denies that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God- they are anti-Christ’. Because the Gnostics believed all matter to be evil they would reject the humanity of Jesus, John was targeting them in his letter. As I mentioned before the controversy over the Trinity was settled at the council of Nicaea [a.d.325] but the church still battled with the nature of Jesus. Nicaea said ‘God is one essence/substance and 3 persons’. But this did not fully deal with the nature of Jesus, various ideas rose up [Monarchianism, Dynamic Monarchianism] that challenged the nature of Christ. In 451 a.d. the church settled on the language that ‘Jesus is one person with 2 substances/essences [natures]’, though to some this looks like a contradiction to the earlier language of Nicaea, this council in 451 [Chalcedon] was simply saying Jesus was ‘fully God and fully man’ so anyway we were all under the discipline phase until the ‘fullness of times’. I am believing God to get us to the destination with less ‘tutoring’ if you will, less trial and error. Sure, we will never fully get to the point of not making a few mistakes and stumbling along the way, but as we get older hopefully we will ‘stumble less’.
(1342) WHEN THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE- As I was teaching thru Galatians this verse ‘spoke to me’ in a personal way [will explain it in a second]. I felt like the Lord was saying that there are long term promises/destinies that he has planted within us, both as individuals and communities, and that often times he is waiting for the ‘seed to come to whom the promise was made’. In the parables of Jesus the seed speaks of a few things. Most of us are familiar with ‘the seed as the word’ imagery- ‘the sower sows the word’. But Jesus also speaks of ‘the seed’ as the children of the kingdom that his father has planted in the world. And of course in Galatians Paul is specifically referring to the singular seed, who is Christ. Every few years I go thru our radio messages and will adjust the programs I air. I often find that the messages that I marked as ‘o.k.’ are not o.k. anymore, it’s not that they are bad, it’s just I notice a tone/level of ‘seed’ [spoken word] that is not mature enough, it seems like as the years roll by the later messages just sound better. God has all of us in a maturing process; things that we thought were ‘deep revelation’ at one time, now sound quite silly. As I was marking off the programs that sounded too immature, I felt like the Lord was saying ‘the seed has come to whom the promise was made’ sort of like the lord was saying ‘son, I was waiting for your level of maturity to catch up to the promise’. Also in Romans it says ‘the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now’ I also felt like the Lord was saying the seed, as it pertains to all the people groups we relate to, were also in a ‘birthing process’ that too had to mature to a point where the promises could be inherited- ‘when the fullness of times was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law’ [Galatians] God has ‘fullness seasons’ times [Kairos] when he says ‘okay, the promises I made to you at the beginning of the journey are now ready to be experienced’ in essence the seed has come to whom the promise was made. Now, this sort of spiritual/symbolic way of hearing God, is it a good way to develop doctrine? No! Never, ever! Pope Benedict critiqued the ‘historical, critical’ method of liberal theology in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ the method developed out of the liberal universities in Germany in the 19th- 20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultman would popularize it. It was a way of reading scripture thru an historical/archeological lens. Some of the ideas are good and profitable, but some are not. Many would reject the supernatural aspects of scripture and come to deny the resurrection. Not good. The Pope also warned against this way of ‘dissecting’ Jesus and Christianity to a point where you really don’t see the true Jesus anymore. The real Jesus of Christianity and history, the Jesus that we all have a relationship with by faith. The point being we want to go to scripture with an open heart and expectancy to ‘hear God’. While doing this, we also want to recognize that the scripture had the SAME MEANING to the first century church as to us today, the meaning never changes, the applications do. That’s the main point I want to make, so today the Lord might be speaking to you about certain ‘seeds’ coming to maturity in your own life, things that you have been waiting for and maybe the lord was saying he needed a maturing process to take place, both in you and the people you relate to. The ‘whole creation’ if you will.
(1340) GALATIANS AFTER-THOUGHTS: As I said the other day I will try and go back over a few verses and share a few more things on Galatians. One of the things I wanted to mention was the fact that I purposefully chose to teach the letter in the classic Protestant way [mostly] I avoided getting into the ‘New Perspective’ ideas on Paul and ‘what he really meant’. So let’s talk a little on it; as of the date of this writing there is a theological debate going on [mostly in the ivory towers, but seeping somewhat into mainstream thought] that re-looks at Paul and what the context of his day was. For instance when the Reformers of the 16th century spoke about being Justified by Faith and not by works, many of them were speaking about the works of tradition and the things they felt were wrong in the Catholic faith. Were they wrong in applying Paul this way? No. In context was Paul talking about the works of ‘Catholic tradition’ when saying men are not justified by works? No. So it’s good to point stuff like this out. The problem I see with some of the New Perspective theologians is they can explain stuff and when you’re done listening [reading] it’s possible to miss the heart of the New Testament doctrine on Justification by faith, we don’t want to lose people in the weeds when trying to peel the layers of the onion. So I purposefully chose to teach this letter in the plain way that most Protestants would understand it, but I do think that N.T. Wright [Bishop of Durham, Church of England] has good things to add to the debate [as well as John Piper- the Reformed Baptist preacher who has taken the New Perspective group and rebuked them]. It’s good and profitable to engage in these types of theological discussions, but we need to once again ‘keep the main thing the main thing’. I also avoided getting into the debate on exactly what ‘works of the law’ meant. Some think Paul was only referring to the rite of circumcision. In some verses [both here and in Romans] this is true. But some [N.T. Wright] apply this in a way that says the act itself was simply an ‘identifying badge’ that brought you into the community of God, while this is true, they get a little off track by not fully seeing that in Paul’s writings these things go hand in hand. Paul mixes in the ‘work of circumcision’ with the idea of keeping the moral law/10 commandments. When saying ‘we are not under the law’ Paul includes all of it, not just the ceremonial law. How do we know this? Because whenever Paul makes this argument he always adds ‘does this mean we go out and sin’? And his answer is always no, but instead of saying ‘no, don’t sin because we are still constrained by the 10 commandments’ he says ‘no, how can we who died to sin still live in it’. To be frank about it, many of the Reformed guys have problems with this as well, they teach a kind of theology that says the N.T. believer is under the law, I disagree. So as you can see this debate can go on for a while, that’s why I chose to avoid it in this study. I want all of our readers to be grounded in the basic truths of the letter before launching into a deeper level. Okay enough for now, tune in the next week or so and I’ll try and do some practical stuff from Galatians.
(1338) GALATIANS 6- Paul closes this short theological treatise with some practical stuff; help each other out with their burdens, if you see a brother struggling, restore him in the spirit of meekness. Those who are teaching you Gods word, ‘communicate’ to them in all good things [share with them financially and materially]. Good advice that Paul gives to all of the churches he writes to. As we close our study of this letter, I want to emphasize that the majority of what Paul is teaching [over 90%] is great theological truth, it would be silly for preachers/teachers to grasp hold of any single verse and to exalt that above the main body of truths that we have discussed. It isn’t hard for any preacher/teacher to go thru this letter on a few Sundays and teach the main truths of the letter. We desperately need to get back to doing it this way in many Pentecostal/Protestant/Evangelical churches- and yes, the ‘organic church’ guys too! We all have a tendency to pick out pet doctrines out of the New Testament and then to make the side issues the main thing. I think the main thing [justification by faith, the blessing of Abraham in context, etc.] is good enough without us having to try and find some type of ‘Rhema word’ that is not the main word of God. Recently a good man died, Oral Roberts. A few weeks have passed and I think it is okay to mention a few things. The media reported how many preachers showed up to the funeral in Cadillac’s and expensive cars, there have been various articles written about the legacy he will leave behind. Some wrongly said he was the father of the ‘Word of Faith/prosperity movement’ [E.W. Kenyon was the real father, and Kenneth Hagin and others lay claim to the title]. The point I want to make is Brother Roberts was a good man who did good things, but his way of doing doctrine is not my cup of tea. He was famous for popularizing the ‘seed-faith’ teaching. It comes from Paul’s letters when he does tell believers that if they give in faith God will bless them, true enough. But when we read the New Testament there are many warnings against greed and materialism, and when we take a simple practical truth from Paul, even though it’s true, and when this truth becomes our main message, then we err. In this last chapter of Galatians Paul gives practical advice about giving financially to those who are teaching you, good. But this is one verse in a letter filled with other main teachings, the important stuff if you will. For believers in our day to have built ministries/churches and to have as the foundation of these ministries the few practical side verses, is wrong. We need to focus on the main thing, and keep the main thing the main thing! [Redemption thru Christ’s Blood, eternal life to those who believe, etc.] I don’t want to speak bad about brother Roberts, he was a good man who went home to be with the Lord, it’s just the discussion that has happened after his passing shows us how easy it is for good men to get sidetracked with a verse or 2 and then to exalt it out of context. As I conclude this brief study on Galatians, I think I will go back over a few main verses in the next week or so and give you some ‘practical’ things that I have gleaned these last few weeks. In a sense I will show you how God can speak to us in a personal way thru these letters, yet at the same time not losing the original meaning of the letters. One of the distinctions of the early church fathers was this Christ centered approach to the scripture, they looked for Jesus on every page. I’ll end with an example form Saint Augustine; he shared a thought on the story of Jesus walking on the water to the land, and that the disciples needed a wooden boat to ‘cross over’ he then applied the wood of the boat to the wood of the Cross and said how the Cross allows us to cross over to God, just like the boat let them cross over to the land. Now this is a simple example of applying scripture in a sort of symbolic way that is not in context, but nevertheless it’s okay to do. So I will do a few things like this in the next few posts. But while doing this, we want to not forget the main meaning of the letter, a good ‘side example’ should never negate the main body of truth.
(1335) GALATIANS 5- Paul’s main theme is if we possess the Spirit as believers [being indwelt by God’s Spirit] then let us also walk in/by the Spirit, as opposed to trying to please God by the law and being circumcised. Paul will use the somewhat controversial term ‘ye are fallen from grace’ which simply means that these Gentile believers started by faith and went back to the old Jewish system, much like the themes in the book of Hebrews. Paul says when you go back to the law you have left grace. Christ has ‘become of no effect to you, you who are justified by the law’. This is a good example of how words and certain phrases can develop over the centuries of church history and develop a different meaning over time. In essence the bible does teach that a person can ‘fall from grace’ but this does not describe what the modern reader might think. The first church father who attempted to formulate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was a man named Tertullian, he lived in the second century and was what theologians refer to as one of the Latin fathers [as opposed to the Greek ones- Origen, etc.] Tertullian was famous for the sayings ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ and ‘I believe because it is absurd’ he was resisting the influence of Greek philosophy on the church, he felt that Greek wisdom was influencing the church too much. He was trained in law before becoming a theologian [like Luther and Calvin of 16th century Reformation fame] and he used the words ‘God is one substance/essence and also three persons’ later church councils would agree with this language. But the word ‘person’ at Tertullian’s time was the Latin word ‘personi’ which was taken from the theater and meant a person/actor who would put on different masks during the play; the word had a little different meaning then what we think of today as ‘person’. Later centuries would come to condemn certain Christian groups who seem to have formulated language on the Trinity that expresses the same thing as what the original developer of the doctrine meant to say, but because words and their meanings change over time we get ourselves into disputes that might be getting us off track. Paul also tells the Galatians that if they become circumcised that they are obligating themselves to keep all the law. Of course the medical procedure that many have done in our day is not what he is speaking about, but in Paul’s day getting circumcised was the religious rite that placed you into the religion of Judaism, and this is what Paul is refuting among the Galatians, he tells them not to go down that road. This chapter has lots of good ‘memory verses’, the famous lists of the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit are found here, and it seems pretty clear to me that Paul identified circumcision with the moral law of the 10 commandments, that is he saw being circumcised as an act that obligated you to ‘keep all the law’ some theologians are discussing whether or not Paul meant the law of Moses when speaking about going ‘back under the law’ some think Paul was speaking only of the ceremonial law and the system of animal sacrifices when he was telling the gentiles that they should not go under the law, I believe if you read Paul in context both in this letter and the book of Romans, that he is speaking of the moral law too, not just the ceremonial law. All in all Paul exhorts these believers to fight for their right to be free from the past restraints of religion and bondage, he tells them to not desire to go back under a system of bondage, that Christ has made us free from that legalistic way of life and he has liberated us by giving us the Holy Spirit- if we ‘walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would’ amen to that.
