Sunday, February 27, 2011


I suspect that most of us are greatly troubled by wrong ideas about God, and therefore are inadvertently plagued by a form of atheism.

We ought to remember that the idea of "God" is not limited to Christianity or the true spiritual life, but is in fact an idea well-known to all, including the philosophers (witness the arguments for God's existence that have been produced by them).

In view, then, of the fact that every thinking member of the human race is left with an idea of God (against which we rebel by nature), we need to compare and contrast this common idea of God with the God of revelation who is known to us in his Son.

This is obvious to us when we think about it conceptually and abstractly.  We know that the God known to all men apart from Christ is not trusted or worshiped in the way that we trust and worship Him as we know him in Christ.  The trouble we have, I suspect, stems from our retaining in our minds the knowledge of God, as it is known vaguely and philosophically, and then mistaking this philosophical knowledge of God for the revealed knowledge of Him in Christ.  Confusing ourselves in this way, we retain abstract concepts of God which are out of accord with the true knowledge of Him, and thus our religion and spiritual life are weakened and corrupted.  After all, the "common" knowledge of "God" is not the knowledge of a God in which people trust!

The place to begin is with Jesus Christ himself, where he says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father."  Jesus Christ is the very image of God the Father.  Look to Jesus in order to see what God the Father is like.  The title "Father" is not something abstract, but it has a meaning!  We should adopt this meaning, in all its glory and grace, for the well-being of our souls!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


In view of the political controversies between Left and Right on the American scene in AD 2011, and in view of the attitudes and manner of speech being used on all sides, it is useful to make a reference to the teaching of Scripture on this point.

As I quote from The Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 13, consider whether your own political rhetoric, or the rhetoric and accusations of those you support, fit the pattern shown in the following passage:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  
Verse 1 establishes the main principal of God's government in the world.  What we must ask ourselves is whether all comments and actions in public or private which are made about personalities, policies, and the rule of governments on the political scene partake of the spiritual submission to God which is called for in this verse.  Surely, in fact, you will find much said which partakes of the spirit of lese majeste rather than Christianity.  Surely, in fact, you will find much said which is more like libel and slander -- things said for which people would be sued and bankrupted or go to prison for saying, if what was said wasn't said on the political scene.  It is a disgrace for any Christian to be involved in these kinds of dealings, or to support those who act this way.

2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 
For all those who are political conservatives of some stripe (as I confessedly am), we have to understand that God will not bless our political sins.

3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended
Why is it that government is now the "enemy" in the rhetoric of the Right?  We support the forces of "law and order," or "morality," or the Armed Services, but government is still the "enemy." What is going on here? Whatever it is, it is not righteousness.

4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
As a patriotic American I can solemnly claim that we have the best human government in this country that God has ever seen fit to set over any people in the modern era.  And we hope it spreads!  Do we thank God for it?  Why is the best government ever, at this moment in history also the "enemy"?

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the auth 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
More later.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the World, But not Of the World

Just a thought.  We sometimes seem to think that the best way to be a Christian is to be like the world culture in which we live, with two fundamental exceptions:

1)  Believe in Christ, with a true and living faith, and
2)  Do not disobey the Moral Law.

Therefore, we watch the world's videos, listen to the world's audios, copy the world's styles, use the world's hobbies, spend time on the world's passions and concerns.  Yet, in spite of our critiques of these things, our "Christian" culture is still formed by these things.  Sometimes this seems to be thought of as the best way to understand and witness to the world.  Using the world's language, culture, music and arts, fashions, etc., is supposedly the best way to appeal to the world on behalf of the gospel, or even just the best way to be a Christian.

I would like to suggest that this falls far short of the call of Scripture, and far short of the call of the Church over millennia of time.  A simple inspection of the Scriptural data supports this.  And, church history, of which we nowadays seem to know little, speaks the same way.  Christ forms a "culture."  This culture is not simply the world's culture plus a Christian critique.  This culture manifests all the creative spirit that God has put in man, but does so from a Christian basis.  This Christian basis is not simply the world's culture plus the gospel. The Christian basis makes for a revolutionary antithesis from the world's culture, and creative continuity with the best of the Christian past.  Since the church is not, never has been, and never will be "the world," until the Kingdom of God comes at the great day of Resurrection and Judgment -- that is -- as long as the wheat and the tares exist in the field of the world -- this necessary distinction in cultures must be maintained.

