Thursday, October 28, 2010
Or is it footage of a real time-traveler from 1928? After all, he is a film student, and does tend to smile a bit when describing the details; but, how compelling is the evidence?
But there is one thing you should know . . .
Monday, October 25, 2010
James M. Black published "When The Roll is Called up Yonder" in 1894. This song has been sung often by many churches through the years. I have a few questions for your consideration, at the end:
When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
And the glory of His resurrection share;
When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there."
A few questions for your consideration:
1) Do you believe that at the sound of the trump the dead in Christ will rise, the church will be raptured, there will be seven years of tribulation, then the Lord will return?
2) Do you believe what the song says?
If you answered "yes," to #1 and "yes," to #2, then please continue:
3) After the trump of the Lord sounds, "what" shall be no more, and what kind of morning breaks (see Stanza 1)?
4) How does one fit seven years of tribulation between trump and time that is no more, when all of life is over?
5) The Bible speaks of the tribulations faced by Christians, and the tribulations experienced by unbelievers: which one do we mean?
5) If with the sound of the trump time ends and eternity begins and "all of life is over," (see Stanza 3) and the the saved of earth are "on the other shore" along with the dead in Christ (see Stanza 2), how does this song support pre-tribulational rapture?
6) How many resurrections are there (see Matt 22:23; John 5:28-29, 6:39, 44, 54; 11:24; Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24)?
7) Care to make any comments?
Friday, October 22, 2010
The reason I read is simply explained by looking down the banquet table to Tolstoy's German tutor who sat, "trying to remember all the dishes, wines, and kinds of dessert, in order to send a full description of the dinner to his people in Germany; and he felt greatly offended when the butler with a bottle wrapped in a napkin passed him by. He frowned, trying to appear as if he did not want any of that wine, but was mortified because no one would understand that it was not to quench his thirst or from greediness that he wanted it, but simply from a conscientious desire for knowledge." (War and Peace, Book 1, Chapter 18)
Here is an ever-increasing list of books I've read (non-exhaustive):
"9 Marks of a Healthy Church," by Mark Dever
“10 Books that Screwed Up The World And Five Others That Didn’t Help,” by Benjamin Wiker
"The 99 Beautiful Names of God For All the People of The Book," by David Bentley
"2001: A Space Odyssey," by Arthur C. Clarke
"2010: Odyssey Two," by Arthur C. Clarke
"2061: Odyssey Three," by Arthur C. Clarke
"A Boy's War," by David Mitchell
"A Brief History of Time," by Stephen Hawking
"A Harmony of the Gospels," by Robert Thomas and Stanley Gundry
"A Journey to the Center of the Earth," by Jules Verne
"A Modest Proposal," by Jonathan Swift
"A Promise Kept," by Robertson McQuilkin
"A Sacrifice of Praise," by James Trott
"A Separate Peace," by John Knowles
"A Short Life of Christ," by R.K. Harrison
"A Tale of Two Sons," by John MacArthur
"A Theology of the New Testament," by George Eldon Ladd
"ABC's of Prophetic Scripture," by Clement
"Absalom, Absalom," by William Faulkner
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," by Arthur Conan Doyle
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," by Mark Twain
"Against 'Biblical Counseling:' For the Bible," by Martin and Deidre Bobgan
"The Age of Fable; or, The Beauties of Mythology," by Thomas Bulfinch
"All Quiet On The Western Front," by Erich Remarque
"An Introduction to Biblical Ethics," by Robertson McQuilkin
"The Ancient Greeks," by M.I. Finley
"The Ancient Near East: texts and pictures relating to the Old Testament," by James B. Prichard
"The Ancient Near East, Vol. II. A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures," by James B. Prichard
"Angels," by Billy Graham
"Animal Farm," by George Orwell
"Anne of Green Gables," by Lucy Maude Montgomery
"Another Gospel," by Ruth Tucker
"Around the World in 80 Days," by Jules Verne
"Ashamed of the Gospel," by John MacArthur
"Art of War," by Sun Tzu
"As I Lay Dying," by William Faulkner
"The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness," by Leon McBeth
"Bearing an Hourglass," by Piers Anthony
"The Beauty of Holiness," by J. Baines Atkinson
"Beyond Seduction: A Return to Biblical Christianity," by Dave Hunt
The Bible (English, Hebrew, Greek)
"Biblical Archaeology in Focus," by Keith Schoville
"The Bible as History," by Werner Keller
"The Bible as History in Pictures," by Werner Keller
"Biblical Preaching," by Haddon W. Robinson
"Biblical Psychology: Christ-centered Solutions for Daily Problems," by Oswald Chambers
"Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West," by Cormac McCarthy
"Blue Adept," by Piers Anthony
"The Book of Acts," by F.F. Bruce
"The Book on Leadership," by John MacArthur
"The Book that Changed My Life: 71 Writers Celebrate The Books That Matter Most to Them," by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen
"The Boy Who Invented the Bubble Gun: An Odyssey of Innocence," by Paul Gallico
"Broken Down House," by Paul David Tripp
"Building Leaders for Church Education," by Ken Gangel
"The Call of the Wild," by Jack London
"Candide," by Voltaire
"Castle Roogna," by Piers Anthony
"Catch-22," by Joseph Heller
"The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger
"Christ Among Other Gods," by Erwin Lutzer
"Christ and the Modern Mind," by Robert Wayne Smith
"Christ's Coming and His Kingdom," by Keith M. Bailey
"The Christian Counselor's Manual," by Jay E. Adams
"Christian Theology: An Introduction," by Alister McGrath
"Christmas Stories," by Charles Dickens
"The Chronicles of Narnia," by C.S. Lewis
"The Church on Purpose," by Joe Ellis
"The Civilization of Rome," by Donald Dudley
"The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe," by Edgar Allan Poe
"The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer," by Francis Schaeffer
"The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards," by Jonathan Edwards
"Concepts of God in Africa," by John Mbiti
"Contemporary Options in Eschatology," by Millard Erickson
"The Cost of Discipleship," by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
"The Counselor: Straight Talk About the Holy Spirit From a 20th Century Prophet," by A.W.Tozer
"Counseling and Demonization," by Grayson Ensign
"Creative Brooding," by Robert Raines
"Crime and its Victims," by Eric Van Ness
"Culture and Biblical Hermeneutics," by William Larkin
"David Copperfield," by Charles Dickens
"Dead End Gene Pool," by Wendy Burden
"The Death of Christ," by James Denney
"The Disciplines of the Christian Life," by Eric Liddell
"Documents from Old Testament Times," by D. Winton Thomas
"Dracula," by Bram Stoker
"Dragon on a Pedestal," by Piers Anthony
"The Early Church," by Henry Chadwick
"The Effective Pastor: A Practical Guide to Ministry," by Robert C. Anderson
"The End of Christian Psychology," by Martin and Deidre Bobgan
"The End Times," by Herman Hoyt
"The English Bible: From KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation," by Jack Pearl Lewis
"The Epistle to the Romans," by Leon Morris
"Essentials of New Testament Greek," by Ray Summers
"Eternity In Their Hearts," by Don Richardson
"The Everlasting Hatred: The Roots of Jihad," by Hal Lindsay
"Evidence that Demands a Verdict," by Josh McDowell
"Feeding and Leading," by Ken Gangel
"The Final Days," by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
"The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food", by Jennifer 8. Lee
"Forward the Foundation," by Isaac Asimov
"Foundation," by Isaac Asimov
"Foundation and Earth," Isaac Asimov
"Foundation's Edge," by Isaac Asimov
"Foundation and Empire," Isaac Asimov
"Foxe's Book of Martyrs"
"Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus" by Mary Shelley
"The Future Life," by Rene Pache
"The Glory of the Cross," by Samuel Zwemer
"God: What Is He Like?" by William F. Kerr
"God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics," by C.S. Lewis
"God’s Forgetful Pilgrims," by Michael C. Griffiths
"God's Psychiatry: The Twenty-third Psalm, The Ten Commandments, The Lord's Prayer, The Beatitudes," by Charles L. Allen.
