Bigotry Ave is a Two Way Street.

When is bigotry bigotry? According to the new moral majority, only when conservatives are expressing an opinion. The left is apparently incapable of transgressing its new moral imperatives, which is quite convenient when you think about it. It’s a level of blindness and hypocrisy which far exceeds that of their hated enemy, that old-time religion.

via If you’re bigoted and you know it… — Cultus and Culture

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A Dove, 3, 7, and Creation

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Genesis 8:8-11

Noah is waiting for the flood waters to recede and he sends out two birds. I have not contemplated or researched enough yet to comment on the raven but when reading about the dove being sent out, some striking things stand out (note: there is no mention of a seven day waiting period between the raven and the dove…significant? I do not yet know).

The dove is sent out and comes back with nothing. Noah waits seven days and then sends it out again. The dove hovers over the face of the water because it is formless and void and returns again with nothing.

Noah once more waits seven days and sends out the dove, and on this third time it returns with an olive branch of new creation.

In this four verse narrative we see all of the trinitarian creation story being told again.

Later on we also see the Edenic exhortation beings reiterated, this time to Noah: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.”

This is a command-blessing that echoes that given to Adam during the first creation.

Now, there is another waiting of seven days and on this fourth time being sent out the dove does not return, and maybe this means everything I said above means nothing-or it ties in some how that I have not yet seen. I welcome comments and will update this post as I contemplate more on this passage; however, I think there is way to much coincidence to be ignored.

God loves to tell His story, many different times, in many different ways. Eschatologically we and the earth, which is under another curse, are waiting for the next new creation, and the final seventh day sabbath rest, that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit to inherit at the second advent of our Messiah.

Dangerous Christianity and Galatians

Recently, Tim Keller was interviewed by the NY Times and in that interview Keller espoused the importance of believing the basic orthodox beliefs of Christianity, namely; the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus.

John Stone Street wrote an excellent article that talks about the backlash that Kellers has received from other “Christian” groups who are labeling Keller’s brand of Christianity- i.e. the orthodox, confessional brand- as dangerous.

As much as I didn’t like C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (I know, #unpopularopinion) John Stonestreet points out that even Lewis declared the need to believe in the miracles of Jesus.

The passage in Galatians I am currently focsuing on tells us exactly how important Paul thought the essential doctrines of Christianity to be:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9

Paul is astonished by how quick these believers have started to believe false doctrines and listen to “other” gospels. Paul does not mince words in his condemnation of those who forsake orthodox Christian truth: “let him be accursed”.

In short, if you forsake the essential truths, and the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ definitely fall under this category (see my post here), there is no salvation.

“I thought all I needed was the ABC’s: Accept, Believe, Confess”.

Sure, but what are you accepting, believing, and confessing? If you do not believe the Bible to be entirely true, you call God a liar. If you do not believe the Jesus was who He said he was (virgin born and resurrected) then you do not believe in the actual Jesus-this means you are not a Christian by the Bible’s own definition.

Admittedly, the title “Christian” is probably the most hijacked title of all time. Anyone can call themselves a Christian and does not have to justify why because…who cares about objectivity and history.

Why is this acceptable? Frankly, I have no idea. In society one cannot be considered a US citizen without the proper paper work. Someone cannot just come into America and declare themselves a citizen and magically receive all the benefits thereof. There are things they have to agree and submit to before they can gain citizenship. This is also true of Christianity. If you do not preach the orthodox truths of Christianity, yet have the gall to identify as a Chrstian-i.e. a “Christ follower” then Paul says:

“Let him be accursed”

Well, that’s not very ecumenist of you Paul.

Let me tell you; if you thought Paul was dangerous as a Pharisee, you should get to know him as a Christian.

Beginning in Galatians 

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Along side my regular Bible reading I am hoping to also do more in-depth studies of several books of the Bible. Writing about it will help me meditate on the passages and get my thoughts down. I will admit to this being a selfish tool of accountability that, as an added benefit of being a public forum, might also bless someone else.

I decided start in Galatians and move on to Hebrews (probably). I did a little with Hebrews last year but definitely not enough.

It seemed appropriate to starts in Galatians too because it is, arguably, Paul’s earliest letter that we have. What did he teach those early church plants?

