Monthly Archives: February 2006

God with us

One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel: Hebrew for “God with us.”

Reading the Gospels it is rather obvious that while Jesus was always ethically righteous before the Father he was not always “with” the Father or as “close” to the Father in a significant way. Being tempted in the wilderness was not the same experience of God’s presence as being in the cloud of the Mount of Transfiguration.

Likewise, God was with Adam in “the cool of the day” in a way that was distinct from his presence with him before. In some real sense God was absent from Adam and Eve, testing them to see how they would act on their own.

It is possible to talk about God’s absence or presence with his creatures without needing sin to be a consideration. Even a sinless creature could rejoice in a promise that God will one day be with him.

In fact, before sin was in the world we are told of a created barrier between God’s heavenly throneroom and the earth. On the second day of creation God made a “firmament” between heaven and earth. This second day’s work, unlike the other five days, is missing any report of God seeing that it was good.

The story of the creation of Eve tells us that God can make things that are temporary and “not good” as a permanent situation. It was not good for man to be alone, yet God created him that way in order to bring about a change for the better in the future. This gives us a clue as to why the boundary between heaven and earth is not declared to be good. It was meant to be ended.

And Jesus’ mission, while dealing primarily with sin, also dealt with this created barrier that had no reference ot the Fall: God sent Jesus to accomplish “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1.10).

And the meaning of “Reformed” is?

I am not tracking the controversy, but I love this quotable it produced. In my opinion it belongs on the BHT masthead:

I am personally wondering how to articulate the different between “Reforming Faith” (which seems to be the Reformation call – “always reforming) and a “Reformed Faith.” (The rediscovery of a 16th Century expression of faith deeply contextual to that era brought forward with impunity into the present as though the Gospel of God had been hidden for 15 centuries).

Eternal security is a community project

What book, to the extent that a book can be credited with such a thing, pushed me over into “calvinism”? Arthur Pink’s The Sovereignty of God was the one.

Later, I sort of let go of Pink because I sort of felt compelled by (irrational) Presbyterian loyalties to put my stock in paedobaptist authors. I also heard of some sad things about where Pink’s ended up due to an unchecked sectarianism that pretended to be piety.

Of course, being Presbyterian doesn’t entail a restricted reading list. And for all the talk about “consequences” to theology, the fact remains that the orthodox make horrible mistakes and that heterodox give us wonderful gems. Possibly one of the most important theological teachings of my life about theology proper came to me from John Milton. Am I supposed to reject it just because Milton was (I hear) an Arian and I am a loyal Trinitarian? Don’t think so.

So I was overreacting to Pink. That, at least, is what I’m thinking now after reading this excellent post from James Spurgeon. It is a lengthy quote from Pink on the issue of perseverance and warnings against apostasy. Here is a sample: “According to the lopsided logic of many teachers today, it is quite un-necessary to exhort Christians to “continue in the faith”; they will do so. But be not wise above what is written, and deem not yourselves to be more consistent than the apostles” But please go read the entire thing.

There are some great resources in the comments too! There I found this great message from John Piper. Not only is this excellent exhortation but it also maintains a community focus which may help one apply Pink’s teaching differently than Pink eventually did: “One final word on eternal security. It is a community project. And that is why the pastoral ministry is so utterly serious, and why our preaching must not be playful but earnest. We preach so that saints might persevere in faith to glory.”

This reminded me of a great book that I have read more than once: John Piper’s own Future Grace. If you are looking for a thirty day devotional that is meaty and enriching, Future Grace should top your list.

Anyone have this experience as a Baptist?

I’m going to pray the sinner’s prayer again. I prayed it two years ago, but I didn’t really understand it, the importance of Christ’s death and it’s relationship to my sin…. Of course, that was why I prayed it two years ago. A year and a half earlier I prayed it. But i wasn’t even done with kindergarten back then so there’s no way I could have meant it. That’s why I got baptized that second time. Which reminds me: I’m going to need to talk to my pastor about scheduling a new one.

I hope it takes this time. It gets awfully scary wondering when the prayer will really be acceptable.

Extreme, I suppose, but I’ve run into it more than once.

Preaching an accurate Gospel is a great thing and I’m all for it. But, since Rick has no comments, I will ask it here: how do we avoid and paedobaptist version of this spiritual cul-de-sac? Paul exhorts us to treat the weak, the weak in faith even, as those for whom Christ died. He is, in context, talking about how we should treat professing Christians. If we go around worrying about them as those for whom Christ did not die, how can we possibly follow the Pauline exhortations?

“Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures.”

Thanks go to David Ponter for this neat quotation from Charles Hodge on First John 2.2:

In answer to this question, it may be remarked in the first place that Augustinians do not deny that Christ died for all men. What they deny is that he died equally, and with the same design, for all men. He died for all, that He might arrest the immediate execution of the penalty of the law upon the whole of our apostate race; that He might secure for men the innumnerable blessings attending their state on earth, which, in one important sense, is a state of probation; and that He might lay the foundation for the offer of pardon and reconciliation with God, on condition of faith and repentance.