"Gods of Power," by Philip Steyne
"Golem in the Gears," by Piers Anthony
"The Gospel According to Jesus," by John MacArthur
"The Gospel of John," by F.F. Bruce
"The Grapes of Wrath," by John Steinbeck
"The Great Divorce," by C.S. Lewis
"The Great Omission," by Robertson McQuilkin
"Gulliver's Travels," by Jonathan Swift
"The Hallelujah Factor," by Jack Taylor
"Hamlet," by William Shakespeare
"Handy-dandy Evolution Refuter," by Robert Kofahl
"Have Spacesuit Will Travel," by Robert A. Heinlein
"Heart of Darkness," by Joseph Conrad
"Heretics," by G.K. Chesterton
"The History and Culture of Western Asia and Egypt," by Bernard Knapp
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams
"The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again," by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Holiness as understood by the writers of the Bible," by Joseph Agar Beet
"The Holiness of God," by R.C. Sproul
"Holiness Voices," ed. by Robert Cowells
"The Holy Spirit in the Latter Days," by Harold Lindsell
"The House of the Seven Gables," by Nathanial Hawthorne
"How Can I Change? Victory in the Struggle Against Sin," by Robin Boisvert & C.J. Mahaney
"How to Counsel from Scripture," by Martin and Deidre Bobgan
"How to Read the Psalms," by Tremper Longman III
"Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain
"I, Robot," by Isaac Asimon
"The Iliad," by Homer
"The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde
"In Step With The God of the Nations," by Phil Steyne
"The Incredible Cover-up," by Dave McPherson
"Intelligent Design vs. Evolution: Letters to an Atheist," by Ray Comfort
"Invitation to Philosophy," by Stanley Honer, Thomas Hunt
"The Island of Dr. Moreau," by H.G. Wells
"Israel from Conquest to Exile: A Commentary on Joshua to 2 Kings," by John Davis and John Whitecomb
"Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message," by Ravi Zacharias
"Jesus Christ Our Lord," by John Wolvoord
"The Jesus I Never Knew," by Philip Yancey
"Job: A Comedy of Justice," by Robert A. Heinlein
"Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography," by Ian Murray
"Journey to the Centre of the Earth," by Jules Verne
"Julius Ceasar," by William Shakespeare
"The Jungle Books," by Rudyard Kipling
"The Justification of Knowlege," by Robert Redmond
"Juxtaposition," by Piers Anthony
"Klondike Tales," by Jack London
"The Knowledge of the Holy," by A.W. Tozer
"Lectures in Systematic Theology," by Henry Thiessen
"Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremecy of God in Missions," by John Piper
"Life on the Mississippi," by Mark Twain
"London: A History," by A.N. Wilson
"Lord of the Flies," by William Golding
"Lord of the Rings" books by J.R.R. Tolkien
"The Love Dare," by Stephen Kendrick
"Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis
"Metaphysics," by Aristotle
"The Mind of Jesus," by William Barclay
"The Mind of St. Paul," by William Barclay
"Miracles," by C.S. Lewis
"Missionary Voices," ed. by Robert Cowells
"Mody Dick," by Herman Melville
"New Life in the Old Prayer Meeting," by John Franklin Cowan
"Night Mare," by Piers Anthony
"Nineteen Eighty Four," by George Orwell
"The Odyssey," by Homer
"Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck
"Ogre, Ogre," by Piers Anthony
"The Old Man and the Sea," by Ernest Hemingway
"The Old Testament Speaks," by Samuel Schultz
"Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate," by Gerhard Hasel
"On A Pale Horse," by Piers Anthony
"On The Crest Of The Wave," C. Peter Wagner
"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
"Orthdoxy," by G.K. Chesterton
"The Other Side of the Good News," by Larry Dixon
"The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes," by Elizabeth Longford, ed.