I have already read through Galatians in the ESV, ASV, KJV, and the HCSB; maybe I’ll try to brush up on my Greek too…maybe. The hope in reading it through so many times to start off with, is to have the entirety of the context in the back of my mind as I now digg deeper into specific, smaller portions of Paul’s letter.

Also, I am trying to work on memorizing the letter (check out the all called “Verses”. Very useful memorizing tool). But I may modify this plan to end up being that I just memorize the highlights-we shall see.

Today I was looking at the first 5 verses and stopped to the think about vs 4 in particular:

“Paul, an apostle-not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches at Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.” Galatians 1:1-5

What does it mean “the present evil age” ? Once I accepted Christ as my savior I was not instantly raptured into His presences. I also am greatly affected by the evil in the world around me-to which I, as a sinner, sometimes contribute.

My mind was taken to the gospels and how the Jews thought that Jesus was going to deliver them in a very literal way on earth by overthrowing Rome and establishing a physical Kingdom on earth. Yet this is not what He did, and they missed what He was doing. The Jews had no concept of a dying Messiah, and Jesus definitely was not what they pictured their conquering Messiah to be like. However, Jesus did exactly what He promised He would do in the Scriptures. He overthrew the kingdom of Satan and established-and is establishing, His Kingdom.

Did sorrow cease? Not yet. Did evil desist? Not yet. Not Yet. But God did deliver us from the present evil age.

If you are a child of God, you are His. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35). We may still be affected by sin but we are not defeated by it, nor a part of that community. If someone has accepted Christ as their Savior, they are part of  God’s covenant people, ultimately delivered from this present evil age and currently having a citizenship not of the evil age around them.

Let this also be a lesson in hermeneutics-not everything is literal. Christ did not establish a literal kingdom in Jerusalem at His first advent, and this was one reason the Jews rejected Him. The Bible often talks in spiritual terms and it takes being saturated with the Scriptures to learn and discern when.

If you don’t believe me, check out Galatians 4:21-31. Paul specifically tells us how Old Testament Scriptures where allegorical in the case of Hagar and Sarah (this does not mean the account was not also true). If Paul had not pointed this out, would any of us have seen it? Maybe, but not without having read our Bibles-a lot.

If you are God’s child you are delivered. Live in that truth as you deal with this present evil age.

Joyful Joyful We Look Forward

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“Therefore, it is fitting that the new covenant radically alters the Sabbath perspective. The current believer in Christ does not follow the Sabbath pattern of the people of the old covenant. He does not first labour six days, looking hopefully toward rest. Instead, he begins the week by rejoicing in the rest already accomplished by the cosmic events of Christ’s resurrection. Then he enters joyfully into his six days of labor, confident of success through the victory which Christ already has won.”

~O. Palmer Robertson, Christ of the Covenants

Christ’s first advent brought hope. We joyfully start our week resting in the fulfilled promises of the Messiah, instead of living our week in anticipation of them. This is part of the greatness of the New Covenant.

There is a Sabbath rest still to come that all creation groans for-but it is coming; and we have the work of Christ in his incarnation, death, and resurrection to look back on as the assurance that God will fulfill His promises.

Joyfully look forward on what is already accomplished as the assurance of what is yet still to be accomplished!

Christmas is not about Family

 

WHHHHAAAATTTTT!!!! Heresy in its highest form.

Christmas is NOT about family- however, this does not mean that family cannot, and should not, be an integral part in the celebration and true focus of Christmas.

Christmas is about the incarnation of God.

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It has been said rather recently by a well known apologist that the Resurrection is the primary thing that matters. It does not exactly matter if the gospel accounts are entirely accurate, whether He was truly born of a virgin, truly born to Jospeh and Mary, truly born in bethlehem etc.

I beg to differ.

The Incarnation is just as important as the Resurrection. The Gospel accounts must also be true, not only for the fact that we must have confidence in God’s word, but also the doctrinal truth of the Virgin Birth is essential to truly understanding the hypostatic union, the resurrection, and the entirety of the work of Christ

Christ is the New Adam, therefore He could not be born of the sin imputed to us from the first Adam (see Romans 5). Christ was fully God and fully man but He did not have a sin nature.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1-4, 14.