These are the universally admitted consequences of his satisfaction, and therefore they all come within its design. By this dispensation it is rendered manifest to every intelligent mind in heaven and upon earth, and to the finally impenitent themselves, that the perdition of those that perish is their own fault. They will not come to Christ that they may have life. They refuse to have Him to reign over them. He calls but they will not answer. He says, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Every human being who does come is saved.

This is what is meant when it is said, or implied in Scripture, that Christ gave Himself as a propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He was a propitiation effectually for the sins of his people, and sufficiently for the sins of the whole world. Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures. They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches. Charles Hodge, Systematic, vol, 2, pp558-9.

This is really important. Calvinists don’t believe in a God who is more stingy than Arminians say he is.

Fulfilling the office of father and qualified for the office of priest

Thinking about Jeff’s post on “covenant succession” raised some thoughts of my own. In First Samuel we read about Eli and his sons. This first comes up in chapter two:

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant [5] would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt…

22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death…

27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus the Lord has said, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ 30 Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33 The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. 34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. 35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. 36 And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, “Please put me in one of the priests’ places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”’”

Finally, Yahweh gives Samuel the same message in chapter three:

11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, [10] and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

There is no question in my mind that the problem of raising faithful sons is a theme in Samuel so it may well be that we are to blame Eli to some extent for how his sons turned out. But, even so, it is also clear that Eli was not judged for the fact that his children were wicked unbelievers but because he practiced nepotism by covering for them rather than deposing and executing him. By insisting this was merely a situation for “fatherly rebuke” rather than civil law, Eli was sponsoring rapacious abuse of office and the outrageous denial of God’s authority and property. He was also doing nothing to protect the women who were under the authority of these men from there depradations.

When God’s son Adam grabbed at forbidden food and abused his wife (she was deceived and he let her eat first) God judged him and cast him out of the sanctuary. Eli allowed his sons to continue to serve in the sanctuary, knowing that they were seizing forbidden “fruit” in more than one sense.

Eli stands as a lesson to pastors not to cover for others and allow them to get away with things simply because they are related to us. And, since none of us ever wants to be in this situation with a child, meditating on Eli does give us powerful motivation to pray for our children and repent of any negligence on our part in raising them. But there is nothing in the text that suggests that Eli was judged unfit for office because his children were unregenerate. It is not there.

A rare political statement from the markhorne blogspot

I try not to talk about it, and I expect no one to agree with me (at best!), but I pretty much disagree with our current administration’s foreign policies (as well as related domestic ones). I have nothing but sympathy, for example, for many “anti-American” statements coming from the Bishop of Durham. Of course, at one level I think life would be easier in some areas if he would keep his mouth shut. But it is not Wright’s job to make my life easier. And, at another level, if we live in a culture where rationality has been replaced by guilt-by-association reactions, then I figure it is God’s judgment on us that we can’t understand him, just as the natives of Jerusalem only heard drunken speech on day of Pentecost.

But sympathy is not the same as agreement.

Say what you will about our current occupation of Iraq. I don’t think it would be preferable to give the country over the the US-taxpayer sponsored International Association of Rapists, Pimps, and Slavers who have never proven themselves good for anything except disarming populations so they could be controlled or killed by aggressors.

Why yes, as a matter of fact I have been proofreading a book about the UN and gun control. What made you ask?

By the way, the UN has never presided over genocide. The administration has always been able to somehow avoid “genocide” even in the midst of mass exterminations based on race. If they did ever have to deal with genocide then their priority in getting rid of “light weapons” would be a direct violation of their own international law and itself genocide. Good thing they’ve never had to deal with genocide! Otherwise, they might have to pull back on their disarm-all-civilians agenda.

Postmodernism for Sunday

Dancing in the LouvreJeff gave part one of a lecture on postmodernism last night which I really appreciated. His use of power point allowed him to show examples from art and architecture instead of simply reducing everything to philosophy and words.

In my more general exposure, I’m not real happy with pomo discussions because I think the term itself maximizes the difficulty in figuring out what you are trying to describe. I covered much of the same ground in the eighties in discussions of “the sociology of knowledge,” and then later when I read Theology After Wittgenstein in a philosophical miliue. In fact Jeff summary of the “postmodern turn” in regard to language sounded like a summary statement regarding the difference between W’s Tractaetus and Philosophical Investigations.

Reading Kerr was, in the words of a friend, “following the white rabbit our of the matrix.” Last night reminded me that I am due for another reading. I think one of the problems with the interest in post-modernism is that people expect to discover it from reading about books and articles that use the term “post-modernism.” But Kerr’s book is every bit as much an expose of how the Church has been in the grip of Cartesian delusions and also a pointer to a more accurate understanding of how language works.