"The Passion of Jesus Christ," by John Piper
"The Perfect Storm," by Sebastian Junger
"People Raising," William Dillon
"The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit," by Donald Williams
"The Picture of Dorian Gray," by Oscar Wilde
"Pilgrim's Progress," by John Bunyan
"Portraits of Perseverance," by Henry Gariepy
"The Possibilities of Prayer," by E.M. Bounds
"The Power of Integrity," by John MacArthur
"The Practice of Godliness," by Jerry Bridges
"Prayer Voices," ed. by Robert Cowells
"Prelude to Foundation," by Isaac Asimov
"The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis
"Property and Riches in the Early Church," by Martin Hengel
"The Prophets as Preachers," by Gary Smith
"Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics," by Bernard Ramm
"Psalms: 1-72; 73-150" by Derek Kidner
"Psychoheresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity," by Martin and Deidre Bobgan
"The Pursuit of God," by A.W. Tozer
"The Pursuit of Holiness," by Jerry Bridges
"Putting Amazing Back Into Grace," by Michael Horton
"Reason Within the Bounds of Religion," by Nicolas Wolterstorff
"The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today," by Edwin Scott Gaustad, Leigh Eric Schmidt
"Red Planet," by Robert A. Heinlein
"The Reformation," by Owen Chadwick
"The Republic," by Plato
"Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship," by Martin Sandler
"Right Thinking," by Bill Hull
"The Road," by Jack London
"The Road," by Cormac McCarthy
"Romeo and Juliet," by William Shakespeare
"Romans: A Shorter Commentary," by C.E.B. Cranfield
"The Sea Wolf," by Jack London
"The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days," by Dave Hunt, Thomas McMahon
"The Screwtape Letters," by C.S. Lewis
"Second Foundation," by Isaac Asimov
"Shadow Divers," by Robert Kurson
"The Shining," by Steven King
"Sing with Understanding," by Harry Eskew
"The Six Miracles of Calvary," by William R. Nicolson
"Socrates Meets Jesus: History's Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ," by Peter Kreeft
"The Source of Magic," by Piers Anthony
"Space Cadet," by Robert A. Heinlein
"Split Infinity," by Piers Anthony
"Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer," by J. Oswald Sanders
"Stranger In A Strange Land," by Robert A. Heinlein
"Teaching Truth, Training Hearts: The Study of Catechisms in Baptist Life," by Tom Nettles
"Ten Philosophical Mistakes," by Mortimer Adler
"The Time Machine," by H.G. Wells
"Theology in the Context of World Christianity:How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology," by Timothy Tenant
"This Side of Heaven,: Race, Ethnicity and the Christian Faith," by Robert Priest
"'Tis: A Memoir," by Frank McCourt
"Titanic's Last Secrets: The Further Adventures of Shadow Divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler," by Brad Matsen
"Treasure Island," by Robert Lewis Stevenson
"Tried and Transfigured," by Leonard Ravenhill
"The Triunity of God is Jewish," by John B. Metzger
"Truth Endures," by John MacArthur
"Toward an Old Testament Theology," by Walkter Kaiser
"Toward Old Testament Ethics," by Walter Kaiser
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," Harriet Beecher Stowe
"Understanding and Applying the Bible," by Robertson McQuilkin
"The Universe Next Door," James Sire
"Up with Worship," by Ann Ortlund
"War," by Sebastian Junger
"War And Peace," by Leo Tolstoy
"The War of the Worlds," by H.G. Wells
"The Way of Holiness," by Kenneth Prior
"The Way of the Master," by Ray Comfort
"Western Society and Church in the Middle Ages," by R.W. Southern
"What in the World is God Doing?" by G. Gordon Olson
"What's Gone Wrong with the Harvest," by James Engel & Wilbert Norton
"What the Bible Says to the Minister," Leadership Ministries Worldwide
"When Skeptics Ask," by Norman Geisler
"White Fang," by Jack London
"Wild at Heart," by John Eldridge
"With a Tangled Skein," by Piers Anthony
"Workhouse," by Simon Fowler
"The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century," by Thomas L. Friedman
"Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel," by Ronald Barclay Allen
"Worship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church," by A.W. Tozer
"Wrestling with Dark Angels," by C. Peter Wagner and F. Douglas Pennoyer
"The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England, from 1811-1901," by Kristine Hughes.
"Xanth: A Quest for Magic," by Piers Anthony
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Did you notice that at the same time the Chilean miners were being rescued, 16 miners were being trapped in China?
Dr. King recommends these books for leaders in training and developing leaders.
A few devotional thoughts on the most forgiving people in the world.
Saturn's Moons Engage in Cosmic Paintball Fight.
What are the similarities and differences between Biblical/presuppositional apologetics and traditional/evidence-based apologetics? This simple chart illustrates the contrast between the piece-meal approach of evidentialism against presupositional apologetics.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
This is an interaction with the New Atlantis article, “Getting Over the Code Delusion,” based on my printer-friendly version. This way page numbers and paragraphs are more easily identified.
When I read this article, I was reminded first of the great milestones of science (the earth is flat; there are only 1,100 stars, which happen to be all the same; the earth sits on the back of a large animal; light was fixed, air was weightless and blew straight; the ocean floor was flat and was fed by rivers and rain; sick people must be bled; hands must be washed in still water; and last, but not least, complete ignorance of invisible elements, such as atoms) and second, how science has been working hard to catch up to the Bible (the earth is a sphere, Isaiah 40:22; stars are without number and are different, Jeremiah 33:22, 1 Corinthians 15:41; the earth floats in space, Job 26:7; light moves, Job 38:19-20, air has weight, Job 28:25 and blows in cyclones, Ecclesiastes 1:6; the ocean floor contains mountains, valleys and contains springs, 2 Samuel 22:26, John 2:6, Job 38:16; blood is the source of life and health, Leviticus 17:11; hands should be washed under running water, Leviticus 15:13; and last but not least, creation contains invisible elements, Hebrews 11:3). It is not by accident the word “science,” means “knowledge” and what science discovers is mostly affirmation to what is already common and very ancient knowledge.
“So what?” was my knee-jerk, default setting to Steve Talbott’s article, but not in an apathetic sense; rather, my question serves as a filter. The first paragraph met the filter immediately because such a premise deserves to answer the question. Are chimps human? Why not state that humans are chimps? This may be clarified later. The fact that chimps don’t seem interested in the conversation altogether is evidence enough for our humanity and their non-humanity (the key word being “conversation”).
The human body is defined by epigenetic research as, “not a mere implication of clean logical code in abstract conceptual space, but rather a play on the complexly shaped and intricately interacting physical substances and forces.” In other words, epigenetic research has reduced the human to a spasmodic lump of chemical reactions, or simple, “we are chemic Tourettes.” Talbott hopes that “more discoveries will be made that will continue to undermine the doctrine that a genetic code defines the ‘program of life.’” (p. 19).
A bulk of this 23 page (printed) article is a basic explanation of DNA, what it is, how it functions and other related findings of genetic and epigenetic research. There is an unmistakable tone of breath-taking awe and wonder in these descriptions—everything working together in concert; yet, sprinkled throughout are these constant reminders that all this happened by accident through evolutionary process—one wrong move and we have nothing to discuss.
Talbott extends to the reader the very heart of concern for researchers, that “the genetic code was supposed to reassure us that something like a computational machine lay beneath the life of the organism.” (p. 4) In other words, that life is the machine. Talbott is correct to point out that “if an organic context really does rule its parts in the way molecular biologists are beginning to recognize, then we have to learn to speak that peculiar form of governance, turning our casual explanations upside down.” The key here is “peculiar form of governance.” Without a key, nothing is unlocked, no matter what is understood about the lock or what lies behind it. Despite their findings, researchers cannot answer questions they hope to avoid because the deny the “peculiar form of governance,” such as: “how is it that DNA topology and physical features alone are crucial to life? What happened in the evolutionary process to determine structure—and this before the specific proteins that make the structure, much less make it operate?”
