Friday, December 30, 2005

There's Something Wrong with Everything...

And that's the premise of Ecclesiastes. In this life, in this world, there is nothing that is not flawed. Everything is screwed up... everything falls short. Nothing can satisfy.

What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.

It's no surprise, then, when the Preacher comes to the realization that bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people (8.14 for example). So... believe it or not, the "problem of evil" is not some new philosophical proof against the existence of God... it's been around for a while.

But that begs the question... is it really a problem at all? Given the choice to do good, I've done evil. Over and over again throughout my whole life. So have you. So has everyone. When you live in a world where 6-7 billion people are choosing to do evil, why should it be a surprise to anyone when bad things happen? If God really is good and he really is just and he really is all-powerful, it's a wonder anything good happens to anyone at all.

The fact that nothing is perfect, yet the longing for perfection is present in every person should tell us that we were made for something other than what we see. The fact that we who choose evil still long for something good should tell us we were made for something else. The simple fact that we know things aren't the way they should be should tell us that we were made for something more.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I believe in the Holy Trinity--Part 5

Rom 11.33-36
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

"For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?"

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Col 3.15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Helpful Resource

Having Dr Haykin as a professor this semester has had me reading ancient church documents I never knew existed. One resource that has been incredibly helpful to me has be the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Until this semester, I never knew this site existed, but now I visit it quite regularly. Just check out this page for a listing of some of the classics that they've got available for you to read online.

I know some people aren't too big on reading stuff online, but personally, I prefer reading online to buying everything I have to read. Especially when you consider that a little volume like Augustine's Against the Pelagians IV can run upwards of $50 in our bookstore.

Anyway, I thought this was useful, so I'm passing it along for whatever it's worth. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Augustine on Friendship

Since Augustine has been consuming much of my thought lately, I thought I'd let him consume my blog as well. Augustine was a man who was never alone, but always surrounded by friends. Why? It wasn't by accident. Friendship helped Augustine to worship and live for and ultimately enjoy God better. Here are some of the concluding thoughts from a recent paper I wrote on Augustine's theology of friendship.

This community of companions (“all my friends and relations” ) that travelled with Augustine was altogether with one heart pursuing God and challenging each other to pursue him as well. This is effective friendship, since “a man will not imitate any but his friends.” Augustine sees this in the very creation, where each was made according to its own kind; so it is friendship, that each of us will become like our friends. In this way friends can spur each other on to a more godly life. This was the desperate hope and goal of friendship for Augustine: “My soul, tell this to the souls that you love. Let them weep in this valley of tears, and so take them with you to God. For if, as you speak, the flame of charity burns in you, it is by his Spirit that you tell them this.”

Yet perhaps the most profound element of friendship in Augustine’s thought is the idea that in friendship, one will fulfil the twofold commandment. Augustine here adapts Cicero’s definition of friendship, which involved simply doing what is best for the other person, in a reciprocal relationship. “If God is seen as the highest good towards which everything must be directed and if all love must focus on God before all else for it to be truly Christian, friendship among Christians gains a new perspective.” For Augustine then, you are loving God and loving another as yourself by helping him to love God, which is his greatest good, which in turn he will do for you, as this is your greatest wish for yourself as well. Friendship for friendship’s sake—even friendship for the other person’s sake—is no longer in view at all in Augustine’s thought.

This friendship which is centred entirely on God and his goodness benefits all involved by helping them to gain a clearer vision of him. “Sage has observed that the anima una ‘est pour S.Augustin, à partir de 407, l’énigme et le miroir par excellence où il nous est donné dès ici-bas à comprendre, comme nous le pouvons, le mystère de Dieu’.” To Augustine, the most valuable friend in the world is the one who can best reveal God to him and push him to pursue God. In short, “Augustine thinks of friendship as beginning, continuing and ending in God—friendship is participation in the life of God.”

Monday, December 12, 2005

Augustine on Delighting in God in his Creation

From the Confessions, Book IV, chapter 12.

If the things of the world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that in the things that please you you may not displease him. If your delight is in souls, love them in God, because they too are frail and stand firm only when they cling to him. If they do not, they go their own way and are lost. Love them, then, in him and draw as many with you to him as you can. Tell them, 'He is the one we should love. He made the world and he stays close to it.' For when he made the world he did not go away and leave it. By him it was created and in him it exists. Where we taste the truth, God is there. He is in our very inmost hearts, but our hearts have strayed from him. Think well on it, unbelieving hearts (Is 46.8) and cling to him who made you. Stand with him and you shall not fall; rest in him and peace shall be yours. What snags and pitfalls lie before you? Where do your steps lead you? The good things which you love are all from God, but they are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do his will. They will rightly turn bitter if God is spurned and the things that come from him are wrongly loved.

You can read the Confessions online for free here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I believe in the Holy Trinity--Part 4

In the spirit of the Christmas, and in the footsteps of kerux's post, I thought it might be nice to post a Christmas hymn I found in an old Presbyterian hymnal that I have not seen elsewhere.

The words are written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413AD). You can ask Dr. Haykin who he is, because I have no idea.

Either way, this is a great hymn in the Trinitarian tradition. Either way, I think it is important to realize that when we celebrate the coming of Christ, we celebrate the incarnation of God himself, and that it is a work and a revelation of the entire Trinity, and we should be all the more in awe of the whole Godhead, not just focusing on Christ alone.

"We beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father."

Of the Father's love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore.

This is He Whom heav'n taught singers
Sang of old with one accord,
Whom the scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long-expected;
Let creaition praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
All dominions, bow before Him,
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore.

Thee let age and Thee let mahood,
Thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering;
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And their heart its music bring,
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be,
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I believe in the Holy Trinity--Part 3

This is the easiest one yet in this series. Instead of writing my own thoughts, I want to redirect you to Darrin Brooker's. In this post, he muses on the Trinity as he relates to ecumenism. Definitely worth a read.

Guest Post

The following is excerpted from an e-mail discussion between some of my friends. I post it here for further discussion, because I think both the thought itself and various responses are worth considering.

Jesus: The Word Became Flesh

In a world of post-modernism, Jesus is THE WORD. Under the barrage of post-modernism, the Biblical text has come under much heat. Many are arguing for a strictly literary (neglecting history and theology) reading of the Bible. This has encouraged a reading of the Bible which has no correspondence to reality. It encourages an interpretation of the history of God's people and the Christian Theist worldview that takes the Bible as one of many options, that is, if does not deconstruct God's Word altogether. It makes it one of may worldview choices. Many would say that one could interpret the history of God's people in God's Word a variety of different ways. In fact, one could say that they think that, because of their culture and their own personal life experiences, God and his word means this to them. After all, could we all not just interpret God in a different way than our peers. Isn't it oppressive to say Jesus is just one thing? This utterly fails though, for God has always been a God not just of the text, but of reality. In the Old Testament the Holy Yahweh was intimately involved with his people; he appeared as a cloud and a fire, he split the read sea he wrestled with Jacob; this was not just a God of the text. Still though, these examples seem a touch to removed, they do not necessitate that the word of God be reality. To find this we must turn to Jesus.

Jesus is the climax of history for the God of reality who speaks in words. Jesus was the eternal and pre-existent Word of God. The post-modernists could say that this 'word of God' was just a construct of reality and not the real thing. Was Jesus was just a representation of reality that one could interpret in many different ways? After all, could God's words not also be deconstructed? But here we have the defeater for post-modernism in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was both the word and the flesh (the reality). There could be no ambiguity about the meaning of the Word of God, that is, the eternal Jesus, for he was both fully reality and fully word.

The Word of God cannot simply be misconstrued and deconstructed according to a plethora of presuppositions, but rather the reality of the eternal Jesus as the Word of God demands and interpretation for all time of the Word of God through Jesus himself. All other events in the history of God and the world must be interpreted through Jesus Christ. He is the true word.