(1332) Been doing some reading on church history/philosophy, it’s interesting to see the role that theology/Christianity played in the universities. Theology is referred to as ‘the queen of the sciences’ and philosophy was her ‘handmaid’. They saw the root of all learning as originating with the study ‘of God’. Many modern universities have dropped the term ‘theology’ and call it ‘the study of religion’. The study of religion is really the study of how man relates to God, his view of God; this would fit under anthropology/sociology, not under theology. Modern learning has lost the importance of the study of God and the role it plays in all the other sciences. The classic work of Homer [8th century BC] called the Iliad, has Achilles debating whether or not he should ‘stay and fight along the city of the Trojans’ and attain the legacy of a warrior; or to go ‘back to my homeland and live a long life’. He chooses to fight and lay his life on the line. The themes of the classics [courage, heroism, etc.] are biblical themes, even if God is not directly mentioned. The point being to try and exclude God from learning is silly, you can’t do it. Around the 17-18th century you had the philosophy of Existentialism rise up, as an ‘ism’ it really is a misnomer; ‘ism’ is a suffix that you add to the end of a word that makes it a system- ‘humanism’ ‘secularism’ etc. but existentialism is a word that means ‘anti-system’. Nevertheless the person who popularized this belief was a Christian, Soren Kierkegaard. The system he was rebelling against was the dead institutionalism of the Danish church, he felt that Christianity devolved into dead orthodoxy and lost all of its passion for true living and experiencing God. Nietzsche would pick up on this philosophy and apply it to atheism, and in the 20th century men like Albert Camus and John Paul Sartre would also embrace it from an atheistic worldview. They would say things like ‘man is a useless passion’ or write books titled ‘Nausea’ summing up the human condition. Though the 19th century atheistic humanists tried to give value and exalt the state of man, in their rejection of God and Christianity they were taking away the foundation for mans value. If you tell society that they arrived on the scene by some cosmic accident of evolution, and when you die you dissipate into nothingness, then how do you at the same time glory in his natural abilities to reach some point of Utopia? As the late Frances Schaeffer said ‘they were philosophers who had both feet planted firmly in mid air’. The point being when you neglect the reality and role that God and Christianity play in every sphere of life, you are then removing the foundation that these spheres were built on, true science and learning derive their basis from God. The greatest scientific minds of the past were either Christians or Deists, they were too smart to try and reject the reality of an eternal being.
(1331) GALATIANS 4- Paul says there was a time period before the promise would be fulfilled thru Christ; that time has come to an end [the law] and we are now in ‘the fullness of times’. When we were under the law we were no different than servants, but now in grace we are mature sons, people able to inherit the promise. Paul says why do you desire to go back under the ‘restraint’ phase, the time of discipline and legalism, we are now in a fullness stage thru the New Covenant and we don’t need the old mentality anymore. Once again Paul really ‘spiritualizes’ the Old Testament in his teaching, he says that the law [Old Testament] taught this difference between law and grace. He uses the story of Abraham having 2 sons [Ishmael, Isaac] and he says ‘cant you hear what the law is saying’? One son was born by promise [Isaac] the other thru the works of the flesh [law]. And just like it was back then, the one born after the flesh persecuted the one born after the Spirit, so today [1st century] those after the flesh/law are persecuting those born after the Spirit. It’s important to see that Paul DOES NOT use this analogy to describe Jewish/Muslim [Arab] relations; he actually refers to natural Israel as ‘Ishmael’! He says the Judaisers [Jews zealous of the law] were fulfilling the type/symbol by persecuting Gentile believers. We need to keep these distinctions in our minds, because when we don’t rightfully discern the truth we do damage to the non ethnic testimony of the gospel. Paul says the law relates to natural Israel/Jerusalem who is under bondage with her children, but the ‘New Jerusalem’ which is above is the mother of us all, and this Jerusalem relates to the church. The New Jerusalem is not referring to a physical city that will ‘hover over the earth during the millennium rule’ [EEK!] But it refers to the new community people of God, the church. I have written on this before and these references in the New Testament [Revelation, Hebrews- us being the new Zion, etc.] are speaking of the church, the people of God. Paul once again speaks of ‘natural Jerusalem’ in a negative light, in the sense that he teaches those who are under the law are not walking in the fullness of the promises of God as come in the Messiah. The New Testament spends no time engaging in the glorying of any ethnic group [whether it be Israel, Gentile, etc.] It’s not that the apostles were being anti Semitic, it’s just the emphasis is on the new kingdom of God and the new people of God [the church made up of both Jew and Gentile]. Its striking to compare the writings of the first Jewish believers to the current trends amongst many evangelical preachers, the two don’t mesh well.
[Just a comment I left on Trevin Wax’s site- good site by the way- Trevinwax.com] Good article Trevor. As somewhat of an advocate for teaching a biblical worldview, I too feel that we might be missing the boat at times. In Galatians Paul tells us ‘when the fullness of times came, God sent forth his Son…’ In context this ‘fullness’ was speaking about the time period God gave to man under the Old Covenant in order to bring man to a point of helplessness, knowing he could not justify himself thru works. Then after this predatory time he introduces the New Covenant and man is now ‘ready’ for the Messiah. Some worldview concepts seem to say that the ‘post modern’ man is not ready! That he needs another ‘fullness of time’ in order to prepare him for the gospel, C.S. Lewis’ pre-evangelism. Anyway the article was good. God bless from Corpus.
(1329) GALATIANS 2- Paul recounts his meeting with the apostles at Jerusalem; some feel he is talking about his first visit [Acts 11- before AD 50] others think he is discussing his Acts 15 meeting [right at around AD 50] I’m in the latter camp. Paul is basically telling the churches of Galatia that he already went thru this whole discussion with the main apostles at Jerusalem [Peter, James and John] and that they had already agreed that the Gentile believers did not need to get circumcised and come under the law in order to be saved. I do find it interesting that out of the 4 decrees that were made [read Acts 15] that the only one Paul recounts here is ‘to remember the poor’. The only decree worthy enough for Paul to recount is the one on charitable giving; those of you who have followed this blog for a while know how much I emphasize this point. If the early church was teaching tithing to the Gentile churches, surely it would have come up at the Jerusalem meeting, but it didn’t. This chapter has some important verses that all believers should commit to memory ‘if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain’ ‘the life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’ etc. I really want all my Catholic/Protestant readers to pay attention to the verse’s that I just quoted; the bible clearly teaches that if men could ‘be saved’ by keeping Gods law, then Christ died in vain. Paul will go on to teach [chapter 3] that if there had been a law given that could have given men eternal life, then ‘being saved’ would come that way; but he then goes on to say that there never was a law given that men could keep in order to be saved. Paul always gives the caveat ‘does this mean we go out and break the 10 commandments’? And his answer is always a big NO! The point of this chapter is we as believers are saved because Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin; the proof that the penalty was completely paid is in the fact that Jesus rose again [Romans 5]. All who believe in this reality are now the children of God, indeed ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’.
(1327) GALATIANS; INTRO- Okay, finally made it, been wanting to teach this letter for a while. Let me overview some church history that I feel would be helpful in understanding the book. During the 16th century Reformation you had an explosion take place within Christianity, though the official ‘schism’ dates back to the year 1054 between the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] expressions of the church, yet in reality it was the 16th century upheaval that really split the church. A few centuries before [14-15th century] you had rumblings within the church that had well taught Catholic men challenging many of the institutional concepts of the church; men like John Huss, Wycliffe and others. These men were extremely influential and had an effect on the church. Then in the 16th century you had Catholic writers who remained within the Catholic Church, but they too challenged the status quoi. Men like Erasmus of Rotterdam, these intellectuals would call for the idea of going back to the original sources of study [Greek New Testament and also other renaissance ideas] and this too would lead to the historic Reformation. But without a doubt Martin Luther [the Catholic monk out of Wittenberg, Germany] would be the firebrand of the movement. Martin was a well trained Augustinian monk who struggled with the guilt of sin for many years. Not normal guilt, but extreme. A fellow Catholic leader would encourage Luther to trust in the grace of God for his forgiveness. While reading the book of Romans [whose themes relate strongly to Galatians] he would come along the famous passage ‘the just shall live by faith’ and in Luther’s mind this was a total release from the bondage of trying to appease God thru all the religious works that he was going thru. In essence Luther discovered the historic gospel of grace thru the reading of Romans and was set free. Now Luther had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, but as a very influential teacher/scholar out of the university city in Germany, he had lots of influence. The Catholic church at the time was worldwide and you had differing views of the church in various states. Many saw the state of the church in Rome as having given in to materialism and become too worldly. Rome was at the time trying to raise money for the restoring of the religious buildings at Rome and one of the priests going around selling indulgences was named Tetzel. The abuse of selling these ‘get out of purgatory early’ things was offensive to many Catholics, and Luther had ‘no small stir’ when Tetzel reached his area. These things would lead to the famous nailing of the 95 questions on the door of Catholic academia and would be the beginnings of the historic split. While it would take way too much time to go into all the theological differences between the Protestants and the Catholics, one of the main issues deals with how we as Christians view ‘being saved’. The historic Protestant position is called ‘justification by faith alone’ [Sola Fide] the Catholics counter with ‘the only time ‘faith alone’ is mentioned is in the book of James, where it says a man is not saved/justified by ‘faith alone’. Ouch! The main point I want to make is this letter deals with the early church’s belief that man is accepted with God based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Paul will challenge the ‘Judaisers’ [those who believed you needed to keep the law in order to be saved] and will argue that the law itself [Old Testament books] teaches that men are justified/accepted with God based on believing in the free gift of God thru Christ. Make no mistake about it, the New Testament clearly teaches this doctrine. Catholic and Protestant theologians BOTH agree that man is freely saved by the grace of God in Christ. But at the time of Luther’s day these glorious truths were lost in the morass of religious tradition and works. As we read thru this letter in the next few days, I want all of our readers to see the argument Paul is making from this basic theological view point. Is man saved by works [keeping Gods law] or grace? The bible teaches grace. Now I don’t have the time to also introduce the modern controversy between the ‘new view of Paul between Protestants [called new perspective]. There is an ongoing debate over whether or not the historic Reformation view of Paul is correct [men like N.T. Wright and John Piper are hashing it out] and I do think there are some merits to this discussion, but before we can delve into that aspect, we first need to see the historic question of works versus faith, and this letter is one of the best to deal with the issue.