Let us return: if we share 98 to 99 percent of DNA, some feel compelled to ask the question, “are chimps human?” Is this a good question? Talbott reports that The Human Genome Project revised the human gene count from 100,000 to 20,000-25,000. This was a problem because of the count that brought apes and humans closer together. The same count showed that the roundworm has roughly the same number of genes as humans, as does the pea aphid and the water flea. Scientists suddenly don’t want to say that fleas are human nor do they want to say that humans are worms. Why be so specific to elevate humans above a worm or a flea, but not a chimp? Why stop there?
Face it: we are confused. We want to call animals human (selectively, of course), but humans are often treated like animals. One cannot help but remember when Ray Comfort called the airlines asking about taking a relative on-board with two handlers. The airlines would not allow primates in the cabin, no matter what we teach in the science books (watch from mark 2:17 to 7:13 of this video of the conversations with the airlines). Perhaps if the other species were just a little more human, they could sue. But then, what does it matter—US Airways won’t let you fly if you are too disabled, unless you have handlers.
One oddity (among several) that Talbott highlights is that scientists have determined that our coding scheme for deciphering the genetic book of life render most of it as “nonsense”, that “some 95 or 98 percent of human DNA was useless for making proteins . . . at first dismissed as ‘junk’—meaningless evolutionary detritus . . .” (p. 4) How did they come to that conclusion? Scientists did not know enough detail of the coding scheme, so the “book of life” as a whole was not understood and subsequently dismissed. Here is what they said, slightly reworded: humans have climbed to the top of the evolutionary ladder because 98% of what we are is really useless. Si lo que se dice que no se entiende, se lo digo a ser sin sentido? This is like pulling mortar from between the bricks. How can we possibly rise on the evolutionary scale with more junk DNA (p. 5) This is like going backward in order to go forward.
One of the strongest sentences of Talbott’s article is on page 6: “Constant things cannot by themselves explain dynamic processes.” The other strong sentence speaks of the performance of chromosomes: “this performance cannot be captured with an abstract code.” (p. 8) An exploded rock cannot describe dynamite: it can only show the evidence of what dynamite can do. Scientists lacking knowledge want a lump of clay to make itself into a pot. “The chromosome, like everything else in the cell, it itself a manifestation of life, not a logic or mechanism explaining life” (p. 11).
I appreciated most Talbott’s choice of words that demonstrate the failure of this kind of autonomous thinking: “somehow;” this or that “can be thought of as . . ;” “researchers have yet . . ;” “I don’t think anyone would claim to have the faintest idea how . . .”, etc.
Chemical reaction does not equate human life. We are distinguished from the rest of creation because of the one thing that makes us human, and that is found in a less-obvious place. We do find the evidence in what we see in physical features—these features merely showcase the necessary tools for existing on the planet. God created with words and appointed man to bear his image in creation as His vice-regent by being creative with words. God did not name the animals, but left man to interact with other living beings in this fashion. Life is for the living and is only understood in the context of The Person that many so-called scientists are trying not to see by exalting the creation over the creator. God says that life is in the blood—they are so close, and yet so far away.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
How Can There Be Both Mercy and A Hell?
The distinction between a game and a puzzle is that while a game produces winners and losers, puzzles are centered on a solution. C.S. Lewis debates the doctrine of universalism (“all will be saved”) along the same lines of this distinction: is personal eschatology to be regarded as a puzzle or a game? If a game, then why is the winner detestable? If a puzzle, then why the doctrine at all? Which is more tolerable: dismiss the doctrine of hell because it is disagreeable; or, allow the wicked person to enter heaven against his will and remain as he is?
Does God send people to hell, or is it their sin? This is the difference between world religions and biblical doctrine. Hell is inflicted because men prefer darkness to light. Hell is not a sentence, but a fact of being.
Punishment is just because righteousness, not vindictiveness, stands behind it. A man satisfied with evil will not be satisfied with righteousness. “Pain plants the flag of truth within a rebel fortress,” or it leads to repentance. Pain brought about by evil is knowledge, as opposed to ignorance. “To condone evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt cannot accept no forgiveness.”
Is eternal damnation disproportionate to transitory sin? Yes, but only because eternity is perceived wrongly; that is, if eternity were linear time (life, being a short segment of the whole). Lewis is correct to picture eternity as a plane, or solid; that is, a “multi-dimensional” whole (with life being part of the whole). What happens in a moment is not lost in a line, but constitutes all that is.
Lewis reminds the reader that the word “hell” describes much more than a place, or lack of place (ie: exclusion from heaven), but is symbolically used as a verb (punishment, destruction). The images produced by the symbols and descriptive language are to be used as combined ideas describing an experience to be avoided. “You will remember that in the parable, the saved go to a place prepared for them, while the damned go to a place never made for men at all [Matthew 25:34, 41].”
Is it possible for anyone to enjoy heaven knowing there are souls in hell? Lewis holds up two more troubling points that serve as objections to the doctrine of hell: first is the observed difference between the duration of hell and the finality of hell: because hell was not made for men, we cannot draw a parallel from what we know of heaven, so one in hell “fades away into nonentity.” Second, there exists the idea that omnipotence is defeated if a soul is lost to hell. Lewis in the best way he knows how, responds to these objections, but indirectly. His primary concern is that we as individuals miss hell.
We used to sing, “Heaven is a wonderful place; filled with glory and grace; I want to see my Savior’s face; heaven in a wonderful place (I wanna go there) . . .”
Heaven is often measured against the pain on living on earth, a safe place to enjoy God forever; yet, there are those who are swallowed in the pain of their sin that heaven seems like a bribe thus many are disinterested. Perhaps they feel there is more heaven on earth, so others remain silent about what they anticipate. Do we really desire it, then?
Consider the things most desired in life. Why is my desire for this thing not desired by others? Why are they things they desire of no interest to me? Lewis suggests we are born desiring, “a signature on each soul,” which is in itself a hint of heaven. Though created as individuals, we all have desire for an elusive, indescribable “something” this world cannot satisfy. “All that you are . . . is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction.” God is the soul’s first love. Heaven is made for the individual (not humanity per se).