Furthermore, we have the very Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, within ourselves. This Spirit is conforming us to reality and the Word. This Spirit, which calls us to reality, is the only thing which can help us see through the language games of our culture and the worldly structural system.

Even if the rest of the culture is dealt a crushing blow by post-modernism (which I do not believe it is), the Christ follower is not. They have the very spirit of truth within them which leads them to the meeting of reality and the Word in Jesus Christ. Indeed, in God, and most notably in his self-expression, Jesus Christ, we have they way out of the box of language.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jesus and Scripture

In a recent paper I did for seminary on Jesus' use of OT Scriptures in his temptation, I couldn't help but take note of Christ's high view of Scripture.

Gramatically, in both Matthew and Luke's temptation accounts, when Jesus quotes the OT, he simply uses the word gegraptai. In his discussion on the weight of the various formulae used by NT authors when quoting the OT, BB Warfield says that "the significance of these formulas is perhaps most manifest where they stand alone as the bare adduction of authority without any indication of any kind whence the citation is derived." In other words, Jesus intentionally leaves off any indication as to where and when who said what, but rather makes the simple claim, "It is written." In doing so, he makes it clear that for him it is sufficient that it is written, and whatever is written is absolutely authoritative and beyond questioning or exception. If it is for Jesus, how much more should it be for everyone else?

It must be noted, however, that in his quotations of Scripture, Jesus is doing more than simply stating good and authoritative principles. Rather, he, the very son of God, is subjecting himself to their authority. It is here, in his temptation--when he is faced with ultimately easier "solutions"--that we see his true "humble submission to Scripture," with the simple acquiescing statement: "It is written." Surely no human ought ever suppose that the Bible should not be binding on them when it was so on our Lord and our God.


Kerux has an important post here on abortion and "genetically informed" selective parenting. It's a must read.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Diagnose Your Theology: Julian is 'emerging'...?

This is funny stuff... you should try it out. Not sure exactly how accurate it is, but it's funny nonetheless. Here's what I got:

You scored as Reformed Evangelical. "You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die."

Reformed Evangelical


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal






Modern Liberal


Roman Catholic


What's your theological worldview?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hardening: Pharaoh, Judas, and Peter

I had intended to post on today's sermon; God's active hardening of sinners, from Romans 9.17-18... but kerux beat me to it. His new feature is fantastic, and he couldn't have picked a better week to begin open discussions on his sermons. Instead of posting reflections on the sermon here as well as there, I thought I'd just post this article I wrote a couple of years ago for the school newspaper at my old Bible College, right before our graduation. I hope it helps you to love Christ more.

So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas,
the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel,
Satan entered into him.—John 13:26b-27a
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,
that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed
for you that your faith may not fail.—Luke 22:31-32a

So what will you do with your summer? Or even better, what will you do with the rest of your life? You have put in some time at Bible College and now what? I’ve heard variegated responses from the students and graduates with whom I’ve conversed. Some plan to go right into ministry opportunities, internships, or seminary training, while others of us are off to begin married lives, and find secular employment. We are all at different stages of life with different plans, and yet we are all determined to serve God wherever we go. United we form a veritable troop: A formidable front of young people off to minister to people and glorify God. One wonders if Judas was any different.

Many of us have spent two, three, or even four years here at Bible College training for the tests to come. Judas followed our Lord and God for three and half years: He walked with him, conversed with him, slept by his side and sang praises with him at night. There were seasons of Judas’ life when the Christ would set aside time to invest in his twelve closest followers—and Judas was there. He was part of our Lord’s “in crowd.”

When I picture Judas in my mind, too often I picture him as a kind of shady bloke with shifty eyes and an evil laugh. In my mental images, he is always set apart from the group, and segregated. The other eleven always wondered why he was there and how long till he fell.

This projection is patently untrue. Judas was just as much a follower of Christ (at least as far as the eye could see) as any of the other eleven. When Jesus suggested that one of them would be the betrayer (on the very night he was betrayed), each disciple to a man looked around to make sure he was not the suspect, and perhaps apprehensively asked: “Surely, not I?”

Within each of their hearts there was trepidation and a fear of being exposed. Each of them knew his own heart. Each knew good and well that within his own soul there was the possibility that he could be the one to come up short; he could be the one to blow it. After making the announcement that he would be betrayed by one of them, Christ said to Peter that Satan had demanded to have him, that he might sift him. Peter veiled his fear that he might be like the betrayer behind his impressive, if not brash, claim: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He was not ready to be exposed to the others as one who would betray his Lord.

That same night every single one of those disciples was exposed. Each one is portrayed in Scripture as the hypocrite that he was. Each one turned his back on Christ. Sure, Peter followed Christ that night, but it was only “at a distance,” and it only led to an even greater betrayal. Of all the betrayals explored in the gospels that night, Peter’s is the most poignant.

One might ask (and perhaps rightly): “What was the difference between Peter and Judas?” They both betrayed our Lord and Saviour when they should have stood strong at his side. Why should one fall away and the other be restored?

There is a good probability that not all of us here at school will hold firm to the faith once for all delivered to the saints; not all of us will persevere. Some of us will fall into grave sin—some of us will deny our Lord outright (though I do pray, even as I write that this might never be so). Though we now profess “Lord, I am ready to follow you to prison and to death,” in our deepest moments of reflection and meditation we realize the weakness of our faith and cry, “Surely Lord, not I?”

So what will be the determining factor? What is essential to keep us safe in the arms of our Saviour? It is the grace of our Saviour and that alone.

Not a single one of us will stand on our own strength. Not a single one of us will stand even by our prayers (for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and whether by sorrow or exhaustion, we all fall asleep).

Like Peter and Judas, we stand or fall by the grace and the will of our Christ. Of Judas it was written, “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” Thus, Jesus handed him the morsel. And Satan, having received the divine acquiescence necessary for him to act did all his will with whom he was given.

Satan, however, was not satisfied. He demanded more. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” But the morsel was not given. Peter’s Saviour makes the difference between Peter and Judas absolutely clear: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” It is only the grace of Jesus that enables a human to persevere. It is only the grace of Jesus that saves us. It does not therefore depend on man, who wills or who runs, but on Christ.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” Who will persevere? Who will break down and fall away? Who will give up? Who will “finish the race”? We must all fall into the arms of Christ, our loving God and Saviour. For in his will, and in his will alone, we find life and grace.

Again, “What is man that you are mindful of him / the son of man that you care for him?” We do not deserve this care of provision. No matter how much we have trained for serving Christ, no matter how much of the Bible we know, no matter how great we think we will be for the church of God, we must depend utterly on Christ and on Christ alone for persevering grace. “Pray that you do not fall into temptation.” Pray with all your heart. But remember always, that Christ alone holds your salvation. May he hold us all and preserve us in his love. For inasmuch as there is no hope outside of him, there is now no condemnation to fear for any who are in him.

Do not assume your preserving grace. Pray for it. Do not presume to be a follower of Christ except you see the fruits evident in your life. Pray for them. Do not presume to be a follower of Christ because you have “followed him” for three years (or 13 years!) at Bible College. Judas followed him too.

Update, 02/18/06: See this article at "the Christian Mind" for some thoughts on the upcoming publication of the Gospel of Judas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I believe in the Holy Trinity--Part 2

The Trinity is a hard concept to get your mind around. There's no doubt about that. I've observed that one of the more difficult problems regarding the issue of the Trinity in the average Christian's life is not that they don't understand it, but that they see no practical use for it. "Why should I spend my time thinking about something that I'll never get anyway? What practical relevance does it have?"