It matters that Christ was 100% God and 100% man. It matters that He was born of a Virgin. It matters that He was born! This is the ultimate act of love and glory. Jesus came to glorify the Father (and be glorified) by the loving act of redeeming such insignificant creatures as us, wholly underserving and not worthy of this gift; it is graciously given.

You cannot have the Crucifixion and Resurrection without the Incarnation-this is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

As to family, use this time to focus on something that should be focused on much more than once a year with those closest to you; use this time to share with your friends and family who do not believe as to why the incarnation is so important; celebrate this time together so that you may grow in love for your Savior and each other!

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

 

 

 

 

Because the Church said so…

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Here is a statement that Catholics and Protestants can both eagerly affirm (though most Protestants don’t know it yet):

“We can trust that the books we have in the Bible are the correct ones because the church has recognized them to be such.”

All the Catholics just said “Amen” and many Protestants veins are beginning to swell.

There are multiple ways to to approach understanding why Christians have acknowledged certain books to be included in the Bible and have rejected others. We call certain books canonical and others-we call them many things, let’s just go with “not scripture” for now.

The canonized books are the ones we believe are the books written by chosen individuals inspired by the Holy Spirit and are “God-breathed”.

As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the word of God. We also believe that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit lives and works in His church. These things are related. The fact that the church for centuries has accepted these books as canonical is reason for confidence that we indeed have the Word of God.

This conversation around canonicity is normally talked about from the historical perspective. The topic of which lists of books should be included, which church councils debated the topic and how they differed, and how many hundreds of years it was after the time of the Apostles that we finally had a “completed” Bible are all legitimate approaches, but I want to emphasize a particular approach, and that is the acceptance of the books by the church.

The Catholic apologists loves to tell the Protestant that they often bite the hand that fed them. “You reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church yet she is the one who gave you your Bible that you use to try to refute her doctrines !”

Many struggle with this charge because it is true that it was in large part the work of church councils lead to the compiling of the books we consider to be Scripture-but that is not what the Catholic claim is actually saying.

What underlies this statement is a claim of ultimate authority. To the Catholic, the Church determined what books where biblical and which ones were not. This leads to the drastic difference between how the Prostestant can agree with opening assertion and the Catholic. The Catholic claim is elevating the Church to a level equal-to, and functionally superior-to, the Scriptures.

This is a grave error because the Catholic Church has misunderstood her role in the development of the canonized Bible. The Church was not the determiner, she was the receiver. The books of the Bible are canonical because they are Scripture, not because the Church declared them to be so.

To deny the work of the church in the work of bringing about the Bible as we now have it would be ridiculous however, it must be recognized that the church was brought only to realize what was already cannon, she did not create it. Michale Kruger eloquently stated it like this: “The church reflects and responds to the Word of God in Her midst”.

In other words, God had His cannon and He used the church to recognize which writings they were. The Church is not the thermostat determining the temperature, she is the thermometer recognizing what is already Scripture by the Holy Spirit. It is not because the Church said so-it is because God revealed so.

And why would the fact that the church recognizing which books are Scripture gives us confidence that it is, be a hard thing for Protestant to affirm? Does God work in the hearts of individuals via the Holy Spirit to help them recognize and apply His word? Why would He then not do so corporately in His church? The church is not infallible but she is most certainly used by God to accomplish His purpose here on earth; and how else, or through whom else, would you have expected God to deliver His word?

Now, I would be negligent if I did not at least mention the differences in the Protestant and Catholic Bibles. I will address this in a later post more in depth, but suffice for now to say that the additional books in the Catholic Bible are symptomatic of their view on authority. These books are not scripture and as stated before, even if the whole church accepted them to be such (which she does not) the church is not infallible.

So to summarize, we can confidently accept the books we have in our Bibles are the complete and actual Word of God because His bride, the church, has recognized-not determined-them to be  such. This is because the Holy Spirit lives within and works within His people.

Open your Bible and hear what He has to say.

 

 

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“In the person of Jesus Christ the covenants of God achieve incarnational unity. Because Jesus, as the Son of God and mediator of the covenant, cannot be divided, the covenants cannot be divided. He himself guarantees the unity of the covenants, because He Himself is the heart of each of the covenantal administrations.”