Hell, Lewis suggests, is further understood to be unattainable ecstasy that hovers “just beyond the grasp of consciousness. “The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope . . . that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”
Heaven is not an experience as desire is an experience. Chasing an experience is elusive, hence the pain of life. Lewis quotes George McDonald, “’The door into life generally opens behind us’ and ‘the only wisdom’ for one ‘haunted with the scent of roses, is work.’” When we desire “something better,” we desire what lies beyond an experience. If heaven were a subjective experience, then because of its subjectivity, it would be owned. Lewis again draws a quote from Theological Germanica, “in heaven there is no ownership. If any there took upon him to call anything his own, he would straightway be thrust into hell and become an evil spirit.” Heaven is about overcoming and receiving what is given, even a new name that is no longer one’s own (Revelation 2:17).
There is a distinction in each created soul, a uniqueness that God fills in union through Christ. We are formed a unified body, diverse in members. Heaven is the celebration of that union through eternal worship of Christ who died as the expression of God’s love. Self-giving is heavenly, as selfishness is of hell.
“All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that [eternal] dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparible with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost our of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy.”
Monday, October 18, 2010
[continuing my interaction with "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis]
Chapters 6 and 7 of C.S. Lewis’ book concentrate on the topic of “Human Pain,” which Lewis divides into two categories: “A. A particular kind of sensation, probably conveyed by specialized nerve fibers, and recognizable [sic] by the patient as that kind of sensation whether he dislikes it nor not . . . B. Any experience whether physical or mental, which the patient dislikes.” Immediately, Lewis expounds the pain of human autonomy; that is, the rejection of all that intended good that accompanies submission to God. One may choose the pain of self-surrender out of love for God and gain all the blessings that come with a restored relationship; or, one may instead choose suffer the pain of evil bound up in rebellion against Him.
Pain is an illusion-breaker, snapping us out of the delusion that all is well and that all the resources of the world are ours for the taking. We are not self-sufficient. When all is well, we cannot focus on God. Through pain, God makes life less sweet in order to empty our hands, that He may give all the good He intends. Pain causes us to choose that we may understand our free will in His sovereignty. Lewis makes six more observations regarding pain:
1. “There is a paradox about tribulation in Christianity.” Pain helps us understand the goodness of God, the evil of rebellious creatures, the exploitation of evil for God’s redemptive purposes and the good that “accepted suffering and repented sin contribute.”
2. “If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable.” Simple reform is not enough; that is, saying I’m sorry is not enough. Man must know his misery for true repentance.
3. The relationship between Creator and creature is unique.
4. The Christian doctrine of pain explains the world in which we live. We crave happiness and security but can only find it in the soul-rest found in reconciliation with the Father.
5. The problem of pain is not to be confused with all human misery.
6. Pain is disinfected evil because “the natural sequel is joy.”
Skipping over to Chapter 9, we read, “so far as we know beasts are incapable either of sin or virtue: therefore they can neither deserve pain nor be improved by it. At the same time we must never allow the problem of animal suffering to become the centre of the problem of human pain . . . is it outside the range of our knowledge.” This just may be the key to understanding Narnia. We understand our own suffering because we stand on this side of our own experience.
The second question, “how did disease and pain enter the animal world?” could be traced to the Fall of man; but, what did carnivorous activity bring before the fall of man? Lewis imaginatively wonders that man may not have been the first creature to rebel against the creator. His imagination could here be rejected on the grounds that God humbled Himself to become man, not a serpent or any other beast.
Finally, there is the question of justice: “how can animal suffering be reconciled with the justice of God?” Again Lewis entertains imaginative ideas that belong in his mythologies, for they provide no answers here. Scriptures explain that all creation is groaning for redemption, anticipating the glorification of man in Christ. The only coherent principle he offers is that “man is to be understood only in his relation to God.
Friday, October 15, 2010
[continuing my interaction with "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis]
How Can My Breath Stink If I Have No Nose?
C. S. Lewis asks, “why do men need so much alteration?” If the argument is that man has become bad through abused free will, then he must be able to use free will to become good. This means that the preaching of the good news (repentance by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ) is not good news at all. “Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis—in itself very bad news—before it can win a hearing for the cure.” Lewis present two principle causes for this faulty assumtion: first, doctrine has been skewed by focusing more on virtue and less on vice, more on kindness and less on wrath. Second, sin and shame have been redefined, which leads one to wonder: was Jesus death a mistake if all it took to fix man was a shift in focus and some simple redefinitions? Lewis likens this to the abolition of the nose, “that the smell of hay or roses or the sea should never again delight any creature, because our own breath happens to stink.”
Lewis exposes faulty thinking that remains still today [my response to these statements in brackets]:
1. “We are deceived by looking on the outside of things.” In other words, someone else is always much worse than I. [You are accountable for yourself, not others] ;
2. “Every person is guilty, so nobody is guilty.” [If you are caught speeding, the law hold you responsible because you were the one pulled over];
3. “Time cancels sin;” or, time erases the crime [This is what every rapist, murder and thief is hoping for—remember that if you find yourself a victim];
4. “Badness is excusable.” [see #3].
5. “Things are different now.” [What does history reveal about the cruelty of men and what is different: do people no longer lie, steal, murder or commit adultery?]
6. “We learn from our mistakes.” [So are we more or less cruel now than before? See #5]
7. “You can’t interpret the Bible moralistically.” [How can God be less moral?]
8. “I’m a victim of my ancestors. It’s not my fault.” [That won’t work in a human court of law, so why would it work when you stand before God?]
“Humility, after the first shock, is a cheerful virtue; it is the high-minded unbeliever, desperately trying in the teeth of repeated disillusions to retain his ‘faith in human nature,’ who is really sad.”
Warning: humility does not cause God to smile—it only helps man understand his helplessness.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
A parachute jump from 23 miles (120,000 feet)? I think Red Bull is the operative word here.
Dr. Warren Larson helps us understand "A Christian Response to Islamic Terrorism."
They can get the billets and the bullets, but not the ballots. Really, Mr. President?
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
[continuing my interaction with "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis]
Life sans Pain Is Lifeless:
Chapter 2, “Divine Omnipotence” is thoughtful consideration of the power of God and what man expects of Him. For example, there today is heard the so-called objection to God through the question, “Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?” The question demands to know if God exists based on a demonstration of power, which only proves the question is not a good question. Lewis answers: “[M]eaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’ It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities . . . not because His power meets an obstacle but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” If power were proof of existence, then what would be the outcome if you were challenged to arm-wrestle yourself? Impossibilities are safe for man, for here God displays His incredible power. In other words, pain is not evil when He allows it through His omniscient omnipotence as a danger signal in order that we avoid evil. Pain prevents us from making idols, a god of our own understanding.