In our pragmatic society, where time is money and people are far too often too goal(purpose?)-driven to spend any time in meditation, prayer, or contemplation, this simple question is often enough to drive them away from ever considering the Trinity.

So... does the Trinity have any relevance? It sure did to the apostle Paul. As Dr. Haykin pointed out last Sunday night (see this site for the message, which we be available for download shortly), the Trinity is everywhere assumed in the New Testament, though never argued for at length.

The interesting thing about that realization is that you begin to see that everywhere the Trinity is discussed in the New Testament, it is discussed for very practical reasons (ie. "here we can see the whole fullness of the three working together as one"). In other words, you don't mention something that's assumed unless it has some sort of practical import: either to evoke wonder, worship, and awe, or service and thanksgiving.

The challenge to us, then, as student of God's Word, is to notice all the times we see the Trinity discussed in the New Testament and then ask specifically: What difference does this make in my life? What response to the Trinity does the author want me to have?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meditation on Christ

Yet he opened not his mouth. – Isaiah 53:7

When God said “Let there be light,” there was light. When God spoke, he created the world out of nothing. When God speaks, the whole earth trembles; mountains melt like wax and the seas roar. All of creation is as nothing before the might and power of our Lord and God. When he speaks, all power is exercised. When he speaks, all of nature is at his command. He is the Lord who calls from the east the bird of prey; the man of his own purpose, to accomplish his will. Opening his mouth, he declares, “I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me.” Again, he asks, “Who is like the Lord your God, and to whom will you liken me?” The Lord declares his own righteousness, his own power, glory and sovereignty, because we have collectively shut our mouths. We deny the truth of the God’s glory as he has revealed it. We shut our mouths when we should rightfully praise.

Christ—in whom dwelt the absolute fullness of deity—came to earth and humbled himself to obedience. In a world that we had corrupted, surrounded by his creation, which we have oppressed, he alone lived and existed as that which was innocent and pure. He alone was beautiful in a world marred with sin and the ugliness of evil. Yet Christ, the one and only who did not deserve death bore our sin. He, who alone deserved to live, was made to die. He, who alone was beautiful, was made to take on all the perverted image of sinful man. What a travesty of all that is good and pure! What violation of that which is right! And yet love prevailed. At that moment, when in all righteousness, he who alone was righteous could have called all creation to account, shut his mouth. He, while suffering, chose to remain silent before those who brought lies, slander, and curses upon him.

Though we may, at times, claim to be falsely accused, yet we do not know—nor have we ever known—what it means to actually be innocent. Yet here stands innocence and purity incarnate as all evil assaults and assails. If ever there was a just cause for crying out, here it is! If ever there was reason for opening one’s mouth in defence, here it is! Yet the very one who existed before creation, the very one in whom all things—including his accusers—hold together shuts his mouth.

Christian, behold your Saviour. Like a lamb being led to slaughter, he shuts his mouth. Though he could speak and all the world would come crashing down; Though he could speak and hosts of angels would descend, yet he remains quiet, head bowed in humility and submission to the Father. Sinner, behold the love of God. He opened not his mouth. He took on my sin. O my soul, may I never forget the love of God I have seen this day.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I believe in the Holy Trinity

Dr. Michael Haykin was at our church on this Sunday evening, preaching on the Trinity. His text was Matthew 28.16-20 (esp. v.19).

The message is a much needed one in today's church where the Trinity is often assumed, seldom taught. One cannot wonder how long such an essential doctrine as this can go on not being taught, but still being unquestioned. If we, as evangelicals, can learn from the past at all, we should learn that doctrine does not remain pure without being carefully guarded. And such a core doctrine as the nature and identity of our God must be protected at all costs.

By way of introduction, Dr. Haykin walked us through several New Testament passages which speak of God existing as Three-in-One, so as to show that Matt 5.19 is not simply a proof-text.

The first passage examined was Hebrews 9.11-14. It says that Christ's offering had secured eternal redemption. "For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

Thus, the cross is primarily and act of God, within himself. When the writer of Hebrews thinks about the economy of salvation, it is an act of God with reference to himself first and foremost. Only then does it apply to sinners like you and me. Interesting. That doesn't seem to line up with a lot of the "me-centred" church-life we tend to find in North America these days.

Lord willing, more reflections on the Trinity will follow.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Enjoying your Bible lately?

How are you doing in your own personal study of the Bible? Does it sometimes seem like a wearisome task? When personal Bible study becomes burdensome, and everywhere on the web people are downplaying the Bible and its profundity, I found these words particularly refreshing and encouraging. Hopefully you do too.

"In addition to all its other virtues, the Bible delights the people of God. Its pages brim with adventure, humour, and pageantry. It is a book of aesthetic beauty. Surely, God gave us this marvelous message to enjoy!" People savour the "artful narrative of the intrigues of Joseph and his brothers, and they admire Nathan's cunningly simple parable to King David. They appreciate the masterful poetry in the Psalms and delight in the parables of Jesus. The Bible's diverse literature--OT epics, strange apocalyptic prophecy, tightly reasoned epistles, the skillful sustained argumentation in Hebrews--inspires and captures our interest. The Book itself arouses intellectual and emotional enjoyment. It invites us to appreciate its multifaceted beauty. But above that, the Bible's beauty and the pleasure it promotes reflects the beauty and personality of the God who inspired it. Its beauty sings his praises just as the stars and planets do (Psa 19)."
--From Klein, Blomberg & Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, rev. ed., pg 475.

I think its particularly interesting that God would speak to us using written words that we will enjoy and delight in. He could have made the Bible boring, but he delights in giving us joy... and he gave us the Bible which inspires us to delight in him... What a great God!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Controls You?

A couple of different events are converging at once, prompting this post. One of which is some recent reflections I've had on narrative theology (most recently, Justin Taylor brought out the connection between narrative theology and emergent/emerging). The other series of events that leads me to these thoughts is the series of sermons we find ourselves in at Grace Fellowship. We're currently in Romans 9 and working through what it means that God 'has mercy on whom he wills, and hardens whom he wills.'

It's a basic presupposition of many people that you must allow a certain set of texts (be they divided by genre, place in redemptive-history, author, whatever) to control the other sets of texts.

For example, because of their predisposition to narrative theology, open theists say that the 'divine repentance texts' must have priority over the seeming 'exhaustive detail sovereignty texts' in teaching us how God interacts with people. In fact, the narrative texts ultimately determine how we interpret those other texts.

This post will obviously not resolve all (or perhaps any) of the problems raised within these issues. That being said, I want to suggest that we sometimes overlook basic rules of logic when it comes to interpreting the Bible. In other words, sometimes we think that we have to have an entirely different type of thinking cap on when we're reading God's word.

Here's an example of what I mean. One of my all-time favourite bands is braveSaintSaturn (although I think they may be defunct now...?). I love this band so much because I can identify with the poetry, allegory, images, and emotions conveyed in their art. It pulls at my heart. As they sing, I interpret everything that they say... and to be honest, I think I get it. I think I totally understand what the author of that song was trying to get across.

But I could be wrong. The other day I read an interview with Reese Roper, the lead singer of the band, and the guy that writes most of their lyrics. He started talking about what the symbols meant, and what he was trying to get across in various songs. Now, if he had've explained that a certain image meant something completely different than what I had expected, who would be right? Should I still insist that the image is what makes sense to me? Or should I understand that in his mind, he meant to convey something else, and let his explanation govern my interpretation?

Basically, my point is this: We sometimes forget that all revelation did not always exist (it came in sequence) and that not all Scripture is equally clear (2 Pet 3.16). Just as poetry provides brilliant images and draws on emotions and encourages audience involvement, so does the narrative of the OT (and gospels and Acts). But, if we understand the concept that there is one author of the whole Bible--as there was one author who both wrote the braveSaintSaturn songs and spoke about them in the interview--(see 2 Pet 1.16-21; 2 Tim 3.16; and Heb 1), then we must understand that what comes later, and clearly interprets all of narrative history (cf Romans and Hebrews for example), is intended to control our theology. This is especially true of theology proper.