~O. Palmer Roberston (The Christ of the Covenants, 52)

God does not-He cannot-change. Hold fast to this truth Christian. You are secure in the convent promises of God.

 

Sewing the Seams

Covenant Theology. For those of you who do not know what that is, you do not know what you are missing.

Have ever felt like you have two different Bibles, an “old” one and a “new” one so to speak?  How about two different God’s? The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament? I know I felt this a lot growing up. I was told it was one God and one Bible but then I was taught that there was a drastic difference between the Old and New Testament, between Israel and the Church, and between how God has worked in different times.

If you have been taught that national Israel is who God is waiting to fulfill promises too, and the church is kind of this “in-between” phase, not planned, but because the Jews rejected Jesus, He decides to make them jealous by going to the Gentiles (you’ll see Romans used to perpetuate this); let me encourage you to take a look at Covenant Theology.

This is not some new thing, in fact you will find it has been articulated much longer than the view above throughout the history of the church. But that doesn’t really matter because, ultimately, it is about “what does the Bible actually say”? This is what every sincere Christian should be seeking.

As a side note: for those of you who might react to a systematizing of the Bible, understand that you have your own system whether you acknowledge it or not. This is how we are wired. We put everything into logical categories that make things make sense. If I asked you to explain how one is to be saved, you don’t start quoting the entire New Testament, you summarize with verses from Romans, John, etc-you have just systemized salvation. This is not wrong…unless your systemization is Biblically unwarranted.

Let me just end with why Covenant Theology has had such an impact on me:

It has taken the seams of my Bible and woven them together in such way that I no longer have the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New, but the God of the Bible.

Here are some resources:

Christ of the Covenants: O Palmer Robertson

Intro to Covenant Theology: J.I.Packer

Or if you prefer audio check out Reformed Theological Seminaries free lectures on iTunes.

Under Lectures, Systematic Theology, Covenant Theology (by Ligon Duncan)

Of Suffering and Evil

I was visiting my parents home in Pennsylvania about a month ago and was blessed by the fact that both of my brothers were there as well. This rarely happens anymore so it really was a special time. Naturally, my mom had scheduled us to sing in church together, seeing that all of us can at least change notes…and sometimes carry a tune (them more than I).

So my brother Seth chose a Shane and Shane song called “Though You Slay Me”. I love this song. It is melancholy and hopeful at the same time, and there is a reason for that.

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Christianity has a theology of suffering. In fact, the “problem of evil” was a very large part of my embracing the Doctrines of Grace. God either has to be in sovereign control over all things or the following two options are true: suffering is meaningles-or God is impotent (or both). These options though are not able to be derived from the Bible, which is were we draw our knowledge of God. So we are left with option 1: God is in sovereign control of evil.

Many Christians would acknowledge this, but to varying degrees. I would guess that the majority of Christendom would advocate that God is sovereign over the ends, but what about the means? God must have to let it ride because- you know, free will.  BUT is this what the Bible says?

Genesis 50: 19-20 “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

God most certainly controlled the ends…but He also most certainly was not passive in the means.

What does Paul tell us to expect as Christians?

Phil 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

This is part of God’s plan. Not some uncontrollable thing that God has to work around.

To address the immediate objection: “Doesn’t this make God the author of sin?” I will most quickly and emphatically answer “NO!”

To use an analogy I have heard; No one in their right mind would condemn Shakespeare for the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare may have wrote the play but Macbeth done dood the deed.

This is just a fraction of the level of disparity between our level of existence and God’s. He is the play writer but He does not commit the sins in the play Himself. God was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s sin. He had planned to redeem mankind before He had ever created the world. (Rev 13:8) Why? Because everything is about God showing His glory, His awesomeness, and His holiness. And so as not to confuse anyone, it is not about God needing to receiving glory  (see Austin Fischer’s book “Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed”, and also see the following interactions between Kevin DeYoung and Austin) but rather about Him showing His glory. No action did this greater than the cross.

We suffer now, but there will be a day when all sorrow will cease, where there will be no suffering. Those whom God saved will live eternally in peace in His presence.

So until then, we can quote Romans 8:28 with full confidence because we know that God also controls the means. No suffering is pointless, though we may not see or understand. Take heart Christian, your Lord loves you; so cry out with Job “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”