Goodness without Pain Exists In a Universe Uncreated
Chapter 3, “Divine Goodness,” helps us understand how suffering assures us of God’s goodness. Man’s backward and worldly thinking (that what is “good” is “bad,” so what is “bad” must be “good”) concludes that the Omnipotent Fiend who is out to destroy what we deem good is the one demanding our love. Divine goodness is a new standard that reverses this backward thinking (we fear the destruction of goodness which instead God transforms). The call to repent is an appeal to existing moral judgment, putting God Himself “at the bar before His own creatures. [Luke 12:57]”
What does the goodness of God mean? “Whatever makes you happy,” is self-serving for the individual and has nothing to do with God or His goodness. Kindness can be separated from love resulting in a love and a kindness that means nothing to those to whom they are applied. The goodness of God is bound in the intimacy of relationship, the deepest expression of love that transforms inferiority at the expense of pain. Concern for man’s welfare is one expression of God’s love by virtue of His creative activity, but it is not the deep goodness that moves man from his backward thinking.
“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the world ‘love,’ and look on things as if man were the centre of them . . . . To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable.”
The love of God is distinguished from “selfish love” (the kind of love that many objectors raise in their defiance to be embraced by His love): first, God’s love is without competition; second, as the interests of a child do not define a father’s love for that child, so God as a separate being loves His creation separately.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
[This is will not be a book review per se, but more of a lengthy interaction and summation, spread out over a number of posts--bite-size and eaily digestable portions of this challenging book.]
Lewis explains the purpose of his book, The Problem of Pain, as being a solution to “the intellectual problem raised by suffering.” Lewis expresses his personal feeling in the preface that he has nothing to offer his readers “except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” This is perhaps the best summary of the book, humbly presenting both problem and solution with such little complexity.
Lewis dedicates the introductory matter of the first chapter to building the framework concerning the rationale of religion (“awe,” generally speaking) through four elements: existence of Presence (the “numenous”) which through the fear of uncertainty builds in man the fear of inadequacy; morality (“ought” and “ought not”) and man’s failure to obey even his own code of ethics; objectivity of The Presence that guards morality, holding men accountable as “The Righteous Lord” (thus the contrary viewpoints of paganism and pantheism through non-moral religion or non-religious morality); and finally, Jesus, “the Something which is at once the awful haunter of nature and the giver of the moral law,” whose death affected our relationship with “the ‘awful’ and ‘righteous Lord,’ and a change in our favor.”
The Meaning of “The Problem of Pain”:
The meaning of the title, “The Problem of Pain,” is found in the situation that Christianity does not solve the pain (otherwise, pain would be no problem for the Christian); rather, Christianity creates the problem of pain because we must experience the righteousness of Christ in the context of the world. Lewis explains the logical conclusion of the world as those who reject God, who must separate from the poets, prophets and philosophers, even “with his own childhood, with the richness and depth of uninhibited experience.” The rejection of moral law calls for a separation from humanity, leading to barbarianism. Rejection of the Incarnation requires a separation from the assurance of history, reason and reality, “not made by us, or, indeed, for us, but hitting us in the face.”
Monday, October 11, 2010
Who, or what, is the Holy Spirit and what does the Holy Spirit do? Here is sampling of various views I found on the web:
- The bridge to God within you: one part being your own mind, the other The Mind of God;
- One of nine spirits of God;
- One of three gods;
- An aspect of God (mode) perceived by the believer;
- An active force, God’s breath or energy; inspiration;
- The power/mind/character of God; or, one of three aspects of mind action;
- The bounty of God; the conduit through which flows the wisdom of God; the reflection of God’s attributes;
- The created spirit that acts as an agent of divine action or communication;
- The reality of God;
- Haile Selassie
One distinguishing feature of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is that He is not an impersonal, passive force. He transforms, changing the very nature of the believer. He brings change to body, mind and spirit. The change to the body is an anticipated, future change; the change to the mind is a developmental change, as the person as a new creation grows; the change to the spirit is instantaneous.
Here’s a question for us to consider. Paul writes, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22). Why is creation groaning? Some suggest that creation is expressing the pain of being under mankind’s sin. The news is filled with accounts of stress, violence, hatred, war, disease, tragedy upon tragedy. This is correct, but only to a point. We get a better grasp of what is happening when considering the following verse, “Not only [that], but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23) Yes, we, too groan under the sin that remains; but, the groaning is not our lamentation of “why does this happen to us,” nor does creation groan saying, “why did you sin?” This is not pessimism; rather, our groaning together is of waiting for redemption. We wait to be delivered from the presence of sin and creation is groaning with the same anticipation—creation itself cannot wait for the redemption of our bodies! This is not mere optimism, but the very work of the Holy Spirit!
Consider for a moment what our Lord Jesus Christ told the disciples in the upper room (John 14:15-17): “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
The Lord Jesus Christ gives the disciples a command (“keep My commandments”) and a promise (“He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever”). The abiding of the Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of God within those who do what He says—abide in His Word! Oswald Chambers writes, “The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself. J esus Christ will not force me to obey Him, but I must. And as soon as I obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny.” (Nov. 2, “Authority and Independence,” My Utmost For His Highest.) Our obedience and His indwelling are love-motivated.
“The Spirit-filled life does not come through mystical or ecstatic experiences but from studying and submitting oneself to Scripture. As a believer faithfully and submissively saturates his mind and heart with God’s truth, his Spirit-controlled behavior will follow as surely as night follows day. When we are filled with God’s truth and led by His Spirit, even our involuntary reactions— those that happen when we don’t have time to consciously decide what to do or say—will be godly.” (John MacArthur)
The world has variant ideas concerning the identity of the Holy Spirit and even fewer ideas regarding His role. The Bible plainly teaches He very God, living in us through Christ Jesus to change us into His image. This is the predestination of the elect.
Friday, October 08, 2010
Bounds does not give us a clear definition of what is meant by the term “possibilities,” but the following paragraph may serve the purpose in the overall theme of the book, coupling “possibility” together with “prayer”: “Prayer is a Divine arrangement in the moral government of God, designed for the benefit of men and intended as a means for furthering the interests of His cause on earth, and carrying out His gracious purpose in redemption and providence.” (Ch. IV, “Prayer—It’s Possibilities [part 1]).