(1326) FOR AS THE NEW HEAVENS AND EARTH, WHICH I WILL MAKE, SHALL REMAIN, SO SHALL YOUR SEED AND NAME REMAIN- Isaiah 66:22 Well the senate finally passed health care reform; they still have some hurdles ahead, but they got the 60 votes needed to move forward. I do find it utterly corrupt that any single party would actually pass something that took away benefits from Republican states and not take them away from Democratic ones. And then have the audacity to make the ‘losing states’ underwrite the ‘winning states’. I can’t imagine the uproar in the country if Bush did this. Nebraska [Ben Nelson] cut a deal where they will never pay for the extended costs of Medicaid, ever. The ‘Federal govt.’ will forever cover their new costs. They are the only state that gets this deal. The Federal govt. pays stuff by taxing other states; in essence the rest of the country will be underwriting Nebraska, simply because they needed the Democratic vote. Florida, under Bill Nelson, another Democrat, will be the only state that will not lose Medicare Advance. This is a very popular program with senior citizens and every other state will lose this program. Why not Florida? Florida has lots of retired seniors, they need to keep the senate seat Democratic, so to get the seniors votes they did this deal. These deals are fundamentally corrupt, we are doing this at a time in the nation where we will be forcing families to pay a yearly 750 dollar fine if they don’t get insurance [or a 2% fine of their income, whichever is higher!] and many average income earners are really going to be in a bind. Much of the money will pay the profits and salaries of multi millionaires; this is wrong. In the 1960’s Harvey Cox [professor at Harvard] penned the book ‘the secular city’ it was a play on words from saint Augustine’s ‘city of God’. Augustine, as a true Amillennialist, wrote about the influence of the church/kingdom of God on the nations of the world, and how you could not separate virtue from public/political life. Cox would challenge this idea and teach that you could have a separation; you could run a nation apart from the morality of the church. Harvard would also produce the philosophy of ‘Pragmatism’ you govern by what is expedient, do what it takes to get the job done- don’t worry about what’s right or wrong type of a thing. God says his word/standards don’t go away, the things he states/creates are there for good. The Democratic Party ran rough shod over some very basic principles of right and wrong, when Harry Reid was asked about these insider deals, he said that’s the way they do business. In essence he said if your state didn’t get to do some under the table deal, then that’s your senator’s fault. The senate leader was being very pragmatic, doing what he needed to do to get the votes. I think they might have traded for a few votes today, at the expense of a bunch of them tomorrow.
(1318) PROTESTANT/CATHOLIC RELATIONS? Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know that as a Protestant believer [though I prefer simply Christian] I write often on the Catholic tradition and I also see them as fellow believers in the Lord. I do realize that I have lost readers over the years because of this. Recently there has been another effort among Catholics and Evangelicals to join together in common cause; the name of this effort is ‘the Manhattan Declaration’ it’s a simple statement amongst Catholics and Protestants stating our common belief in areas of life and morality. It’s a good statement that I signed. Since the 16th century Reformation [the beginning of Protestantism] you have had varying approaches to these things. Some see the Catholic Church as a ‘non church’ they see her as a false religion who might have some Christians within her but for the most part it would be like saying Mormonism might have some believes in it despite the false beliefs. Others see the Catholic Church as a good church that has certain beliefs that Protestants don’t accept, but never the less she is part of the Body of Christ [this is my view]. So for the sake of unity amongst the various groups of Christians in the world today, I write on both traditions. Okay, during the Reformation the Catholic church had what some refer to as a ‘counter reformation’ the 16th century council was held at Trent and the church for the most part came down strong on retaining most of the Catholic tradition that existed for centuries; they reaffirmed the 7 sacraments, stuck with papal authority [though the doctrine of Papal infallibility would not become official doctrine until Vatican 1 in the 1800’s] and history tells us that the Catholics came down on the side of very little change in the area of doctrine. They even retained the doctrine of indulgences that is very questionable indeed. But they also dealt with corruption in their ranks to some degree and this was noble. They also had some good points to make in refuting what they felt was not enough emphasis on ‘good works’ amongst the reformers [Luther]. So the church in no uncertain terms rejected any idea that the Reformation was a move of God, they saw it as a rebellious split. Now in the 19th century you had Vatican 1 [the name of the council] and once again the church affirmed her stand on coming down strong for the traditional Catholic position; this council officially recognized the infallibility of the Pope [only when speaking ‘Ex Cathedra’ which means ‘from the chair’]. The church does not teach the infallibility of the Pope unless he is making a doctrinal statement in his official capacity as Pope. This teaching has a special importance for today’s Catholics. Pope Benedict was a prolific writer/theologian before becoming Pope and he has written extensively on doctrinal issues and it would not be difficult to find some of his teachings coming down more in favor of a strong Christology than previous Popes- a good thing in my view. So anyway it wasn’t until the last few centuries that some very difficult doctrines would become official; Immaculate Conception, the assumption of Mary and the infallibility of the Pope. These are all fairly recent developments that would make it more difficult for outward unity. But in the 20th century you had somewhat of a change in attitude from the Vatican [at least from Pope John the 23rd]. From 1962-65 Vatican 2 was convened and you had somewhat of a division between the conservative Catholic Bishops and the more progressive types. There were a couple hundred Bishops from the U.S. alone that would attend; it was really a worldwide council. The more liberal minded wanted less of a hard line position in some areas while the more conservative stuck with the old hard line position. When all was said and done there was a more open spirit towards change and acceptance of other Christian churches at the end. Many of the changes were seen to be too much from the conservative Catholic view; things like saying the mass in the common language, moving the altar forward in the ‘church building’ and the Priest facing the people during the mass [the old mass had the Priest facing the altar along with the people] so anyway lots of Catholics did not like the change and there was a dispute among many conservative Catholics. Then in 1968 Pope Paul issued an encyclical [official paper] called’ Humanae Vitae’, which rejected the use of contraceptives and it was a step back towards the old hard line church. Some Protestants go a little too far in praising Vatican 2, they might refer to it as a revolution in the Catholic Church, this might be going a little too far. I recognize and appreciate the new attitude of Vatican 2, and I believe some of the more hard line Protestants [Reformed] should show a little more tolerance because of it [some of the older reformers still hold to ALL the beliefs of the Westminster confession, which officially teaches the Pope is the Antichrist! Ouch] But as a realist myself I still see some real doctrinal differences that I still have major problems with. But in some areas I am in more agreement with the Catholics than with Protestants- especially on some of the end time teachings that American Fundamentalists hold to. So all in all I appreciate some of the changes, I think some Protestants need to be more willing to come to the table, and I personally would not go so far as to actually become Catholic [which many good men have done, and I do not reject their convictions at all, they did have personal reasons for doing so]. All in all I agree with the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states ‘Christ is the unique word of God in scripture’ this is something we should all be able to agree with.
(1312) THE INCARNATION- The most influential philosopher on Western thought is probably the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant wrote the influential work ‘In critique of pure reason’ at the close of the 18th century in response to the pure rationalists [David Hume] of the Enlightenment. Kant read Hume’s works and was said to have been ‘aroused out of his dogmatic slumber’ and dispatched his response. Kant espoused that you had the physical and metaphysical worlds, and the 2 are completely separate. He refuted the argument for God made by the apologists and said it was impossible for man to ‘know God’ thru rational/physical means. Kant did not totally reject ‘the idea’ of God; he simply said the efforts of the Christian philosophers to prove God were futile. Was Kant right? Yes and no. In the 13th century you had another great Christian thinker by the name of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas is considered one of the greatest [if not greatest] thinkers of the Catholic tradition, Thomas wrote extensively and re-introduced the Greek philosophers back into Christian theology. Sometimes referred to as ‘Aristotelianism’ [Aristotle]. Thomas taught that it was possible to obtain true knowledge of the existence of God from the natural world, but that to have particular revelation from God you needed the church and tradition [revelation]. Some feel that Thomas was teaching a ‘secular/sacred’ division that hurt the work of the church. But if you read Aquinas in the context of his time he really was not doing this. Thomas ‘rescued’ apologetics [proof for God] from the philosophers of Islam who were teaching that you could have 2 types of truth- religious and scientific. They taught that religious truth could ‘be true’ by faith, but that it could be false by science, and vice versa. Thomas was refuting this idea and was showing us that real truth, whether from the natural sciences or from ‘revelation’ never contradict, it’s just science can only go so far in arguing for the existence of God. But the influence of Immanuel Kant on western thinking has many believing that God and ‘religion’ are okay things for people to believe, but that ‘real truth’ is found in the natural sciences and God is excluded from this ‘secular’ realm. This is a false view. God can be ‘proved’ by studying the natural sciences, like Aquinas said. Now this doesn’t get you all the way to the God of Christian theology, but it can take you up to the point where God’s existence is proven to be reality. The main point is it is wrong to think Christianity is relegated to the realm of faith while ‘real truth’ is in the realm of science. The Incarnation was God’s divine act of breaking into the physical world thru the birth of his Son. God became man and dwelt among us, you can study all the history of the time and find many historical proofs of the reality of Jesus and the fact that he died and rose again, these ‘truths’ are not only religious in nature, they are factual in history. So while I appreciate the work that Kant put into his book, I will stick with the other ‘Emanuel’ the God who is with us.
(1308) I caught an interview last night of an Indian author who wrote a book, the title is ‘truth and transformation’ it deals with how India and much of the Eastern world has a great degree of economic dishonesty and hiding of money from the govt. and so forth. But that the Western world has less of this dishonesty going on in a large scale. It was interesting to hear the point of view that because the west still had a degree of Christian morality that this had a lasting effect on society. You rarely hear this view from Easterners. But the brother warned how we are fast approaching the rest of the world in the area of economic/corporate corruption. Any way he mentioned how in the book of Revelation the church is described as ‘a city’- the city that comes down from God out of heaven. I always liked this imagery, in Isaiah we read how this city of God has it gates open ‘day and night’ that there is never a moment where life and transactions are not happening. How can this be? Recently as I have been praying over stuff, and also have posted various requests on the blog I realized that we have people praying and reading and ‘partaking’ of the stuff we are doing, this happens on a 24 hour basis because we have friends from around the world who are connected to us. So Gods ‘city’ is one that consists of believers the world over. There are Christians ‘in church’ 24-7, you don’t have to start a 24 hour prayer service to accomplish this, God has done it by having a worldwide community of people who he describes as ‘my House of Prayer’. This house/temple is open all the time, Isaiah also says that the city will have ‘no walls’ because of its great size, the multitude of men and cattle within is so large that it doesn’t need to wall herself off from society! As a matter of fact a river flows from this temple to the nations and all the kings of the earth will bring their glory and riches into her. I like the city imagery a lot, Revelation says this city has no need for a sun or moon, because the Lamb is the light of the city. No need for a temple either, we are the temple! [as well as Jesus, we as his Body join with him in the temple imagery] When reading scripture it’s important to see things thru a correct lens. I am half way thru the book by Carl Olson ‘will Catholics be left behind’. Carl is an ex Fundamentalist who converted to Catholicism and he gives an excellent overview of the history of Eschatology [end time stuff] much of my teaching agrees with Carl’s view. But reading thru it reminds me of some of the silly views that people hold about end time things, how some see the city ‘coming down from God out of heaven’ as an actual physical city that will be suspended above the earth during the Millennium and that believers will be living in ‘the sky’ while having access to the planet and interacting with Millennium citizens. Silly stuff, the city is called ‘the bride, the Lambs wife’ it’s quite obvious that John is using prophetic imagery to describe the church. But this is a problem among certain Fundamentalists and this view is quite popular in our day. When we grasp the ‘better’ view of these things then we can apply them in practical ways that effect society in a positive way- Gods people/city being open/available for light and help and mercy to all the ‘kings/nations of the earth’ Jesus who is our light can also enlighten the nations who are willing to hear. Stuff like this is helpful, while also recognizing that there are real/literal things that Revelation deals with, like the 2nd coming and resurrection and final judgment. Well anyway we are all part of this 24-7 community that has things happening all the time, we belong to a great worldwide church, the city of God, let’s let our light shine to the nations as much as possible.