What in the world does all that mean? Simply this: When we read things in the Bible that confuse us about God, we allow the newer revelation to control the older (cf Heb 1.1-2) because it is better. It interprets what came before. This is a simple principle that we apply all the time to other things we read, we just seem to miss it somehow when we read our Bible. Maybe we have a 'presupposition-driven theology.'

Friday, November 18, 2005


Ever feel like you don't quite measure up? Recently, in Dr. Haykin's lectures at school, I've been overwhelmed by the reality of the nature of the trinity. It is incredible to me how a doctrine like this could be so incredibly central to everything that we believe, and yet, the average Christian knows so little about it.

Perhaps it's partially because of the cultural mindset that says, "I like the spiritual thoughts and ideas that I come up with." Or the other attitude, "I can't understand it, so I don't want to deal with it."

But we're talking about the very nature of God here... this is not something that you can take or leave and it has no consequence. We must (in Luther's words) "beat importunately upon" the Bible at all places where it speaks of God, so that we might better understand him.

To that end, Dr. Haykin will be coming to preach at our church in the evening on Nov. 27, on the trinity. No matter how much we want to say "I'm not a theologian, just an everyday Christian," these are things we need to stretch ourselves to understand.

In the end, however, we recognize that "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" and that we must be content with that. We seek to understand the revelation that we have, but in humility, we never to speculate. As someone (I forget who) has said, with regard to the trinity, "Try to explain it, and you'll lose your mind; But try to deny it, and you'll lose your soul."

Perhaps most appropriately, Spurgeon himself said (of the phrase "today I have begotten thee," from Psalm 2), "If this
refers to the Godhead of our Lord, let us not attempt to fathom it, for it is a great truth, a truth reverently to be received, but not irreverently to be scanned. It may be added, that if this relates to the Begotten One in his human nature, we must here also rejoice in the mystery, but not attempt to violate its sanctity by intrusive prying into the secrets of the Eternal God. The things which are revealed are enough, without venturing into vain speculations. In attempting to define the Trinity, or unveil the essence of Divinity, many men have lost themselves: here great ships have foundered. What have we to do in such a sea with our frail skiffs?"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I wonder if God...

I wonder if God could cause plants to grow without rain. I think most people would say that if God could create the earth just exactly how he did, out of nothing, then he could have created it many other ways as well. He could have made it so that the earth would be watered without rain. So why would he send rain?

There is a friend of mine who is teaching a college & careers class on evangelism. Some of the people in the class found out that he believes in God's sovereignty in salvation. They began to argue with him (as I'm sure we've all heard before) that if God elects unconditionally from eternity past all who will ever have a saving faith in him, then why do we preach? Why even bother with evangelism?

God waters the earth with rain because that's the way he's chosen to work. Precipitation is simply the means that he has seen as most fitting for what he wants to accomplish.

Evangelism is the means of bring sinners to saving faith in Christ because that's the way God has chosen to work. God has ordained that we evangelize because he has elected, and the preaching of his word is the way in which he will bring his own people to himself.

In Acts 18 we find Paul beginning his ministry to the Gentiles in Corinth, because the Jews there have rejected his message. It says that many of the people there, "hearing Paul believed and were baptized." In other words, Paul evangelized and sinners were saved. Was that "free will that triumphs over election"? No... keep reading.

Verse 9 says that "the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, 'Do not be afraid,and no one will attack you to harm you (ie. keep evangelizing), but go on speaking and do not be silent for I am with you, for I have many in this city who are my people.'" Paul's response to God's revelation of his elect being present in the city? "And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."

In other words, when Paul understood God's plan of salvation for the people in Corinth (ie. God had some of his elect there in that city), he kept preaching the gospel, trusting God to save his own.

Election is motivation for evangelizing the lost, not the other way around. God has ordained the rain as much as he has ordained the plant's growth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Back to the Future?

So... after starting on blogspot, I left for what I thought was greener grass. As it turns out, I didn't know what I was doing with the templates and what-not, so this seemed easier. I'll be blogging on this site, rather than the other one from here on in. You can still click here for all the stuff I've blogged up until this point.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Misunderstanding McLaren (or, Conversing About the Journey of a Man and the Interpretation of That Journey)

Justin Taylor did this better back in July. I recommend reading that post over mine.

That being said, I couldn’t help but notice some serious irony the past few days as I’ve been reading. As Taylor noted, it seems that whenever emergent-types are criticized, they respond with (a) “you hurt my feelings,” and / or (b) “you don’t understand us.”

Brian McLaren is no exception.

The article I read yesterday is a case in point. McLaren has been critiqued over and over again. His response: “You don’t understand us.”

Thus, his solution (at least in part) is the article cited above. In that article he “tells his faith story” so that he will let us all see “the real man,” in hopes that we will be able to contextualize his writing and understand what he is trying to communicate.

The irony of it all is simply this: It’s typically the argument of these pomo post-propositional guys that we should employ a reader-oriented hermeneutic (to Scripture and otherwise).

So… in reality, the message isn’t determined by McLaren as he writes, but by us as we read and interpret. Really, then, he’s misunderstood himself, I suppose, if I think he’s said something he doesn’t think he said. Boy, does that suck. Ah well. He’s fallible anyway (aren’t we all?), so who’s to say with certainty that he knew what he wanted to say in the first place?

I guess now he knows how the biblical authors would feel, were they alive to be subjected to the types of interpretations he and his cronies come up with.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Purposes of God

At our church, our pastor has been preaching through the book of Romans. This past week we went over Romans 8:28 and learned about the fact that God works all things–without exception–for the good of his people. The “all things” trips some people up, but if we’re to be faithful to the Word, then we must not qualify “all” any more than the context itself does. (See my pastor’s follow-up post from the day after the sermon for further elaboration.)

Some people take ideas like that and (rightly) say something like, “Wow! What an awesome God, that he would work all things for our good.” They then hastily conclude that the purpose of God in creation is to have right relationship with people. Pomo tendencies definitely swing in this direction and many at my former place of study would argue this vehemently.

But I cannot help but think that they must be reading their Bibles with sunglasses on or something, because they seem to be missing half the story.

For starters, God’s plan would be a pretty big failure if he just wanted relationship with people and yet still the percentage of Christians in the world is relatively small (if that were his only purpose). But there’s more than that. And it’s there all over the place…

Just this morning, I’m reading through the book of Exodus for my OT class and I couldn’t help but notice this. To say that God is concerned primarily with the salvation of his people as an end in itself, one would have to be an open theist. Otherwise, why would God send all the plagues? You must say either (1) God didn’t know how Pharaoh would respond (Ex. 4:21-23), or (2) he had some other purpose. Since God had predicted quite clearly beforehand that he knew Pharaoh would not listen, we can rightly conclude that God had another purpose.

He states that purpose as well: “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders my be multiplied in the land of Egypt…. and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.” Clearly, if God was only concerned about acquiring freedom for his people, he would not have hardened Pharaoh’s heart. We must conclude, then, that God was telling the truth when he said he did it so that his wonders would be multiplied.

God was primarily concerned with glorifying himself. Secondarily, and derivatively, he was concerned with saving his people. Because the redemption of his people is derived from his passion for displaying his glory, we can rest assured that God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Because his purpose is to save sinners, to his great glory.

Those who would argue that the God of the OT is hard to equate with the God of the NT simply miss the point that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and his purposes will never change. That’s why in the NT, Paul could look back on this event and quote with affirmation God’s purposes in creating Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

In fact, that’s God’s purpose in raising us all up…

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What in the World is Wrong with the West? -- Part 2

Part 1 of this “mini-series” is here.