“The Possibilities of Prayer” is divided into sixteen chapters. Technically, the chapter titles hint that the original publication could easily have been published in serial form. Because of this format, it becomes evident that the progressions of the lessons are requisite on the previous chapters. A revision of the contents could not only easily reduce the number of chapters to a total of nine, but bring more continuity to the present-day reader. The current divisions remain as follows:
- Chapter 1. The Ministry of Prayer
- Chapter 2. Prayer and the Promises
- Chapter 3. Prayer and the Promises (Continued)
- Chapter 4. Prayer - Its Possibilities
- Chapter 5. Prayer - Its Possibilities (Continued)
- Chapter 6. Prayer - Its Possibilities (Continued)
- Chapter 7. Prayer - Its Wide Range
- Chapter 8. Prayer - Facts and History
- Chapter 9. Prayer - Facts and History (Continued)
- Chapter 10. Answered Prayer
- Chapter 11. Answered Prayer (Continued)
- Chapter 12. Answered Prayer (Continued)
- Chapter 13. Prayer Miracles
- Chapter 14. Wonders of God Through Prayer
- Chapter 15. Prayer and Divine Providence
- Chapter 16. Prayer and Divine Providence (Continued)
Chapters 2 and 3, “Prayer and the Promises,” discuss the operation of prayer as that which makes the promises of God tangible for the believer. The promises of God are the inspiration for prayer, which focuses the personal nature of the promises for individuals and are not lost in vagueness. Promise fulfillment is dependent on submitting to God by means of prayer.
Chapters 4, 5 and 6, “Prayer—Its Possibilities,” develops the biblical theology of prayer and faith, building on the principle already established: prayer moves God because of our submission to Him. Prayer appeals to God, who accomplishes His purposes in enlarged ways because the subject of prayer is God’s very plan and purposes. “Temporal matters are of a lower order thatn then spiritual, but they concern us greatly. . . . Not to pray about temporal matters is to leave God out of the largest sphere of our being. . . . He who does not pray about temporal matters cannot pray with confidence about spiritual matters.”
Chapter 7, “Prayer—Its Wide Range,” closely examines the role of faith in prayer: feeble faith, feeble praying; vigorous faith, vigorous praying. God’s ability to do exceeds man’s ability to ask. Prayer demonstrates faith in God Himself, who is able to do. When He answers, we are turned away from what He has done to the Himself, from the answer to prayer to the prayer-answerer.
Chapters 8 and 9, “Prayer—Facts and History,” Bounds explains that God has a reputation He alone upholds. This is cause for the saint’s rejoicing and ability to express dependence without distraction on Him through prayer. “There are no small things in prayer, so there are no small things with God.” Chapter 9 presents elements of prayer (showing gratitude, making requests, etc.) and kinds of prayer (closet, crying out, etc.).
Chapters 10 through 12 are on the subject of “Answered Prayer,” the only way to know prayer is accomplished. Here is the division between the act of praying and the power of God. Prayer answered brings enjoyment to communion with God, who works to distinguish Himself. We have assurance in God’s unchanging nature that He will always answer prayer.
Chapter 13, “Prayer Miracles,” is perhaps the strongest of all the chapters. The first paragraph not only explains the contents of the chapter, but also provides the deepest insight regarding prayer: “The earthly career of our Lord Jesus Christ was no mere episode, a sort of interlude, in His eternal life. What He was and what He did no earth was neither abnormal nor divergent, but characteristic. What He was and what He did on earth is but the figure and the illustration of what He is what He is doing in heaven. He is ‘the same yesterday and to-day and forever.’ This statement is the Divine summary of the eternal unity and changelessness of His character. His earthly life was made up largely of hearing and answering prayer. His heavenly life is devoted to the same Divine business.”
Chapter 14, “Wonders of God Through Prayer,” acknowledges the aspect of spiritual warfare and that prayer keeps God’s power in the forefront, before the experience of those who pray. Prayer is not a ritual or performance, but a conversation of our helplessness that includes dependent asking and faithful expectation, measure for measure.
Chapters 15 and 16, “Prayer and Divine Providence,” covers the relationship between prayer and the permissive providence of God and the direct providence of God. God, as the all-wise, order and just superintendent over all things, cannot be ruled out of the world. The one who prayers sees and trusts God without explanation by faith.
Bound’s work here does not stand alone but depends on his other works on prayer. Regardless, this nearly forgotten volume deserves to be revisited occasionally, to serve as a reminder for the Christian concerning the living doctrine and practice of prayer.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
What Hath Piper to Do with Warren?: Reflections from the 2010 Desiring God National Conference.
Living Waters has partnered with Salem Web Network to make available valuable daily audio and video evangelism resources. Through OnePlace.com, Living Waters is pleased to release its Way of the Master Radio Program Archive. The Way of the Master Radio Program, co-hosted by Todd Friel, Ray Comfort, and Kirk Cameron, ran from January 2006 through November 2008. Go to www.OnePlace.com/ministries/Way-of-the-Master
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
“Grace” is a word so often used in Christian contexts that the meaning can be quickly lost, leading to confusion in terms of application. The Greek word “charis” (we get the word “charity” here) was translated “grace” and has often been understood to mean “love,” “favor,” or “pleasure.” Originally, “charis” was used as a greeting, as Paul often demonstrated in his letters: “grace to you.” The implication includes joyfulness, rejoicing because of favor or a gift given for the sake of someone else. Grace makes effectual our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), but there is a broader meaning.
Robert C. McQuilkin (the first president of Columbia International University from 1923-1952) wrote a short book called “God’s Law and God’s Grace” (published posthumously by Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1958) wherein he stretches our understanding of the way the word is used in the Bible:
“We may think of grace primarily as that which belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Grace is what the Lord Jesus Christ is, in His essence, in His character. Then there is the thought of that grace manifested to others: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9). John states that of His fullness have we all received and “grace for grace” (John 1:16). They wondered at the gracious words, or the words of grace, that proceeded out of His lips (Luke 4:22). Again, the word grace is applied to the gifts of the Spirit. These indeed are called “charisma.” “See that ye abound in this grace also” (II Cor. 8:7). This is the grace of giving; since all the words of the Holy Spirit in and through men are gifts from God, they may be called graces. Closely related to this meaning, but still distinct from it, is the use of the word “grace” or “graciousness” as exhibited by the Christian. Christ is within the believer, and when the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and makes them real in and through us there is the Christian who is full of grace, although not in the absolute sense of the perfections of Christ Himself.”
We may consider this summation as a definition: grace is the character of Christ manifested to and received by others by the word and the work of the Holy Spirit as a gift, making the things of Christ real in us and through us. Grace is making Christ real.