(1307) CHRISTMAS- being I mentioned Christmas the other day, let’s talk a little. First, does the bible give us [in the New Testament] any special memorials to celebrate? Yes, the New Testament teaches us that when believers celebrate the Lords supper that we ‘show the Lords death’ until he comes back. This is the only explicit memorial given to New Testament believers. Does this mean it’s wrong to celebrate other days? Not really. The early church, contrary to popular opinion, did celebrate ‘Christmas’ before the days of Constantine in the 4th century. They celebrated Christ’s ‘birthday’ on January 6th. But they also celebrated ‘Easter’ as well, and Easter played a more significant role in the church. But in the 4th century the church was grappling with different issues, one of the main ones was the nature of Christ [Christology] some questioned his true humanity. So as a result the celebration of the Incarnation [Jesus being born and taking on real human flesh] took on special importance, the church wanted to stress the ‘birthday’ of Jesus as a theological event. Now the story of Constantine and his conversion to Christianity is famous and many different groups see it in different ways. Many see him as the enemy of true Christianity and as a Roman Emperor who paganized the church. Many associate Catholic Christianity as the false religion set up by Constantine in the 4th century- I do not hold to this view myself. But the fact is that Constantine did legalize Christianity and he did ‘change’ the celebration of Christmas day from January 6 to December 25. Everyone knew that 12-25 was the official pagan holiday of a pagan god. Rome had Sun worship going on and December 25th was a pagan celebration day. So why did the church allow for the change? In reality Constantine was trying to bring a degree of stability to his empire and the fact was that many of his citizens [and soldiers] did practice the pagan holiday of 12-25. So as a compromise move, with the churches new found emphasis on the humanity of Christ [new found in that they willingly wanted to emphasize Christ’s birth in a greater way because of the theological controversies going on] they changed 12-25 into the celebration of Christ’s birth. It really was not some type of secret pagan takeover of Christianity. It was more along the lines of how in our day many believers celebrate ‘Halloween’ by calling it ‘fall festival’ and simply are redeeming the season for God. If in a thousand years Christians are all celebrating ‘fall festival’ instead of Halloween, I think that would be a good thing. But if you went back and found out that it started as a pagan thing, then would you consider all the ‘fall festival’ folks as pagan? So that’s the dilemma. Many serious minded believers do not celebrate Christmas and that’s fine, the scriptures don’t mandate it. But many serious believers do, I think it’s wrong to simply make the connection of the pagan roots of the day and to see this as a reason to reject it. Like I just showed you, you can look at it in a way that sees it as the church ‘taking over’ the pagan day and redeeming it back unto God.
(1304) ARE WE REALLY IN THE 2ND GRADE BUT JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET? As I was praying this morning I was thinking about the various ministers and testimonies I have heard over the years, many have spoken on/experienced a process where they went from ‘church/ministry’ as being some type of business enterprise, to transitioning and seeing themselves as humble servants in Gods kingdom. Both hearing and seeing these types of stories would make me wonder if there was an entire ‘body of people’ who have gone thru the ‘childhood stage’ and have learned the next stage of true discipleship. Are these people willingly withdrawing their images from the public forums? Are there whole groups of them who have been chastened over former ‘fame/glory’ seeking and now realize that they were really in the 2nd grade- doing things and acting out of the excitement of being entrepreneurs, versus true kingdom building? Are many of these believers possibly the ones that we have looked at thru out our lives and tagged them as ‘lost traditionalists’? Jesus gave examples of the kingdom often being something that we don’t see at the beginning, we are looking for ‘outward signs’ and it’s coming another way. I remember hearing a very gifted prophetic brother sharing some stuff along these lines, how he felt the Lord telling him that those who would reject fame and the lime light would be the ones God was going to use in a great way. Over the years I tried to Google him, find his web site- anything about his ministry and what he was up to! I found nothing, I then began to wonder if he actually implemented what he felt God was saying, that he left the entire atmosphere of ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the movers and shakers and actually began living his life without the fame and recognition of professional ministry. Every day we drive past schools full of children, great kids- but children. Many of them have dreams about life, all good goals and all. But as we see them we realize that at one time we ‘were them’ and they still have a long way to go and much to learn. We don’t despise their ‘childishness’ but the reality is the grownups all know they are children. I fear there might be a ‘secret group’ of grownups that see all the ‘children’ running around at the playground, trying to outdo their fellow playmates. Needing lots of attention, wanting to impress their peers. And I fear that there is another group, those who have ‘grown up’ and these don’t really despise the younger ones, they have simply learned it was time for them to grow up.
(1299) Last night I had a rough night, couldn’t sleep and dealing with lots of stuff. I wasn’t sure what to read [Isaiah or start Galatians] and I felt the Lord leading me to read John 14. Right after I read it I put the Catholic station on and they were quoting from it. In John 14 Jesus tells his men that he is leaving them for a purpose, that in his Father’s house there are many mansions. If he doesn’t leave them they will never become what he wants. In the New Testament [and old] ‘house of God’ refers to Gods people, in the Old Testament you did have the temple, but when referring to ‘the house of David’ it speaks of community/dynasty- so the ‘house of God’ are the actual people groups that God is bringing into his kingdom. We corporately make up ‘the house of God’. Now Jesus is not telling the disciples ‘I am going to build a room for you in heaven, and when I come back I will take you to heaven’ he is saying something more along the lines of ‘I am leaving you to make room for you to learn to function and grow on your own, when I leave the Holy Spirit will come and indwell you- you will become the new habitation of God’. In essence ‘he goes to prepare a place for us’ is speaking more along the lines of us becoming this corporate dwelling place as opposed to building a room in heaven. And his ‘coming again to receive us unto himself’ in this context is speaking of the Holy Spirit (one just like unto himself) being sent back after Jesus leaves, so this Comforter will dwell in us- he ‘receives us unto himself’. Thru out this chapter Jesus is speaking on a higher level than what the guys are hearing ‘where I go you know and the way you know’ what! We don’t know where you are going and how can we know the way? The disciples seem to be saying ‘hold this ship up Jesus, we are feeling a little intimidated, you’ve been telling us that we will have what it takes when the rubber meets the road- we sense that you are ‘pushing us out of the nest’ and if we don’t fly we will crash! Jesus knew that his departure was needed for them to become this house of God, this great community of diverse people groups [many mansions]. The disciples would become recipients of the Spirit and sure enough everything Jesus told them would come to pass, but at the moment of trial/decision they felt inadequate- they weren’t really sure they were ready. I know I can identify with them, can you?
(1295) FOR AS THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE MY THOUGHTS HIGHER THAN YOUR THOUGHTS; AND MY WAYS HIGHER THAN YOURS Isaiah 55:9 the other night I caught an interview of Frances Schaffer on the Rachel Maddow show. Frances is the son of the famous Frances Schaffer senior, the prolific author/speaker of the 20th century who dealt with Christian worldviews. He wrote Christian Manifesto and How shall we then live, among other titles. Frankie and his dad were key leaders in the rise of the religious right and the moral agenda type groups. Frankie eventually converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and is now a vehement opponent of the religious right. First I want to commend him on his conviction of not being willing to abandon Christianity all together; some children of famous Christian leaders have taken that route, but Frankie [he calls himself Frances now, but for this entry I’m using the old title] has chosen a great Christian tradition to place himself in and for this he should be commended. But he is so vehement against the religious right that he equates it with the Muslim extremists. Now I believe that there are dangerous ideas that the religious right holds to, and that there are extreme elements that shoot abortion doctors and stuff like that. But to lump all the religious right with the radical Muslims is going too far in my view. Just like it would be wrong to lump all Muslims with the few who commit acts of terror. There have been Muslim Americans who have died on the battlefield defending the American side, we should not forget this. But Frankie just tore into all the religious right in a way that does more harm than good in my view. One of the reasons his father was so popular was because he dealt with Christian worldview issues, he was filling a void in the Evangelical world. After the Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century many Protestant believers were lacking a stable diet of ‘higher learning’ [to be nice about it]. There was this religious angst against many types of higher learning. The history of Protestantism in America shows a period where many of the great Protestant theologians [Edwards, etc.] accepted the idea that the mind and faith went hand in hand, but Protestantism for the most part would walk away from this heritage and begin seeing higher forms of learning as bad. The one bright light in the migration from Europe to the Americas was the teaching of the Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kyper; he wrote extensively on the Christian worldview and gave Protestants a good foundation to build upon. Well anyway Frances Schaffer also labored in this field. Isaiah said Gods ways are on a higher plane than ours, we often think and function for years at a certain level, and then God comes in and causes us to rethink the whole platform. It’s not so much more information at the current level, but it’s an overall paradigm shift from a previous way of seeing things to a whole new view of things. The philosopher William James describes it like this- He has a study much like my own, with maps and globes and books all over the place. He says when his dog comes into his study the dog sees everything that James sees, but the dog has no ability to understand what these things mean. Even though he ‘sees’ the stuff, he really doesn’t ‘see it’. Sometimes God opens our eyes to the things we have been staring at for years, when this happens we then see more fully what it means when Isaiah says ‘Gods ways/thoughts are higher than hours’ it’s like seeing stuff again for the first time.
(1292) I HAVE CREATED THE SMITH [blacksmith] THAT BLOWETH THE COALS IN THE FIRE AND BRINGS FORTH AN INSTRUMENT FOR HIS WORK, AND I HAVE CREATED THE WASTER TO DESTROY- Isaiah 54. God made the man who figured out if you get the steel hot enough you can shape it into a tool that will be effective. If God made the man who figured out this ingenious process, where do you think the man got the idea from? God will turn up the heat, so to speak, so he can re-shape some stuff in us. This last year I have tried to read up on some of the trends that go on in the world of Christianity. Sometimes I wonder if after all the great ideas, new ways of seeing things; lots of talk about the church needing to get back to social justice issues, all types of stuff I agree with, but at the end of the day I wonder how many of us are actually doing the stuff. Have we been duped into a system that enables articulators to have a forum, that produces a class of professional hearers of the articulators; but at the end of the day a great majority of us have not really been moved to act? Sort of like I can tell you how important it is to reach out to the poor and hurting, you might really belive me when I tell you this [in all sorts of ways- books, pulpit, etc.] but if all we have accomplished is to have come up with another subject to talk about, and for people to listen- then have we really accomplished anything? God wants ‘instruments’ for his work; tools that really function! It’s okay for the church to have great articulators and for people to have an attentive ear to hear- but it doesn’t stop there. After so much hearing and so much speaking, we then need some volunteers to get into the action! And this means more than just finding some ‘mission to the poor’ ministry that we can write a check to. I fear that the thing that’s lacking with most of us is the willingness to act, to get involved, to be the tool that actually works. Over the years I have bought tools that looked good, but were not well made. They might have been priced cheap, but they did not function well. Like buying the pens from the dollar store, what good is it if you got 50 pens for a dollar and none of them work? So in the kingdom God will often allow the heat to turn up because he wants to fashion some instruments that work, that do more than just speak or listen, but instruments that really get the job done. I have learned over the years that lots of people mean well, but if you want the job to get done you need people that don’t blame everything on others. People who are not professional victims, who find their whole identity in faulting others for their lot in life. I hired a guy to do a small job, to remove some wood from behind a rental house I owned years ago. It was maybe a 20 minute job, he had a truck. He was one of the guys I knew from working with addicts and ex-cons. I made the mistake of paying him the 25 dollars before the job was done. After a few weeks would pass I’d ask him ‘did you move the wood yet brother’? He would have some excuse why he didn’t do it. Finally I drove by the alley and saw the wood was gone. Great! I then found out that the renter got tired of the wood in the alley and hauled it off himself. We need people in the kingdom that act, that function and do what God tells them to do. We already have enough able articulators; enough people willing to buy the books and read about how the church should do more. We simply need some brothers who will actually move the wood.