It’s almost laughable, really. In a world where so many ethnicities have come together to prove like never before that no two people or cultures are the same, you’d think that we’d be looking for commonalities.

Isn’t it easier to talk to people about things you have in common? Mutual friends, similar experiences, places you’ve both visited?

But what do I have in common with my Muslim neighbour who moved here from Turkey a year ago and is just learning english? Very little. But some things stretch beyond culture, place of birth and age. And there is one thing more certain than taxes.

And yet it’s the greatest taboo of our society. We just cannot find a way to come to terms with our own mortality. If one person starts to talk about death, people give it a little awkward chuckle and then change the subject or say something like, “c’mon, you’re not going to die.” Even in my own house, when my mom starts to talk about her life insurance policy and what will happen if she dies, I get uncomfortable and think: “Stop talking about that… you’ve got a ton of time left.”

Of course, she doesn’t. Neither do I. Nowhere in the Bible or anywhere else are we promised another year, month, week, day, or breath. But we assume. We assume that we’ll be here till we’re 80. And even then people will cry at our funerals and wonder how this tragedy could’ve happened.

One thing I must make clear is that death is a tragedy and was never a part of the original creation. It is the ultimate consequence for sin and one day we will all be resurrected from death to die no more.

That being said, we’re not there yet. One day I will die. You will die. And between now and then you and I will both probably experience great pain. We will both probably get very sick. We’ll probably even get wrinkles and start to shrink. Pain and sickness are both reminders that this life is not it. We will die — that much is unavoidable.

But in a culture where looking fit, healthy and youthful (the denial of the onset and imminence of death?), people don’t want to think about — much less talk about — death and dying. And pain before death becomes in reality a fate worse than death itself.

Why can’t we talk about death? Why do we act like modern science has somehow failed us everytime an 80+ year old great-grandparent “passes away”? Why are we forced to use euphemisms like “passed away” to say that someone died?

Maybe it’s kind of the same reason why we can’t talk about spiritual things? Maybe it’s because it inevitably brings up the topic of the afterlife and the real point of this life. Personally, I feel like the church has really dropped the ball here and become like the rest of our culture.

We need to be people who are open and honest about dying. A people who talk-straight to others about their own mortality and who are honest with them about what they can expect if they are outside Christ when they do finally die.

It used to be (or so I hear) that Christians were the ones who knew how to die well… it made us stand out. Now, we’re just as into the euphemisms as anyone else. We even cling to vain hopes that “maybe all good people will still go to heaven one day” just like the rest of the world. If Christians can’t talk about death with unwavering hope and faith, why should anyone else?

Monday, August 22, 2005

What in the World is Wrong with the West?

I hear rumours. Rumours that in other places of the world you can broach the topic of spiritual things without half of the audience expressing some kind of visible concern.

Why is it in our culture that it is such a struggle to “get into another person’s kitchen” when it comes to their spiritual life?

When we see people we haven’t seen in some time, we can catch up quickly. “Where are you living now?” “How’s so and so?” “Where are you working now?” We can talk about the future: “What are you plans now?” We can even get personal: “How’s your family?” Or more personal: “How’s your love life? Any prospects?” But how bizarre would we seem if we were to ask, “How’s your heart?”

Sadly, it is tough, even in most church settings to get past the old “How was your week?” routine. Why? It’s an overflow of such an impersonal, distanced, media-driven, keeping-up-appearances culture. Isn’t it bizarre that we can sit beside people listening to the Word of God being applied to our hearts for 45 minutes and then turn around and just say, “What’s for lunch?”

Maybe there’s more though… maybe the culture has become the way it has–with spirituality as one of the ultimate taboos–because we’re afraid that things might get messy. If I ask how someone is doing in their walk with Christ, maybe they’ll ask me back? Maybe I would have to admit that this past week has been a struggle. I haven’t loved my wife like I should’ve. I haven’t spent any time in prayer, and my Bible’s been collecting dust. Jesus seems far from me.

But who wants to admit that? It’s so much easier to just talk about the Jays and the weather.

Plus, what if I ask someone about the condition of their heart and they give me an answer that I disagree with? Am I allowed to say something about it, or do I smile and nod? After all, if I were to disagree, that would be making a truth-claim of some sort (heaven forbid). I would hate to appear as a know-it-all, or be characterized as one who thinks he has a “corner on the truth.”

Speaking of which, anyone catch the score of the game last night?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Harmful Humility

You all know her. She’s the beauty queen who, for some reason, won’t admit to being beautiful. Some people think she’s fishing for compliments, others think she’s got self-esteem issues. In reality, false humility is just annoying. If you’ve got no reason to think you’re ugly, why insist on it when the evidence is otherwise? That’s not true humility. True humility would be knowing how to acknowledge the truth of a compliment (based on fact) and accept it gracefully. There’s not much nicer than a person who can take a compliment well.

There’s another person we all know. He’s the guy in your class who insists that he really will fail this test this time, even though everyone knows he’s the smartest guy in the class and he has studied for this for weeks. False humility is true pride in disguise.

Why pretend you’re not beautiful when you are? Why pretend you’re not smart when you are? Is it helpful? No, it just annoys people.

Why do Christians nowadays find it so trendy to say “I don’t know” all the time, when we really do?

The plain truth is that we can know truth, and everyone knows it’s true… so why pretend like we can’t? Is that humility?

Moses was the meekest of all men. Seems to me he was pretty certain about some convictions he had. Jesus was meek. People wanted him lynched several times over before he was finally killed for the drastic truth claims he made. Paul, Peter, John… the list goes on and on. They all claimed to know a truth that was worth suffering for. In fact, Paul said in more than one place that he considered that all the sufferings he went through were not even worthy to be compared with what the Lord has for us. Seems to me he was pretty certain about that.

I wonder how many of the saints in Hebrews 11 would concede that perhaps there was salvation outside of God’s revealed plan of redemption? All those guys and gals were special though. Guys like me should maybe be more humble… maybe I shouldn’t get so excited about the things that I “know” to be true, when really it’s just what I “believe.”

That’s not humility.

If the Bible says it, it is true humility to subject myself to its truth, whether or not I can conceive of a God who is glorified in the damnation of millions. I am just a little guy… so why should I be able to conceive of a God anything like the real God of the Bible, the Creator of the universe, the Great I am, who was and is and is to be?

In humility I stand on the authority of the Word of God and declare that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name by which we may be saved. In humility I confess that I do not comprehend God, but I comprehend things from his Word. Things like the fact that all are guilty and deserving of hell, but are justified (saved, declared innocent, made righteous) because of his grace, through our faith which came to us freely, as a gift from him.

Humility does not demand that I deny I have received these gifts and others have not. Only a fool tries to deny that he has what he has. Humility demands that I stand in a place of awe and wonder that God could love even a sinner like me. Humility demands that I become a servant like the greatest servant the world has ever known — which includes preaching his gospel like he preached it; hell and all. (Or is humility insisting that maybe God should be gracious like I would be, and give everyone a second chance?)

In fact, humility almost begins to look like the opposite of the “I don’t know” chorus line emanating from so many evangelical and emergent circles these days. I do know, because it has been given to me freely. I was blind, now I see. Only a proud fool would shame the one who gave him sight by suggesting — even for a second — that anyone else could provide that sight.

And while we remain ever so humble, being always careful to never insinuate that the gay guy who lives next to me and the devout Muslim down the street are going to hell, they really, really are.

All in the name of humility…

Friday, August 12, 2005

On the Great Irrelevance of the Gospel

Perhaps we’ve missed something. In all of our efforts to “make church relevant”, perhaps we’ve missed that the gospel itself is not relevant. People do not care when we tell them about Jesus. Why should they?

