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?