(1290) YES, I DID IT AGAIN! I have a confession to make, yes I’m gonna come clean- last night I committed an act that I vow never to do again every time I engage in it- I channel surfed the religious stations. It’s not totally my fault, I woke up at around 12:20 and I am trying not to get up until at least 2-2:30. For a few years [yes years!] I was getting up every night and praying most of the night. After that time passed I stuck with getting up early, usually try to lay down till around 3, then the clocks went back an hour and I’m all messed up. So that’s why I channel surfed, I caught a few good teaching shows but then surfed and saw the ones that are so outrageous that the viewing public usually watches as a joke. One brother was quoting Zechariah [Old Testament book] and using a verse about a plumb line [measuring rod, line- a type of judgment and God bringing his people into alignment. I had a friend who wrote an entire book on these passages from Zechariah] and the brother was teaching how the plumb line represented a 7 fold return on money and church members and all types of stuff- I mean he was teaching stuff that when the true plumb line shows up, these are the things that need to be corrected by the plumb line! Then I surfed a few prosperity guys, and I finally settled on the Catholic station, they were doing a documentary on a catholic nun who started a ministry to the Italian immigrants coming to N.Y. and how she helped them and stuff. It was peaceful enough to leave on. So as I opened the bible to Matthew 13 to share some stuff, I saw the verse in chapter 12 ‘the men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment day with this generation [group] and shall condemn them, for they repented when Jonah preached and yet a greater than Jonah is here’ it seemed to fit. Okay this week I read some from Matthew 13, from the message bible, it really spoke to me. A few entries back I shared how I tore out the ignition from my classic 66 Mustang and had to get some parts, well I wound up ordering them on line and it took 2 days to figure out a minor detail, it’s sort of a trick you do to get the ignition cylinder to fit into the ignition switch- a secret locking pin and all, any way I thought ‘geez, I am spending too much time stuck at this place’. But when I wrote the entry I shared a little about going to auto parts stores and all, and then I read one of Jesus’ parables ‘the kingdom is like a general store owner, he knows how to get just the right part at the right time- either a new or old part’ I liked that. Sometimes we [leaders/pastors] go thru stages where we grasp hold of some ‘new part’ and we spend years stuck at that spot, it’s not so much that the part is bad, or wrong, but it’s just ‘a part’. You might go thru a stage where you find out biblical principles of finances, that’s fine- but don’t go and change the whole bible into a money manual! Or the house church movement. Good part, but people still need to grasp justification by faith and the other ‘old parts’. A good auto parts store will get you the right part, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s the latest technology [any part for a 66 mustang is not new] what matters is for it to be the part that works for you- sometimes we need the old parts!
(1289) 2ND KINGS 23:1-28 Josiah institutes the reforms that he learned when ‘re-reading’ the lost law of God. He tore down all remaining vestiges of the idolatrous high places. He reinstituted the Passover celebration and he dug up the bones of the false prophets and burned them on their own altars [ouch!]. A few things; in the New Covenant the Passover represents the new community life that we all share in Christ. In Corinthians Paul says ‘Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us’ and when he teaches the Lord’s supper he does it in a communal way, it’s not just a liturgical Mass type of a thing [or a Protestant time for grape juice servings!] but the Lords meal was more of a buffet type atmosphere and the idea was based on a community model. So I think one of the lessons we learn from the reforms of Josiah is God wants to restore ‘the communal Passover- meal’ or that God is challenging many current concepts of church and as we ‘re-read’ our New Testaments we are seeing the church [ecclesia] again ‘for the first time’. Number 2- it sure seemed a little drastic to have dug up the bones of the false priests and to have burned them on their altars! As we went thru this Kings study we covered the fact that Israel permitted certain wrong things to exist for various reasons. Many people eventually associated their worship of God with these idolatrous practices. These were good people who received these wrong ideas from previous ‘leaders’. Josiah fulfilled a prophecy given 300 years earlier that someday the bones of the false priests would be burned on their altars. To me this represents the need for believers in our day to be willing to look at some of the erroneous doctrines of past movements [remember, idolatry in the new Testament is covetousness, people who love and seek wealth!] and to realize that many of these un balanced teachings came from wrong things that were taught and accepted in the past. Things taught by good people, people who meant well, but wrong never the less. The ‘digging up of the bones’ represents the process of going back and doing a little history on some of these things and finally once and for all setting the record straight. All in all Josiah instituted more reform than any other king before him, he was the only king to restore the Passover, he had the courage to see things for the first time and to act in a righteous way before God. His reforms were great, but they came too late in Judah’s history to prevent final judgment, as a nation they dug themselves too deep of a hole and they were going to suffer for it whether they liked it or not. God is merciful, his mercies are new every morning, but when nations go down long paths of disrespecting human life; of mocking God and Christian principles [not right wing stuff!] then we can’t keep thinking that all will go well, that the recession will turn out just fine. No, there are many things not ‘just fine’, as an economy it is foolish to think that we can have 10.2 % unemployment and still have a jobless recovery. When the jobless rate is that high, and going up, then who are all the people that will be buying and spending and working and doing all the things that are part of a recovery? We are kidding ourselves when we think like this. Josiah did some good stuff, but the people needed to change course a long time ago, it was too late to avoid some national consequences.
(1288) 2ND KINGS 22- Josiah takes the throne at the age of 8; he institutes reform among the people. He begins a restoration of the temple and finds a hidden copy of Moses law. He reads the law and realizes that they need to repent. It’s probable that the wicked king Manasseh destroyed all the copies of the law and one was hidden in the temple by Solomon. Either way the finding of the law sparks reform. This chapter says they did not take an audit of the money that was given to the builders because they could be trusted; it’s too bad that this standard wouldn’t work in our day. Josiah does some great stuff and God tells him he will honor his repentance and humility, but the nation has gone too far down the wrong path. The course for the nation was set in stone and judgment was still going to come, yet under Josiah there was a season of mercy. As believers study the history of Christianity one of the most well know events/times is the 16th century Protestant Reformation, it was a reform/time period that truly could be credited to a rediscovery of the Christian scriptures. Though there were learned men who knew scripture [like Erasmus and his efforts to get ‘back to the sources’ and his love for the Greek original New Testament] yet the populace at large did not have the availability of owning their own copies of the bible. But this time period produced the Guttenberg printing press and an aggressive effort to publish English versions of the bible. It would not be an understatement to say that the Reformation period was the single greatest upheaval and change that the church would go thru in her 1500 year history. Of course Catholics and Protestants would disagree on the value of these changes, but the reality is that the restoring of the bible into the hands of the common people was revolutionary. Josiah was this type of reformer, he sought the Lord after the discovery of the missing copies of the law and he acted upon Gods word- two basic principles that could apply to all of us. I want to note that historians sometimes make the mistake of discounting the ‘dark ages’ of the church, the term itself is misleading. There were many noble believers and movements that took place prior to the reformation period. The Christian mystics, the great thinkers like Anselm and Aquinas, the tremendous value that comes from reading the fathers of the church. The creeds and councils of this period. It is a wrong view to say that everything that was going on in Christianity prior to the reformation was darkness, there were some bright spots, but without a doubt putting the English bible into the hands of the common people would have reverberations that the world has yet to overcome.
(1284) FOR A LAW SHALL PROCEED FROM ME AND I WILL MAKE MY JUDGMENT TO REST FOR A LIGHT OF THE PEOPLE Isaiah 51:5 I found out last week that one of my friends converted to Islam, he spent some time in New Jersey jails and rehabs and the Muslim influence is strong in Jersey. He explained to a friend how ‘God doesn’t share his glory’ and that he was taught that the Christian view of Jesus violates this truth. First, it would take too much time to overview the entire history of various beliefs and questions on different expressions of the Trinity, suffice it to say that there have been Christian groups from the first century up until today who have had difficulties with the Orthodox expression of the Trinity. I am Trinitarian, but understand how these various groups have had difficulty. Just to name a few; the Ethiopian Orthodox churches reject Trinitarian language. The Oriental Christian churches in general reject the language. The invading barbarians who attacked the Roman Empire were eventually converted to a form of Christianity that would reject Trinitarian language. The great Blasé Pascal thought it to have been a false teaching. I could go on and on with many groups who believed in God and Jesus but did not accept strong Trinitarian language. The point being, if someone thinks that all Christians hold the same views on the language, they are mistaken. I wrote a letter to my friend who converted to Islam, I simply shared the main difference between Christianity and Islam [and all religions], that Christianity teaches forgiveness and acceptance with God as a gift that comes thru the Atonement of Christ. Jesus died for men’s sins and rose again as a sacrificial atonement for man, Islam has some well meaning teachings in it but at the end of the day it is a religion that is legalistic. People attempt to gain Gods favor thru their own efforts; this is opposed to the Christian view of grace. I basically think it to be a red herring to use the language of the Trinity as a reason to reject Christianity and become Muslim, as I already stated there are many Christian groups who would agree with some of the issues that Muslims raise; this does not deal with the fact that man cannot atone for his own sins, man is unable thru any religious works to make himself right with God. The ‘law that proceeds from God’ to the nations is a law based on grace, not works. Paul calls it ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ [Romans] he contrasts it with the law of works. Now the whole history of Justification by faith and how different Christian groups see it is another intramural war that rages within the church, N.T. Wright recently put out a book on it, John Piper wrote one in defense of the historic Reformation view- Wright’s view has some excellent points, but would be considered New Perspective. So there are differences in the way Justification by Faith is seen, but all groups agree that man is accepted by God based on the free gift of Grace that comes thru the Cross. Yes, Catholics and Protestants agree with this language, though there are other differences. The point today is I believe we as believers need to make clear the differences between law based religions and Christianity, Jesus offers free forgiveness based on his death burial and resurrection. Law based religions might seem noble at the start, but at the end of the day they lead to condemnation and frustration, they are a vain attempt by man to make himself pleasing to God- an impossible task.