Somehow we have it in our minds that grace is given with nothing expected of the receiver, that it makes friends between an offender and one offended. Grace comes at a price to the one who extends it and to the one who receives it. The grace of God does not come without a price—God cannot merely extend to a sinner any of His grace apart from the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The sinner who is met by the grace of God is transformed into a new creation that denies ungodliness and lives soberly, righteously and Godly in the present age.
What does living in grace look like? Is it living under a list of “do’s” or a list of “don’ts?” Years ago I heard someone say of the Bible that the Bible is a book of “do’s” and not a book of “don’ts;” so, if you do all the “do’s” you don’t have time to do the “don’ts.” This is an idea of what it looks like to live a life where Christ is manifest in us and through us. It is neither libertine nor is it lax. It is not Reformation Theology nor is it Calvary Chapel.
The opening chapters of Romans communicates that all men are sinners and are under the condemnation sin brings, death. The miracle of the gospel is that by repentance, one is able to receive righteousness from God by grace through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (justification). The gospel goes on to show that the one who turns from their sins and finds new life through the grace of God in Christ Jesus is transformed and empowered to live free from the power of sin (sanctification), being dead to sin. Romans 7 shows how this works in the example of marriage: a woman married to a man cannot marry again without being called adulterous unless her first husband has died, releasing her from the first marriage. When a spouse dies, the law of marriage no longer applies.
The law has dominion as long as one lives (7:1) and is binding (7:2) but is able to be broken by death (7:3). Through the death of Christ, we have become freed from the law (7:4). Since we are delivered from the law by death (7:6), sinful passions work in us, but we are dead, delivered. The law is not sin, but holy (7:12) and good (7:13), showing what sin is (7:7). Apart from the law sin is dead (7:8). Sin revived under the law and deceives, bringing death (7:9, 11).
When by faith we die to sin in Christ Jesus, sin no longer has power over us. The law continues to reveal God’s perfection and the ongoing presence of sin as we remain here in the flesh, but we no longer must sin—the repentant are by faith dead to sin and alive in Christ. This is where the struggle remains: free from the power of sin, but still living in its presence. This is why we can identify with the Apostle Paul in saying that, while dead to sin, sin is still alive in me. This is part of the hope we have as believers: that when we sin, we are always being cleansed as we confess, looking forward to the day we no longer experience its’ effects. This is where grace, Christ made real, is at work.
“For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:22-25)
The Christian is surrendered to God in Christ Jesus, so giving in to the very thing Jesus died to save us from does not please God, nor does sinful living produce the kind of life He desires for us. Romans 7 is convicting because it reminds the Christian of where he or she came from (being bound to sin by the law) and where he or she is now (free from the law and bound to Christ) and what he or she may anticipate through eternal life: Christ made real.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
From night--and toss it over a continent or sea;
If the petaled white notes of a violin
Are blown across the mountains or the city's din;
If songs, like crimson roses, are culled from thin blue air--
Why should morals wonder if God hears prayer?"
Monday, October 04, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
This ancient book of 13 chapters is held by public opinion as the definitive book on warfare. Since its publication about six centuries before our Lord Jesus Christ, this book is not merely consulted by most ranks of militaries worldwide, but the principles contained therein have been utilized in law, politics, education, the business world and sports world as well. Any poker player or Kenny Rogers fan knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, when to walk away and when to run, as instructed in Chapter 3, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
History records the use of these warfare principles in Japan during the 1500’s and was committed to memory by Vietcong officers during the Vietnam War. This book is presently recommended reading in the Professional Reading program of the United States Marine Corps and is required reading for all US Military Intelligence Officers and the CIA. Don’t be surprised to find video games that carry the title, or a movie by the same name (released in 2002).
The book is about war, and each chapter is devoted to expounding each consecutive aspect of warfare, from start to finish. The message or burden of the book is the security of The State, determined by the relationship between rulers and people (Moral Law) and which sovereign is greater in terms of ability, advantage, discipline, strength, training and consistency in reward and punishment. Literally, the title refers to the studied action of war (as opposed to the expression of war) and may be translated as “Sun Tzu’s Military Principles,” or “Annotation of Sun Tzu's Strategies.” Chapters 1 through 11 are:
1. Laying Plans
2. Waging War
3. Attack by Stratagem
4. Tactical Dispositions
6. Weak Points and Strong
8. Variations of Tactics/Nine Variations
9. The Army on the March
11. The Nine Situations
Some scholars hold that the final two chapters (“Attack by Fire” and “The Use of Spies”) were either written by someone other than Sun Tzu, or they have been added posthumously. Regardless, they are accepted as part of the whole work. This small book (as little as 30 pages, depending on text form) was translated from Chinese into French in the mid-1700’s and into finally into English in 1905.
The contents of each chapter are proverbial, almost poetic (even in English) and are so precise that many “verses” have found their way into daily life as idioms, or catch-phrases, which is a credit to easy retention:
- “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.” (1:19)
- “If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.” (3:18)
- “What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease” (4:11)
- “Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.” (6:1)
- “Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy; do not interfere with an army that is returning home.” (7:35)
- “The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.” (12:16)
One major observation made of this book is the assumption that war is inevitable. Perhaps all attempts at peace have been exhausted. There are instructions on planning, starting, waging and suspending war (one finds difficulty to find clear instruction on ending war), but peace never seems an option per se. “Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot” (9:26). The closest approximation to peace encourages “skillful warfare” (for lack of a better term) that subdues without fighting, captures without siege and overthrows without lengthy operation (3:6). Perhaps instruction such as this helps maintain peace: “The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.” (4:16)
War affects those at home, and the book does consider the high cost paid by those who remain at home, but why not consider the first tactic of avoidance altogether? A related question arises that remains unanswered is “what starts war?” Sun Tzu seems to hold that there is no profit in peace, or that peace is less practical. War is a way to do business. This book gives us the mechanics, or the “how” of getting started; but, this does not answer the philosophical question of why do people fight, that starts war. Might one suggest a few reasons for waging war, as described in the New Testament book of James (Chapter 4):
A person desires, but does not have;
A person wants, but cannot get;
A person did not ask to get what one now has;
A person asks does not receive;
A person asks wrongly in method and/or motive, so does not receive.
The warfare proposed by Sun Tzu is specialized and differs greatly from other kinds of warfare, such as Just War, “harem” warfare (as described in the Bible, a holy response to wickedness, where nothing was left undestroyed, that it be used again) and the various kinds of Jihad, to name a few.
This short book is a mark of brilliance in content, style, and presentation; but, the principles found herein are not applicable to every situation or culture, despite its influence.
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