I was listening to an album called Awesome God put out for kids by Sovereign Grace Ministries on the way home in the car tonight. The one song called Have You Heard? has a line that was particularly thought-provoking.

Okay, so a song for kids was “thought-provoking” for me–call me simple, but I think there’s something to it.

Anyway, the song is talking about the gospel and says, “It tells us that Jesus died for us to save us from our sins.” Nothing terribly original yet, I know. The next line, however, says, “This is the best news that we could ever hear.”

Is it? Is it the best news you’ve ever heard? What do you do when you get good news? When you propose and she says “yes” (drug induced or otherwise)? When you find out you got the job? When you find out your wife is pregnant with your first child? When the offer you put in for the house is accepted?

You tell people! You celebrate! You rejoice! It’s a no-brainer. Maybe you even dance a jig (when no one’s looking, of course)!

But how do we react when we hear that Jesus died for us, to save us from our sins? No wonder the world doesn’t find our message relevant. It’s not.

See, the message of the gospel is water. If you’re thirsty, there’s nothing like it. If you’re belly is already full of fluid so that you can hear it jiggle when you move quickly, you’re not interested.

The problem is that we’re trying to force people to drink when they’re just not thirsty. In our world there’s no such thing as sin. If there’s no sin, and I’m not guilty of it, and it really shouldn’t be punished anyway, then why is it good news (the best news!) that Jesus died for my sins? It’s not.

If our message is to be relevant, so that the gospel can be restored to a place where it is the best news people have ever heard, then we need to start by preaching sin. We need to start by showing people that they are thirsty! They have a need! They are hellbound sinners in the hands of an angry God.

A world that is so incredibly “tolerant”, and a philosophical realm where the ultimate ethic is always “justice to the other’s idea” needs to hear that there is right and wrong, sin and righteousness, judgment and forgiveness. No one is interested in drawing these lines anymore, however.

But we need to. We must preach sin if we are to ever preach a relevant saviour. Forgiveness is only the best news ever heard if people have heard that they need it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Lesson From a Ballgame

So there I am on a Sunny Sunday afternoon, in a near sold-out Rogers Centre, a good, right, pure, noble Habs Fan, trying to enjoy the baseball game. The one thing that stunk was that the Jays were getting whooped. Ah well. It’s been known to happen.

Anyway, near the beginning of the game, I noticed that a few sections over, down about 12 rows from us is a guy wearing a nice habs hat, and an authentic vintage habs jersey with the #20 and the name Zednik on the back.

“My kinda guy!” I thought, and glibly smiled to myself. I had taken note of the fact that he was wearing a hockey jersey in 40+ degree weather, but hey, whatever.

An inning or so later I noticed that some people were booing when he stood up. Silly Toronto Maple Leaf fans. They wouldn’t know good hockey if it hit ‘em in the ice.

As time went on, however, it began to be a bit more apparent what was happening. He was being antagonistic. He was standing up, showing off the jersey and hollering at various hecklers around him.

Before long this guy had stood up, turned around to face the other fans (ie. back to the game) and was yelling at one and then another. Pretty soon people from my section and the sections on the other side of him were yelling back at him.

In short, the guy was making an idiot of himself. The guy behind and to the left of me yelled “the Canadiens suck!” I turned around to say something, but my loving wife interceded before I got a beer dumped on my head.

Fortunately, I was wise enough to not get involved, but I thought about how that might function as a parable of sorts. How many Christians get drawn into fights trying to defend other Christians, only to find out that the Christian was the one acting like an idiot in the first place?

When that guy behind me was yelling stuff about my precious Canadiens, I just wanted to say, “Hey, don’t judge us by our worst fan!” (If any team is going to be condemned for ignorant and arrogant fans, the Leafs fans should not be the ones to judge.) I wanted to stick up for my team, but it would have meant (at least in some people’s eyes) aligning myself with the goober up in front of us. What a mess.

Yet I wonder how we (Christians) appear to the world. All it takes is one idiot in a bright jersey with a funky hat (a Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen) who gets a lot of attention and people get upset about Christianity. Man, I hate that! All people know when they meet us (especially around where I live where Christianity is Roman Catholicism) is the traditional RC church or Benny Hinn and the “born-agains.”

Do I align myself with them? Alas, usually by the time I finish explaining that I’m not like either and what some of the differences are, people have tuned out. The problem is that I’m not with the goober in the jersey, but am I against him?

I’d be interested in knowing how others deal with this type of situation, because to me it’s a tough one.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Trees, Towers, and Totalitarian Régimes

What goes up, must come down. That is a principle every bit as elemental in world history as it is in physics. None of us ever really thinks about Canada or the USA one day passing out of existence or falling to some greater world power, but the reality is that nothing is forever. What we must not miss is that it is all within the realm of God’s providence.

There was a time when the population of the world was one nation, with one language, and one purpose. They set their minds to building a city with a tower reaching to the heavens. God had other plans. While they were building, God said “this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they purpose to do will now be impossible for them.” So he confused their languages, so that no one could understand each other. From there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Read the whole story here.)

As we read through the Old Testament in general (the prophetic works in particular), we cannot escape the reality that God is providentially working in all the nations. In order to deliver Israel, he must work plagues on Egypt. He waits till cities and nations have reached their full measure of sin and then executes justice swiftly and accurately. He prophesies blessing, he promises curses; over and over again it is declared that the Lord will work mightily in all the nations of the world to accomplish his purposes. We ought to never forget that politics are within the realm of God’s providence as well, and that no power or nation is more powerful than God.

“Rome will never fall,” they said. Kingdom after kingdom, nation after nation, people after people. One by one they are built up, one by one they fall. We would be foolish to think that this pattern will stop now that we have built a “global village.” Since Babel, the Lord has consistently never allowed a people to attain too much power, too much prestige; they can never build themselves up to him.

No place in Scripture reflects this line of thinking more (I think) than Ezekiel. After deliveing pronouncements of judgment and destruction on Ammon, Moab, Seir, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and Sidon (25-28), the Lord turns his sights on Egypt (29-32).

My wife and I have been reading through Ezekiel together lately and this passage stuck out to me. In it God makes it plain that he will bring about his purposes in judgment so that he will be made known for who he is. In chapter 31, however, something very interesting happens.

God issues a personal challenge to Pharaoh: “Who do you think you are?” Sure, maybe not in those exact words, but that’s the point. God says, “Take a look at the most powerful people you can possibly think of: Do you think you’re as strong as them? Because I have judged them as well; how do you think you’ll escape?”

God compares Egypt to Assyria. Sure Assyria was great. In fact, it was because it was great that it was judged. “Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height, I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves.”

In that section where God compares Egypt and Assyria, he uses the image of trees to describe the greatness of the nations. The greatest nation is the tallest, most beautiful, most fruitful tree, with branches that other nations can come and find shade under and rest on. Its roots go way down into the earth and it cannot be moved. No other tree can rival the greatness of that tree, and it was God that “made it beautiful.”

One of the most wonderful things that I love about the OT is that consistently, all things are attributed to God and his providence. If Egypt is great, it is because God has made it so, not Pharaoh. If Assyria is brought down, it is God’s judgment, not another nation’s power. God makes the trees grow; God chops them down. No exceptions. How we need to capture that God-centred vision of reality again today!

God is sovereign over all the nations. But more than that, he desires that we know that he is sovereign–that he is the one in control of all of history–that he is the one in whom all things find their meaning. This emphasis cannot be missed in the book of Ezekiel as a whole, or in these chapters in particular (how’s this for a recurring theme?).

We are not those who place our hope in institutions (nations, denominations, churches, organizations, etc.), because all these will rise and fall. The Lord is the one constant, and he desires that we know that. That’s why in all history nations will wax and wane, rise and fall, triumph and fail, but he will always remain.