(1273) 2ND KINGS 17 in some ways this is a transitional chapter; up until now foreign countries attacked and suppressed Israel, but in this chapter we see the first real captivity of the people as a whole. Hoshea the king over the northern tribes [Israel] rebels against the king of Assyria who had them under tribute. So the king of Assyria puts Hoshea in jail and besieges Israel for 3 years, they take the city [Samaria] and they remove the majority of the people out of the land. He also places foreigners in the land to repopulate it. These foreign nations eventually mix in with the remnant that remained and these descendants are what we read about in John’s gospel, they were considered ‘half breed’ Samaritans. Now after the new inhabitants settle in the ‘Lord sent lions among them’. The people see this as judgment from God and request the Assyrian king to send them a priest so they could learn the ways of the God of the land and not die. This priest arrives and to some degree teaches these pagans the true worship of God, they of course kept their pagan beliefs as well, but it is interesting to see how the Lord even used a judgment scenario to redeem people. Okay, last night I was reading some of the history of the 18th-19th centuries and how after the French Revolution and the era of Napoleon many Europeans began to fear the idea of total and free Democracy, there was a sort of romantic musing upon the good old days of the Monarch. Many Frenchmen longed for the stability of the old Catholic church, these were called ‘Ultramontanists’ which meant ‘beyond the mountains- Alps’ and stood for their desire to re attach with the old Roman church in a way that allowed the church to reassert a global oversight over France as it used to have before the Revolution and Reformation. Part of the fear had to do with the nation states being their own sovereign, that whatever the nations wanted to now do they could do without any outside oversight; in essence part of the role of the Roman church was to provide a type of ‘united nations’ oversight over the individual states. Ultimately Democracy would eventually prevail and the new world of the Americas would be the first nation to adopt Democratic principles right from the start. When reading the history of the world, often time’s revisionists put their own spin on stuff. For instance we often read the history of Darwin in the latter half of the 19th century and see him as some enlightened figure who stood up against the bigotry of the church. But a generation or 2 before Darwin you had many ‘enlightened’ Evangelicals who fought for human rights and the dignity of man. William Wilberforce and the ‘Clapham community’ were men who used their political and social status as a means of freeing the Black man from the horrendous slave trade in Britain. Clapham was a small town around 3 miles outside of London; the town was sort of an elite place for the higher ups of society. Sort of like the Hamptons. Yet it was from this area in the late 18th century that many of the modern programs of the Evangelical movement were launched. The wealth and influence of these men launched the first bible societies, they started mission organizations for the poor; and even tried to instill a schema of social justice in their business dealings [the head of the East India trading company was part of the group]. These men wrought good social change and fought for the rights of the Black man, for him to be treated as a human and not some type of lower class chattel property. Darwin’s ideas would put into print the racist ideas of those who opposed the outlawing of slavery as a legitimate trade. Those who resisted freeing the slaves [both in Britain and the colonies] believed that the Black man was an inferior race to the White man. Darwin taught these beliefs openly in his books; he believed the Black race was proof of Evolutionary theory, that the Blacks proved to us that there were intellectually inferior races of men that did not advance along the more educated road of White men. The point being that a full 70 years before Darwin you had very influential Christian men who fought for the rights and freedom of Black men, and yet history normally portrays Darwin as the person who fought the bigotry of the church in his noble journey for truth. Okay, God allowed his people to be taken captive, they rebelled against him and they lost their freedom as a people, yet they still had a history of great and noble deeds, they accepted proselytes into their nation and treated the poor in their land with respect. It would be wrong to view the entire history of Gods people [both now and then] from the lens of the sins and wrongs that occurred, yes the church has made her mistakes and it sounds noble to say ‘lets cast off all the restraints of religion’ but in the end you might wind up looking past the Alps for some help.
(1270) CONC. 2ND KINGS 15- Azariah the king had a long reign and also was a leper. We read earlier how Naaman the leper was a great military leader. A few weeks ago as I was channel surfing I caught a biography on Father Damien, a Belgian Priest who went to Hawaiian in the 1800’s to serve Gods people. Hawaii had a problem with Leprosy at the time and they eventually quarantined the lepers to an island named Molokai [sp?]. Father Damien used to visit the island and eventually requested permission to stay on the island and serve the people. He eventually caught leprosy himself and wrote how he so identified with the people that it was only fitting that he should die from the common disease of the people he loved. The next week I read an article or 2 on Father Damien, it just so happened that he was up for being canonized as a Saint by the Pope. So a few stories covered some of the controversy that surrounded him; some accused him of sleeping with some of the women on the island and they said that’s how he got sick. Other critics said he wasn’t really as dedicated as the stories portrayed; that he actually traveled to a part of the island where normal people lived and then he would later go back to the side where the lepers were. So the critics had their reasons, some of the critics were sincere in their beliefs and did not intend for their critiques to be made public. So to be honest reading these stories did cause me to doubt some of the heroic things I saw in the biography. All in all Father Damien was made a ‘Saint’ and in order for this to have happened under Catholic teaching the stories about father Damien’s infidelities had to be considered untrue. I actually found it fitting in a way that a man could still be recognized and honored even if he had these failings. Officially the church said these stories were false, but they might very well have been true and yet the good work Father Damien did was still honored. Now I in no way want to leave the impression that this would be some sort of accuse for sin, I just thought it fitting that the man was still honored even with the question out there about his faults. King Azariah ruled a long time [52 years] and yet he had a disease that was considered like having aids. There was a stigma to it. The people on Molokai were quarantined there because they were actually following the rules given in the Old Testament on how to deal with leprosy. In Jesus day you saw the same thing apply, people had to be separated from the population and there were cleansing rules for the houses they lived in and stuff like that. So in a primitive way the Hawaiians did their best to deal with the problem. Yet God shows us that some of his great leaders, men he used to do good things, also suffered from physical ailments that were considered tragic. In Isaiah 53 the bible says ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him, thru his suffering my righteous servant shall justify many’. Jesus of course suffered by the will of God and God saw the things he was going thru, these things were the very acts that bought our redemption! Father Damien saw his affliction and eventual death as some type of redemptive price that he would pay for his efforts to redeem the people of Molokai, in essence ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and thru his suffering he justified many’.
(1266) 2ND KINGS 13- Israel is under oppression from Syria, they cry out to God and he delivers them. But they have a diminished army when all is said and done. In the New Testament Jesus said wise kings take inventory of their forces; when one army comes up against another, wise kings look at the match up and if they think they can’t win they make arrangements for some type of peace. Strength isn’t always about how much force you have or can display, sometimes it’s realizing your limits and having the wisdom of not letting a bunch of your soldiers die for a lost cause. In this chapter we also see the death of Elisha, it’s been over 40 years since his last true public appearance, here at the end of his life the king comes and feels overwhelmed. Elisha was a true stabilizing force for the nation; the king knew he had an experienced prophet who could lend support when the time called for it. But now he realizes he will have to go it on his own, sure he had other prophets around; but they were young guys, still dealing with inexperience and stuff. It’s not that they were of no value, but you could tell that they were going to go thru some learning curves in the years ahead and Elisha had already been thru all that. So Elisha encourages the king and says ‘take your bow and shoot thru the east window’ so he does this prophetic act and Elisha tells him he will overcome the enemy from the east [Syria]. Then he tells him to stomp the ground with the arrows, so he does it 3 times. Elisha says he should have done it 5 or 6 times! But because you were a little lackluster you will only have a partial victory over your enemy. And last but not least Elisha dies and is buried and some brothers bury one of their dead in the same grave and as soon as the body touches Elisha the guy comes back to life. Elisha was raising brothers from the dead after he died! What do we make from this? Various Christian churches put different emphasis on what the dead can do; relics, praying to those who have passed on. I want only to stress the biblical importance of the body. In scripture the body is a holy thing, God himself dwells inside the bodies of believers. The New Testament doctrine of the resurrection speaks to the importance of the body. In Greek thought the body was seen as evil, a temporary ‘prison’ that the soul/mind was captive in until death. Some of these beliefs [Greek Dualism] did affect the thinking of the church over the centuries. Many good theologians have corrected these mistakes over the years [Augustine, Reformers, Etc.] They showed us that the body itself is not evil, but that when the bible speaks about ‘the flesh having no good thing in it’ it is speaking about ‘the fleshly/carnal nature’ not the physical body. But some who embraced Greek Dualism interpreted these verses as saying the actual body is evil. In Romans Paul says to give our bodies up to God as living sacrifices, HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE to God, which is our reasonable service [worship]. So the body is actually referred to as holy in this passage. Elisha obviously had some ‘residual’ anointing going on, as soon as death touched his body there was enough of Gods Spirit present to raise a guy from the dead, how much more so for those of us who are still alive.
(1265) Almost finished Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ as is my habit let me close my comments before I read the last chapter or 2. First, I really agree with Brian’s stance on challenging western capitalism; he does it in a way that simply holds true to the biblical ethos of ‘beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ [Jesus]. Yesterday I went thru around 5 news papers that built up at my doorstep this past week, if I don’t read them the day they come I try and go thru them on Saturday in one lump sum. I read some articles on the world’s poor, that every 6 seconds a child starves to death somewhere in the world; how there are a little over 1 billion people on the planet today who are malnourished. How many of the countries who can’t feed their people are paying back interest payments to the rich countries who lent them money. These kids starve because the country must pay the interest! In Isaiah God tells us often that one of the main functions of the church is to do justice; to speak out and also act in society as a plumb line. Too many times the American church has been aligned with a political ideology and has defended that view at the expense of doing what is just. As I close my comments on McLaren, I agree 100 % with him on these issues and appreciate his willingness to be branded as some ‘loony liberal’ for speaking out. I also would disagree on Brian’s seemingly ‘low church view’ when it comes to the classic doctrines of Christianity [Atonement, Original sin, etc.] There is a tendency among believers to either reject everything a person says, or accept everything he says; In Brian’s case I think we should take what is good and leave the bad alone.
(1264) 2nd KINGS 12- Joash institutes a process of restoring the temple that was broken down. Under the spiritual direction of Jehoiada the priest, he sets up a system [a box with a hole in the lid] where the people’s offerings would be ‘protected’ from the priests. The problem we see in this chapter is the priests were abusing the offerings that were set aside for ‘the house’. Now, they were being maintained by the Levitical offerings, they were getting a steady salary/support that was modest and commensurate with their service, but they went overboard in raiding the ‘household’ cash for personal profit. After they collected enough money for the repair of the house of God they gave it to the carpenters and workman to finish the job. These men contrasted the priestly ministry in that they used the money for actual building materials, they did not see it as simple compensation for being ministers. At the end of the chapter Joash is attacked by a foreign king and he takes all the riches that were in Gods house and gives it as a ransom to bribe the king to go away. This act is seen as disgraceful in the eyes of the ‘traditional generation’ and 2 of his servants kill him. Okay, there is a tension between the younger brothers [Emergent’s, contemporary expressions of ‘church’] and the older guys [Sproul, Macarthur, Colson, etc.] the younger guys are sincere, but at times seem to willing to ‘ransom out the goods in the temple’. That is along with the new style of church/ministry we need to be careful that we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Also this chapter shows us that it was perfectly legitimate to meet the basic needs of the priests, but they sort of fell into a habit where all the resources were being used for personal benefit. Now we need to be careful here, in the New Testament ‘the house of God’ is the actual corporate community of people, not the buildings we meet in. So a better way to see this is that we need to be careful that the money and resources that are being given by Gods people are primarily used ‘for the building’- that is the actual people. In the New Testament over 90 % of the scriptures on giving do show us this. The majority of the actual money contributed went to meeting the actual needs of people. In today’s church world we do not follow this guideline at all. Many millions are spent on many things, but in comparison to the ‘actual house spending’ [on the real needs of poor people] we spend very little on real needs. So God used Joash to do some good, but when he came out from under the influence of true spiritual elders [Jehoiada] he desecrated the ‘holy things’ and lost the respect of the people. As we in the 21st century strive to be relevant as Gods people, we need also be sensitive to the ‘treasures in the house’ the ‘old time’ classic doctrines that have been preserved and passed down to us from spiritual elders; things like the Atonement, the Substitutionary death of Christ, the Resurrection. Some of the new contemporary brothers seem to be raiding the temple a little too freely and thinking that this will bring us a little respite from foreign enemies, I fear that in the long run it will only lead to trouble.