As an example, consider music in the church.  It has consistently been the case throughout church history that church music was required (by the church) to be different from the world's music.  But, nowadays, perhaps for the first time in history (?), church music has been relativized, and, in popular contexts including worship, is made to be as much like the world's music as possible.  In the past, the distinction in culture between the church and the world never inhibited gospel testimony, and there is no reason it should inhibit gospel testimony today.  So what is the fundamental reason for convergence of worldly and "Christian" music style?  Is it an attempt to attract the world?  Well, it never was the case that people were attracted to the church, in truth, because it was like the world.  Just the opposite.  Is it because the "modern" worship tradition rejects or rebels against the Christian past -- if it knows about it?  Probably.  And it certainly isn't the case that the "modern" worship tradition has a depth of art that comports with the depth that is our inheritance in the church tradition.  So what is going on here?

These cautions and questions can be raised about many other factors in our lives besides music:

1)  All things not being done with a view to eternal fellowship with God.
2)  Non-Christian addictions and time-wasting on entertainments, clothing fashions, sports and adult toys dispensed by the world.
3)  Worldly emphasis on competition, money and security, and status.
4)  Primary emphasis on work instead of family life and church life.
5)  Institutional relationships (colleague-ship), rather than personal relationships (friendship).
6)  The lack of emphasis on motherhood and fatherhood.
7)  False notions of education.
8)  The home as motel, amid a ceaseless round of activities outside it.
9)  Unquiet and non-contemplative lives.
10) Living for short term pleasures.
11) Addiction to visual and aural media instead of reading the best stuff.
12) Constant communication, rather than peace.

This isn't just a bunch of "legalism."  It's about a life in Christ, lived in the midst of (and visible to) the world.  This life in Spirit and in Truth, and our love for one another, is what attracts people out of the world to Christ.

They're not attracted by what's not different and better.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Glory and Anti-Glory

We think too much in worldly terms concerning glory -- and other things, too.

1)  Paul is clear in 1 Cor 1 that it is God's intention to shame the worldly powers in all their greatness by means of those who are weak and shameful in the eyes of the world.  The world has one idea of what power and glory are, and the church has another, opposite idea.  From our standpoint, the world's power and glory are vain, but our power is glorious, because we know and are empowered in all our weakness by God the Lord.  The world, on the other hand, is empowered in all its strength by that fallen angel doomed to the Lake of Fire.

2)  Think about Christ's suffering.  He was doomed by the world, and the Prince of this World, to shameful death on the Cross.  Yet, from the standpoint of faith, our Lord on the cross reigned as from a throne!

3)  Think about our sufferings as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.  The world thinks that our hope in Christ in the age to come dooms us to lack of self-fulfillment in this age.  From our perspective, any hope of self-fulfillment in this age is futile.  The only real hope of any fulfillment lies in the age to come.

4)  The world thinks that disease and difficulty, and eventually death, are evils to be avoided at all costs.  Suffering, while occasionally seen by the world as heroic, is really looked upon as an unmitigated evil.  From our perspective, we learn obedience through suffering.  Our character is built through suffering.  In suffering we give thanks, and testify to the grace of God, because we know that we will be rewarded with eternal rewards for spiritual endurance through suffering.

These instances could be multiplied.  In every case the world's conception is opposite to ours.  What is glorious to the world is hateful to us.  What is glorious to us is hateful to the world.  The world fears the world to come, because they know they will get what they deserve.  We long for the world to come, where we will receive as a gift the full inheritance of all that God has to give.  It will be a day of fulfillment and glory, in the only world that matters, and our lives are now filled with joy and anticipation as we wait for it by faith.

Paul said that he was crucified to the world (in Christ), and that the world was crucified (subjected to capital punishment) with respect to him.  The Cross is the great separator that crucifies the relationship between this age and the one to come.

Christ was made sin for us, taking away our sins on the cross, and triumphing over death for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him by faith.

Therefore, believe and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord!  Receive the Spirit of God who wages war against sin within us, and who fills us with all joy!  That Spirit is himself God's own down-payment to us from the inheritance we are destined to receive in the Age to Come!