But that’s macro. What about micro? What about me?

Is the same principal true in my own life? In my spiritual life and my walk with the Lord? Perhaps that is worthy of consideration in another post.

For now though, I think that the point we cannot miss is that God is good and providentially in control of all this crazy world. He has a purpose for it, and we must not miss that. We cannot be afraid to embrace God as the one from whom and through whom and to whom all things exist to his glory.

We may try to build our towers, but the Lord can confuse our tongues. Our nations may prosper high as the cedars of Lebanon (tall as a BC oak), but the Lord wields the chainsaw. And its all to his glory.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Osteen Out in Left--We Must Preach!

This Joel Osteen guy seems to be getting a lot of press. Just to keep abreast of the goings on:

There’s a helpful post on him here.

His own self-help / power of positive thinking / “ministry” page is here.

An insightful review of his “opening night ceremonies” can be found here.

Just in case you ever needed proof of 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

And in reference to this nonsense (Osteen’s comments, not James’), Osteen needs to be warned–like all “loving inclusivists” and “humble emergents” need to be warned–with the warning God gave Ezekiel. We would be wise to preach and to teach with the love Christ modelled. We would be pleasing to God if we were to fulfill our ministries as Paul did. “The whole counsel of God” that Paul declared to the Ephesian elders included hell. Why are we so afraid to present that message now?

If we are ministers of a better covenant (see 2 Cor. 3 or the whole book of Hebrews), how much greater will our condemnation be than Ezekiel’s if we are unfaithful to proclaim to people that they are sinners under the just wrath of a holy God?

How will we escape having their blood on our hands if we don’t preach the reality of sin and hell? How can we call it “love” and “humility” when we are really just too chicken to make a bold proclamation like “I know the way of salvation and others don’t.”

If we can’t make that proclamation without blushing, why even call ourselves Christian?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fundamental Flaws and Empathy for Evangelicals

My former post seemed to get a bit of response. In it I posed several questions. Not the least of which was, “Is Evangelicalism, as a way of thinking, fundamentally flawed since it seeks to interact with a fluid concept of reality, through which it ultimately must determine truth and interpret Scripture?” But that was compared with Fundamentalism, and it was then asked, “Is Fundamentalism any better? Can one determine truth if he has not engaged all the facts available to him? Can one remain relevant to his culture, his world, his times, if he does not interact with all that those around him know as reality? Can he even know truth if he has not actively engaged falsity, in order to know it as such?”

The responses were variegated in topic and flavour, but seemed to revolve around two main thoughts. One of which was that all “isms” are man-made, and thus are inherently flawed. The second main thought in the responses was one wherein it was questioned whether the Bible should be used as a “science textbook” when that is clearly not what it was originally intended to be. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the main points and practical results of what the Bible teaches, rather than getting all caught up in the relevance of details that weren’t supposed to be taken as we take them (ie. taking the details of creation in Gen. 1 as a description of the exact chronology of how things occurred, according to modern scientific method)?

The post itself was meant to be leading in its line of questions. Wherein lies truth? How can transient man ever come face to face with eternal reality?

When Augustine was young he developed a love for philosophy by reading Cicero’s “Hortensius.” By this point in his education, Augustine had fallen head over heals for great poetry and prose and fanciful arguments of men over what to believe and what to question… sounds like many of us. When he first came to question these things, he queried his friends, searched his own mind and soul, and finally saw fit to probe holy writ.

He records his experience:

So I made up my mind to examine the holy Scriptures and see what kind of books they were. I discovered something that was at once beyond the understanding of the proud and hidden from the eyes of children. Its gait was humble, but the heights it reached were sublime. It was enfolded in mysteries, and I was not the kind of man to enter into it or bow my head to follow where it led. But these were not the feelings I had when I first read the Scriptures. To me they seemed quite unworthy of comparison with the stately prose of Cicero, because I had too much conceit to accept their simplicity and not enough insight to penetrate their depths. It is surely true that as the child grows these books grow with him. But I was too proud to call myself a child. I was inflated with self-esteem, which made me think myself a great man.

Many a “great man” treats the Word of God in this manner. Evey man who treats God’s word in this manner must indeed be “great,” at least in his own mind–how else could humanity pass judgment on the divine?

I am certain of this, that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I think this holds true with regards to the work of his Holy Spirit. The Word of God is indeed living and active, and it will not return to him who sent it without accomplishing its intended purpose.

When the Word of God meets a humble and contrite heart, who accepts it as truth truly sent by God, it has indeed found a home. The Spirit of God plants the seed of the word, waters and nourishes it. The grace of God is all the light and energy needed to bring forth a tree of good fruit.

As time goes by, I become more and more convinced that God honours faith and humility. If, in faith, I come as a human, bound in time and space, limited in knowledge and wisdom, to his Word which I regard as holy truth and wholly true, the revelation of the character and nature of the One Eternal Reality against which all else is measured, I will be blessed.

Too many times I have come to the Bible like Augustine, quoted above. I have thought of it and have been ashamed that the book to which I am supposed to cling is “not like Cicero.” It is, in places, not the most beautiful of language. At times it seems downright naive. It is almost always politically incorrect, and quite often it says things that are incredibly difficult to interpret aright.

It is much easier to come up with my own grand thoughts of what God must be like, or could be like, or the nature of reality itself than to read about them in a book multiple-millenia old. And it is old–it has all been heard before. What of new ideas, new thoughts, new perspectives? What about “always reforming” anyway? Shouldn’t that apply to at least our interpretations, if not doctrines of Scripture?

God has honoured and will continue to honour that faith which recognizes his Word as “God-breathed”–that is, from him and above reproach or rebuke, shame or scandal, culture or critique.

He does this in very practical ways. God honours faith by providing proof.

Remember in the Chronicles of Narnia when Lucy saw Aslan so plainly when others could not? Aslan demanded of her that she follow him regardless of what the others thought or did. The others thought she was nuts at best and a pain at worst. But as each one’s faith was added, they were provided with the grace to see that Aslan was there and had been leading them all along.

It is the same thing for the Christian as he reads his Bible. When I read it in faith, trusting that it is God’s truly inspired Word to me, his Spirit bears witness to my heart that what I read is truth. When I read with the faith of a child trusting his Father, he honours that faith and shows me the intangible internal consistency, undeniable connectivity of thought, and the subtle nuances that could be included only if one author had edited the whole.

So what? What does all this have to do with the conversation at hand? How does this relate to the Evangelical / Fundamentalist debate?

Simply this: The Bible is not a science textbook and Evangelicalism, like Fundamentalism and every other “ism” is indeed fundamentally flawed. Science cannot give us the answers we are looking for; it cannot interpret Scripture or give us absolute truth. Science, like the “isms” at hand, is never impartial, nor are our uses of it.

The only source of truth we have is the Word of God. And the Word of God is hard–hard to interpret, hard to understand, hard to apply. Who thought truth would be easy? The only answer we have is to simply choose to believe Scripture.

Ultimately, we must choose to either believe it or disbelieve it. It is a matter of faith. The more faith we place in it, the more we see that it is entirely trustworthy. The more we analyze, deconstruct, apply our criticisms, the more room for Satan to fill our minds with doubt. The Bible testifies to itself like Christ testified to himself, or like God testified to himself to OT Israel. Either believe or disbelief; take it or leave it.

To take the promises of God and wait to see if they hold true for others is to disbelieve. To take Christ and examine him sceptically as he is modelled by Christians is to disbelieve. To take the Word of God and determine whether or not to believe it based on how you see it interacting with culture or science is to disbelieve it.