(1258) WHAT LASTS? – These past few weeks while praying early in the mornings, I have been meditating on verses like ‘the steps/paths of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way’. David said he desired to always dwell in Gods ‘tabernacle’, while thinking on these verses I felt like the Lord was speaking to me about the effects we have, the planting of his word in regions. I even began thinking about the fact that we will die, and the people we minister to will pass away, but in some sense the words we taught will remain. In essence the thing that will last is the gospel and truth that is sown, not the institutions, or even the people, but the word. Now John says because we have the word in us we will abide forever, that is the word of God will raise the dead up some day and they will endure forever; but it’s the word of truth that is lasting. So anyway I felt like the Lord was directing me to read Isaiah, I read the first 10 verses of chapter 40 and the theme goes like this ‘all flesh is like grass, it will pass away; but the word of God endures forever’ basically exactly what God was speaking to me. This section also speaks of John the Baptist ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make a straight highway/path for him in the desert’ this was along the lines of ‘creating a path/ place for God’s word to flow’. Isaiah also has the famous verse ‘you will be called the restorer of paths to dwell in’. I felt like God was telling us to lay down some paths, have consistent areas where you faithfully teach and speak truth and these areas will ‘abide forever’ that is your impact will affect many generations to come. Right after the 16th century Reformation you had what is referred to as the Enlightenment, or the ‘age of reason’. Many thinkers began to challenge the institutional church [and institutions in general] and believed that reason and rationality would lead the way. In France [1700’s] Paris became a center of thinking for these Deists. These men were smart enough to realize that the total denial of God was too ridiculous to accept, they instead embraced Deism. Deism is a type of belief that said God started the ball rolling, but he left the rest on auto pilot; the same belief that the Greek philosophers embraced. Now, one of the famous ‘Philosphes’ [sic] was a man by the name of Voltaire, he is well-known as an infamous atheist today, but he did not totally reject God. These men did have tremendous influence and they produced the French Encyclopedias which backed up their cause. Eventually they would overthrow the Catholic Church and kill the king in their mad rush towards ‘reason’. They were wrong on their basic understanding of reason and rationality as they applied it to the church. They believed that rational thought meant ‘naturalistic thought’ that is in order for things to be rational, they could not be supernatural. They were wrong, in fact those who would later take the next step into full atheism would deny the laws of reason and logic all together. I saw Richard Dawkins do an interview the other day, he is one of the popular atheists of our day. These men who reject God accept a view of creation that violates the laws of logic; they teach/believe that all things came from ‘no-thing’ a scientific impossibility. This idea violates the law of ‘reason’ known as the law of ‘non contradiction’. This law states that a thing cannot be and ‘not be’ at the same time and in the same relationship. For all things to have come from nothing [self creation] would mean that all things created itself. It would have to ‘have been’ before it was. This common system of belief is absolutely irrational, even though the atheist believes it to be rational. To believe that God is a self existent being who created all things does not violate the laws of logic, you might think it does, but it doesn’t. For someone to have existed forever does not violate the classic laws of logic. So these thinkers who thought that their rejection of God was ‘rational’ were in fact wrong. Their ideas led to effects that were horrendous, they in effect ‘planted seed’ [bad doctrines] that would outlast them and their generation, their bad ideas had bad consequences. But the truth of God and his kingdom have also been ‘planted’ in the world, these seeds will last forever. If you want to effect society for good, then plant the seeds that will have an eternal impact, for ‘he that does the will of God will abide forever’ [1st John].
(1255) 2ND KINGS 8:7-29 Elisha goes to Damascus and the king of Syria hears about it, he sends his servant to inquire ‘of the prophet’ whether or not he will get well from some sickness. The servant goes and finds Elisha and Elisha says ‘yes, he would recover. But instead he will die’. What ? Elisha sees that the sickness would not be fatal, but that the king will be assassinated! The servant in front of him will be the killer. So Hazael goes back to the king and says ‘he said you would get well’ true enough, but he left out the part where he was going to kill him! So the next day he does the deed and becomes the king. A few things, I find it interesting that the Syrian king had no problem receiving Gods prophet. They believed in prophets! Now, they did not have a ‘Christian/Judeo’ culture, but they had a religious background that accepted ‘messengers from God’. In today’s world the church needs to take advantage of the willingness of other world religions to listen to prophets. We need to appeal as much as possible to the Muslim world and use any agreement on religious things as a tool to share the gospel. Right after the 16th century reformation the world would embark on a couple hundred year age of exploration and colonization. The Protestants were good at exploring the seas and impacting Europe, but they failed at reaching the Far East. Instead the Catholic Church had great success thru the Jesuits at impacting the Far East. They would make inroads into Japan and China and eventually take the gospel to the influential city of Peking. The problem arose when the Dominicans and Franciscans [Catholic orders] came in after them. They felt that the Jesuits were too accommodating in mixing in the religious beliefs of the east along with Christianity. Many Chinese believers were still practicing a form of worshipping dead ancestors and stuff like that. The Jesuits justified this by seeing these things as cultural beliefs and felt like allowing them to ‘keep their culture’ along with the faith was okay, the Dominicans and Franciscans disagreed and took the argument to Rome. Eventually this disagreement would leave a bad taste with the leaders in China and all Catholic expressions of the faith would be banned. This is called Syncretism, the mixing of religious beliefs. Now, why get into this? Christians should appeal to the willingness of Muslims and other world religions to hear religious voices. Both Jews and Muslims believe in Jesus, now they don’t believe the way Christians believe, but we should take advantage of this basic belief when appealing to them. Muslims reject the doctrine of the Trinity, but a careful study of history shows us that the actual Trinity they are rejecting is not the Christian understanding. Muhammad was actually rejecting a skewed view of the Trinity that saw Jesus and God and Mary as the Trinity. Obviously a pretty big mistake. So we as believers should be willing to correct and give a word to the ‘Muslim messengers’ when they come looking for answers. We should give them credit where credit is due, like their development of apologetical arguments in the Middle Ages [the Kalaam cosmological argument] but at the same time present the uncompromising gospel of Jesus Christ to them. I side with the Franciscans and Dominicans on this one.
(1253) NOTE ON THE CURRENT HEALTH CARE DEBATE- 10-09 let me do a quick update on abortion, as of today, 10-6-09, all the bills under consideration for health care reform most definitely include funding for abortion. These bills have been gone over by lawyers and every word was read and looked at. Technically speaking they allow for abortion. Now, as much as I pray for our president, he has misled the public on this issue. In his speech before the congress he did deny this, and he has stated on other forums that those who say that these bills would cover abortion are misleading you. I don’t know if he truly believes this or not, and I take very seriously my responsibility about not misleading people about the president, but he is wrong on this and he has accused those who are telling the truth as misleading people. We need to pray and be informed; we need to let our voices be heard on this important issue. We don’t need to go down the radical path of the right wingers who are accusing the president of trying to undermine our country and create a socialist state [Beck, Limbaugh, etc.] but we very much need to speak the truth when the president himself is either unaware or purposefully misinforming people. The Catholic bishops have gone over these bills with a fine tooth comb, their legal experts have concluded that abortion will be covered in some way thru these bills; these men are not listening to the radical right. We as the people of God need to tell the truth on these issues, pray for our president, but vocally disagree when you need to.
(1247) 2ND KINGS 5- A Syrian army commander has leprosy, he hears about Elisha the prophet and goes to get healed. He is carrying a letter from the king of Syria that requests that the king of Israel heal him. The king of Israel is distraught ‘who does he think I am? Am I God?’ Elisha hears about the matter and says ‘send him to me, after I get thru with him he will know that there is a prophet in the land’. As Naaman arrives at the door of Elisha, Elisha sends out a servant to give him a message ‘go, dip yourself 7 times in the Jordan and you will get healed’. Naaman is upset, he says ‘I thought he would at least come out and make a big show and do some great healing! Are not the waters of Syria better than this stinking Jordan!’ He storms off. His men tell him ‘look, if he told you to do some great act, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not give it a shot and go get wet’. He dips in the Jordan and gets healed. He is elated! He goes back to the prophet and wants to give him an offering, Elisha refuses to take it. On his way back home Elisha’s servant stops him and says ‘my master changed his mind, 2 prophets just stopped by and he now will accept the money/gift’. He lied. As the servant arrives back at Elisha’s house, Elisha confronts him ‘hey Gehazi, where did you go’ he tells him nowhere. Elisha tells him ‘did not my heart go with you when the chariot turned’ he knew he was caught. Elisha rebukes him strongly over wanting to make material gain at this time ‘is this a time to build wealth! To gain land and servants and stuff’ he curses him and puts the leprosy of Naaman on him. Okay, let’s do a little stuff; first, the king of Israel felt like the expectations of the other ‘middle eastern’ Arab countries were too high. The king of Syria flat out treated him like he was God! Oh I don’t know, have there been any leaders recently that have been given the title ‘messiah’ [they gave it mockingly, but the expectations were very high]. And we must not overlook the strong rebuke of Gehazi, and Elisha’s unwillingness to take an offering. We often read all of these stories and only see the parts where God provided for someone, or reduced their debt [the woman with the oil]. We read and preach on the ‘wealth verses’ to the degree where we don’t even see the ‘rebuking of wealth’ verses. Then after many years we develop a wealth mentality in the people of God to the point where they never see the warnings. Without going too far down this road, remember Jesus told his men ‘freely you have received, freely give’. In context he was speaking of the divine gifts of the Spirit that they were given. He was sending them out to heal and cast out demons, he was telling them don’t turn this thing into a money making enterprise! And let’s end with some practical stuff- as I continue to read thru Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ I appreciate his emphasis on helping the poor and reaching out to the outcasts of the world. I also understand his view of changing the way we see things, the language used is ‘framing story- narrative’. But I see a problem with overdoing the concept of ‘framing stories’. For instance some Emergent’s believe that the classic expressions of the gospel are no longer valid. That Jesus really didn’t come to call people to repent and believe in the way we think [Brian quotes N.T. Wright and supposes that the term ‘repent and believe’ was more of a popular saying that military commanders used to simply tell people to surrender over to the new empire. He uses an example from Josephus. I get the point, but believe that this association is rather week. Jesus very much did call people to repent and believe in the classic way we understand it]. Anyway to ‘re-frame’ the gospel in a way that says the real message/purpose of Jesus was to simply change the pictures we use in ‘our story’ is too simple. The best example I can think of would be Jesus conversation with Nicodemus in John’s gospel. Jesus is speaking from the ‘narrative’ of Gods kingdom, Nicodemus is hearing from his own religious frame work. No matter how hard Jesus uses the new framework, or how hard Nicodemus tries to see this new story, he can’t. Jesus tells him it’s impossible to change his ‘framing story’ without changing him! ‘Unless a man is born again, HE CAN NOT SEE THIS KINGDOM’ so I think we can go too far in restating the classic gospel. Yes, believers should be challenged to see things from new/fresh perspectives. But these new perspectives can only be truly seen when we experience personal conversion. Jesus very much wants us to see the story from his perspective, but realistically he knows unless we are born again, we will never truly see it.
-(1245) 2ND KINGS 4:8-37 Elisha travels thru a town called Shunem and a woman decides to prepare a little ‘prophets room’ for him on the city wall. She goes out of her way to assist in Elisha’s ministry. So he wants to return the kind deed and he asks what he could do for her. He finds out that she has had no kids and prophesies that she will have a child. She disbelieves the word but sure enough she has the child. One day when the boy is in the field with his dad he gets sick and dies. The woman lays his body in Elisha’s room and heads out to meet him. He comes back with her and raises the child from the dead. Elisha has already multiplied the oil supernaturally [well God did it] and here he raises the dead. He truly is doing the miraculous signs of a prophet among them. I am still reading Brian McLaren’s book ‘everything must change’ and I like the way Brian shows us how the ministry of Jesus was a challenge to unjust power and human government. He actually uses the example from Pontius Pilate, when Jesus was asked ‘are you the king of the Jews’ and Jesus says yes, he came to testify of the truth. Pilate says ‘what is truth’ and McLaren uses this to illustrate that unjust power structures see truth as this ‘wishy washy’ type thing. I find it funny that Brian accuses Pilate of being a ‘postmodern, relativist’ McLaren himself espouses postmodernism! In the prophetic ministry of Jesus the father gave him the tools he needed to accomplish the mission, in the gospel of John we read ‘many other miracles did Jesus do that are not written in this book, but these are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you would have life thru his name’. Jesus shook up the systems of his day; he knew the prophecies concerning him that were found in the Old Testament. One of them said ‘Gentiles shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising’ when Pilate asked Jesus ‘are you this king or not’ Jesus replied ‘did someone tell you this about me, or did you come up with this idea on your own’. Jesus knew that the Father had promised him that he would impact nations, that kings and rulers would hear his ‘narrative’ and be changed. He fulfilled the 3 years of earthly ministry; he raised the dead, opened blind eyes, fed the masses. Now his time has come to take the cup and drink it. Much is on his mind, at the moment of truth Pilate asks him if he is really who he said he was. Jesus says ‘I can’t lie, for this reason was I born. I am taking this thing to the end, I am going to finish the course that God has set before me’. Pilate was simply a ‘first fruit’ of Roman rulers that would hear about the story of Jesus. After his death and resurrection many kings and aristocrats would come to the Christian religion. Within a few short centuries the whole empire would succumb to a form of Christianity under the Emperor Constantine. Truly Gentiles have come to his light and kings to the brightness of his ‘rising’, before you can rise, you must die. Jesus drank the cup and finished the course, the Father kept his promise.
(1244) 2ND KINGS 4:1-7 A wife of the prophets whose husband died asks Elisha for help. She is in debt and the creditors have come to take her sons as payment. Elisha asks her what she has in her house; she says a pot of oil. He tells her to go borrow empty pots from her neighbors and go in her house and shut the door and fill the empty pots. She fills them all by a miracle and he tells her to sell the oil and pay off the debt, and use the rest to live off of. This chapter has a few more miraculous things that remind us of the ministry of Jesus, we will do it tomorrow. But this miracle shows us the ability of God to ‘take little’ and make it go far. Jesus does this with the loaves and fish. Some see these miracles as Gods way of telling us he will increase our material wealth, after all he gave this woman a goose that lays golden eggs! I see these stories thru a different light; Jesus was showing us that ‘our little bit’ can go very far. In the stories of Jesus multiplying the bread and fish, the disciples actually tell Jesus ‘how can we feed the multitudes, we don’t have enough money’? He shows them that they don’t ‘need enough money’ all they need is him! When people read the bible with their ‘pair of glasses on’ they naturally see these stories in ways that justify their preconceived ideas, we need to let God change these ideas.
Now to the book ‘Everything must change’ by McLaren. I read a few more chapters and thought I’d talk. Brian compares the conventional view of the gospel with the Emergent view. He seems to be too critical of some of the basic elements of the gospel. He kinda speaks condescendingly about original sin and Jesus death saving us from God’s wrath and how these things apply to God’s chosen. He actually states the gospel fairly well, but he does it in a critical way. He then states the Emergent view and shows how Emergent’s see a global justice picture for all people. I don’t see the need to reject the first view in order to embrace the second. He uses an example from the gospels and Mary’s Magnificat to prove his point. He shows us the expectation of natural Israel when they saw the appearing of the Messiah thru a nationalistic lens; true enough. He then uses this example to show us that the conventional view of Jesus and personal conversion is missing the point, that the true ‘framing story’ is about social justice in the nations. I think you can take the story the other way around; that Jesus actually corrects the immediate expectation of Israel and their nationalistic view and tells them ‘the kingdom of God must first begin in you’. In essence Jesus interjects the ‘conventional view’ and the need to deal with ‘original sin’ before they can expect any outward changes in society. I am not sure why Brian seems to be so against the doctrine of original sin, the only thing I can imagine is he has read a lot of social gospel material and 19th, 20th century liberal theology. These teachings were very much against original sin because they felt it instilled in man a sort of hopelessness to effect society as a whole. The liberal theologians rejected classic expressions of original sin because they felt these doctrines gave to man an excuse to not work for change and social justice in society. Good men like Charles Finney embraced these beliefs. The only problem with this is the bible most definitely teaches the doctrine of original sin! ‘In Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive’ ‘As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so thru the righteousness of one man [Jesus] shall many become holy’ [Romans, Corinthians]. The doctrine of original sin is biblical, and being saved from Gods just wrath thru the atonement of Jesus is the heart of the gospel. I accept McLaren’s call for believers to be more concerned and active on the social justice seen, and he does make some good points about the kingdom of God and how it’s much greater than the reductionist ‘me and Jesus’ view. But I disagree on his approach that the conventional expression of the gospel needs to change. Jesus kingdom does begin with the fundamental doctrines and beliefs of redemption and God restoring man back to God thru the atonement, to discard these truths and to replace them with ‘another framing view’ in my mind is a big mistake.
(1242) Read a few chapters from Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ thought I’d comment. I like Brian’s writing style, I agree with him on believers needing to be challenged to see things differently, but I disagree on some of his ‘everything’s’. He challenges the idea of objective thinking as defined as foundationalism. He explains well the questioning of modern intellectuals after the world wars and Holocaust of the 20th century. He shows how certain thinkers began looking for answers to the problem of society’s failure as seen in these events. He also shows how some blamed the events on ‘foundationalism’ which is a way of ‘seeing things’ [epistemology] as defined by Rene Descartes. These thinkers diagnosed the problem as society’s acceptance of absolutes, they felt that this led to an ‘overconfidence’ in right and wrong and this in turn allowed for these atrocities to happen. Many modern thinkers would disagree with this conclusion. I find it interesting that Brian makes some statements about Evolution that seem to say he accepts the theory, but yet he fails to see the role that Social Darwinism played as a precursor to the Holocaust. You could make the opposite argument that it was the rejection of absolutes, and the rise of liberal theology from the universities in Germany that led to these events. Many scholars began questioning Gods truth and laid a foundation that said ‘we really can’t trust Gods truth’ [or even know it]. To be honest these debates are a little philosophical and I didn’t think Brian would go down this road, but he does so I will deal with it. Many ‘post moderns’ believe that one of the things that must change is the ‘old’ [what is termed modern] way of thinking. These new thinkers assert that truth itself, as an absolute thing that people can know for sure, is out of mans reach. They question the modern way of thinking that teaches there are certain absolutes [preconceived ways of thinking that everyone accepts]. These new thinkers say this ‘foundationalism’ is the problem. Did the enlightenment invent this mode of objectivism? No. Thinkers from Aristotle to Aquinas to Descartes all approached thinking this way. It was defined more clearly during the enlightenment period. But this is a philosophical debate that goes on in these various camps. You have had very smart people disagree on these things. The great theologian Karl Barth would say you are not truly educated until you can ‘affirm both sides of an argument, accept contradictory definitions of the same thing’ many believe this would lead to lunacy! The two greatest theoretical physicists of the last century also disagreed on this. Neils Bohr would say that you can have two contradictory truths about a subject, and they could both be true, Einstein disagreed. So these things have been around for a while, many of the eastern religions teach the same [Zen]. So I would disagree with Brian on this, but do agree with him on the need for believers to expand their concerns from simple ‘going to heaven when I die’ concerns, to social justice concerns in the nations. He does give some good examples along these lines.
(1241) 2nd KINGS 2- Elijah is going to be taken up into heaven and Elisha follows him, Elijah tells him to leave but Elisha requests a double portion of the Spirit that anointed Elijah. He tells Elisha that if he witnesses his translation into heaven he will get it. As Elisha follows Elijah to the various towns [Bethel, Jericho, etc.] he runs into the ‘sons of the prophets’ who independently tell Elisha that Elijah will be taken this day. These sons of the prophets are the same group from the ‘school of the prophets’ under Samuel. They lived a communal lifestyle, were provided for by offerings from the community and were recognized as a legitimate group sent from God. Over the years I have had both ‘prophetic’ type experiences as well as learning and growing in Christian truth. Often time’s believers will live their whole lives only experiencing and learning Christianity from their particular group. While many of these various denominations are fine groups, they are only a limited picture of the church. The problem comes in when one group sees itself as ‘the group’ to the exclusion of the other groups. There are ‘prophetic groups’ who operate in these gifts, these gifts do exist and function in the church today. Many of these groups have cut themselves off from the ‘intellectual’ branch of the church. Some seem to regulate their entire Christian experience around the gift. Often times it is next to impossible to correct them doctrinally, because they believe that the fact that they do experience real prophetic gifts justifies all their beliefs. Often times they are wrong. Many times the young believers who follow these gifted men/movements become infatuated with the gift and never truly grow in the things of God. Having said all this, we also need to be open to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit that the bible speaks about. The majority view of Christianity [Catholic, Orthodox and most Protestants] do believe in the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. There are those who try and make a case for their cessation [cessationists!] but for the most part these gifts do and have functioned since the early days of Christianity. I can personally give you many examples from my own story; let me share a recent one. A few weeks ago I had some of my homeless friends over for a fellowship time. We had communion and shared the word in my yard. This spot is the same spot where I pray over the communities of people that we relate to. I have a habit of ‘anointing’ myself with oil while praying for the brothers. I will actually put anointing oil on my head and pray ‘just like this oil is on me, Lord anoint all those we are reaching out to’. One of the homeless guys is very gifted and he does function in the gift of Prophecy, he will often make off the cuff comments and he does not realize that he is actually prophesying. So any way as we were all sitting in my yard he keeps telling me ‘you know brother, I keep thinking of the verse in the bible where the oil was on Aarons head and it ran down to the rest of his body’. This is a verse in Psalms that coincides with the exact type of prayer thing that I regularly do over the guys in this exact spot. So it’s stuff like this that shows me that prophetic people and gifts are not all fakes. Now Elijah does a few prophetic things before the chariots from heaven come and take him; he strikes the Jordan with his mantle [coat] and it dries up for him to cross. After Elisha witnesses Elijah’s ascension he does receive the ‘double portion’ and on his way back into town he does the same thing. The sons of the prophets recognize that the mantle [gift] passed from Elijah to Elisha. A few things; in this chapter we see that those who witness the ascension of ‘the prophet’ receive a greater anointing. Of course this reminds us of the early church, they were the group that saw Jesus ascend and did receive the Spirit. Some say that Elisha does twice the miracles as Elijah [the double portion]. I underlined all the miracles once and think they might be off one or two miracles, but they do come close [Elijah 7, Elisha 13 or 14]. Jesus said we would do greater miracles than he did [in number we would do greater works as the family of God]. And of course the miracles surrounding the Jordan and Elisha pouring salt in the fountain of water to ‘heal the waters’, all these images speak of the ministry of Jesus and John and the significance of baptism and how Jesus would ‘heal the waters’ i.e.; he would unite with us in the waters of the Jordan and we would meet with him thru the ordinance of baptism, in essence Jesus ‘healed the waters’ by his pure life, his ‘saltiness’ [preservation power]. Jesus said we were the salt of the earth. So there are some good prophetic pictures from a prophetic chapter. All in all we as believers are to be grounded in the word, have a grasp on all the various groups/movements that constitute Christianity, and be open to the miraculous. God has given us his Spirit and we do have the ability as Gods people to function in these gifts. But at the end of the day our assurance is in the Lord, not in our gifts.