What I am suggesting is not a return to Fundamentalism, where we do not interact with the culture or science of our day, but rather that we do so with a heart that has already determined that God’s Word is true in what it asserts regardless of what the rest of the world professes to believe. God’s Word is true regardless of any scientific “fact;” though we know that no fact could ever contradict truth. Thus, the fluidity of the reality of the world around us alternatively may testify for or against a truth claim of God’s Word.

Faith demands that I go into my interactions with culture or science with the understanding that what God (as Creator of all) proclaims to be good or bad, right or wrong, truth or fiction, is in fact exactly what he says it is. End of conversation. Regardless of what culture or science attempts to dictate or demand.

In humility we must come to the Word of God and believe it absolutely. To do anything less is to disbelieve completely. The inner testimony of the Holy Spirit to the absolute truth of God’s Word cannot be denied by any who have come in the humility our great God deserves.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Some Thoughts on How to Make a Wedding Glorifying to God

Several events have conspired of late to turn my mind to the topic at hand. The engagement of one of my best friends, along with my own one year anniversary, the beginning of “wedding season”, and the one upcoming anniversaries of several of my friends (along with the finishing off of the last of our wedding wine tonight at dinner) have all reminded me of what it is like to plan a wedding. Planning a wedding is tough, and there is no shortage of people out there wanting to tell you exactly how each minute detail should be arranged.

With all that in mind, I am writing for my good buddy recently engaged and anyone else who may be involved in weddings in any way in the near future. I am not writing to tell anyone how to do it, but rather, I am simply giving some humble offerings gleaned from experience and observation. Some of the things mentioned we did in our wedding; some things mentioned I wish we had done. Some of the things we did, we did well; others we should/could have done better. Nevertheless, here for starters, I think, is how to make a wedding glorifying to God:

Underlying principles to have in mind as you plan the service:

1. Remember that it is first and foremost a worship service. You are not celebrating something that has happened in your life, but the way that God has graciously and lovingly done something in your life. That perspective makes all the difference in the world. You are not the focus. How God is working and has worked in your lives is the focus.
2. Remember that the true wedding to be celebrated is not your own. Your wedding is an image and representation of the true eternal relationship between Christ and his Bride (the Church). The celebration of your marriage, then, should function as the rest of the marriage should: By acting as a big mirror, pointing others to the goodness of Christ and all that he has done.
3. The gospel must be preached to the unchurched. There are many people present at any wedding who have never and will never set foot in a church outside of this and other weddings and perhaps funerals. Use this opportunity. Make the gospel message free from “Christianese” and easily comprehensible to all.

With those principles in mind (in no particular order):

- Don’t allow any distractions during the ceremony–it is sacred. Plan ahead and make it clear to the guests what should be done with children.
- Memorize your vows to the best of your ability and proclaim them loudly and clearly, while making eye contact; Say it like you mean it!
- Absolutely soak the whole day in Christian music o When you sing, sing like you mean it! Redeem the time for the gospel; whenever music is being played (ie. solos/special music, dinner music, etc.) have it gospel-oriented.
- Preach Christ and him crucified. Keep it biblical and simple.
- Reflect a high view of Christian marriage in the declaration of intent, statement of purpose, giving away of the bride, vows, preaching, etc. Everyone in the world these days has a low view of marriage. Don’t let them think for a second you feel the same as they do.
- Keep the joy to a sober bliss (ie. don’t be goofy). There are times and places (namely, the stag or the night before) for goofiness. Keep a reverance for the day.
- Do not refuse to cry–experience the emotions God has given you for all they are worth.
- Make sure the speeches are all planned and appropriate.
- Entrust the day to the Lord and then relax! o This requires much hard work and even more prayer beforehand.
- Have a godly MC!! Absolutely crucial. We were very blessed by and through ours. In a very real sense, he is the one who sets the mood and the atmosphere for the whole evening. He is (in a way) the “face” of your wedding to a lot of people.
- Suck all the joy you possibly can out of every moment! Take mental pictures and constantly be reminding yourself of what God is giving / has given you this day.
- And for goodness’ sake, have a little wine! (Obviously this calls for wisdom, but when possible, receive and enjoy with thanksgiving!!)

I am very interested in comments and additions. What else can we offer our brother to help him plan this wonderful day?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Free Sermons

I love good preaching and I’m cheap. If you’re like me, you’ll like this site. The Canadian Carey Family Conference website has archives of sermons from lots of good guys like Carson, Bridges, John Reisinger, Steve Martin and more… They’re all free in MP3 format. Good times. Make sure to check out Carson’s series on Revelation… it is fantastic!

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Passion of the Christ: A Blessing in Disguise? Part 2

Many have said that the benefit of Mel’s movie is that it gets people talking about Jesus. The unfortunate thing, I have found, is that because of the wrongly placed emphases in the movie, people are generally quick to talk about the wrong things about Jesus. People are quick to talk about the violence in the movie, if the Jews are really to blame for Jesus’ death, and did the crucifixion really happen that way?

In the true gospel story, however, it was not the violence that was front and centre (a concept foreign to the maker of movies like Braveheart and the Patriot). While the brutality Jesus experienced was most likely more horrible than anyone ever reading this post will ever have to go through, that was not the point. The depiction of the suffering of Christ in the movie was at the very least superfluous, if not distracting.

The point of the cross was not how bad the pain was for Jesus. The point of the cross was that he had to die. But removed from the rest of the biblical plotline, audiences everywhere walk away saying, “What did he do that was that bad?” Or else, “Man, the Pilate guy sure was a wimp.” Some even leave saying, “Those crazy Jews, why did they kill an innocent guy?”

I understand that it is impossible for Mel to make a movie that depicts the whole story of redemptive history, but to focus on the cross without giving any background rationale for it makes the evil seem pointless and people leave with more questions than answers.

God created the world, and the world was good. But when man was tempted to disobey God’s command, he did it. Adam, our first representative, chose to sin. He thought what he wanted outweighed what God commanded. He thought that he knew the way he could be happy and that God’s command was keeping him back from that.

But like God had warned Adam, in the day when he sinned, he would surely die. Sin brings death. That was what God told Adam from the beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned, God killed an animal so he could cover their nakedness (ie. their shame). It was a picture that to cover their guilt, death would have to come.

They were cast out of the Garden where they lived with God, because sin cannot be in the presence of God. The whole rest of the Old Testament functions as witness to this fact… Even before the Law was given on Mt. Sinai. That’s why Paul could write in his letter to the Romans that from Adam until Moses sin and death still reigned.

So what about the Law? Could it save? No! The power of the Law was sin and death. As Paul said, “I wouldn’t have known what it was to covet if the Law hadn’t said ‘Do not covet’.” The Law functioned to stir people up to more sin, and to make their transgression obvious! Which of us hasn’t had an experience like this? We have no inclination to do something until we’re told not to do it. Then, once we know that we can’t do it, that’s exactly when we want to do it! And our sin becomes all the more obvious.

So we (each and every one of us) stand guilty before God and unable to live in his presence. Our representative (Adam) fell, and all of us fell in him. But then each of us, once we were born and able to choose right or wrong, chose wrong and bore testimony to the fact that we are fallen creatures. We prove our judgment to be right when we act the way that we do when we make our own choices.

So what can save us? Is it good works? If we do enough good things to outweigh the bad things? Clearly not. Isaiah says that our “good works” are like dirty, old, used menstrual rags before a holy God. Somehow I don’t think that’s the effect we wanted them to have. And the simple fact of the matter is that even if God is saddened by our sin, he cannot simply forgive by ignoring the facts any more than we would want Paul Bernardo’s judge to acquit by ignoring the facts. That’s not fair and it’s not just. But God is a God of mercy, is he not?

How can his mercy and his justice come together to accomplish his purpose of glorifying himself in redeeming an innumerable people from all over the earth? That’s why we have the cross. That’s why Jesus had to die.

To be continued…