Christianity 201

March 11, 2018

Sunday Worship

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.  – Hosea 6:3 NLT

High Versus Low Thoughts about God: A.W. Tozer

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1


••• The quotation in the first paragraph figures largely into the opening of John Mark Comer’s book God Has A Name.

  • For a 50-minute video teaching of this material, go to this link on our other blog.
  • For a review of the book, go to this link at Thinking Out Loud.
  • For an excerpt from the book, go to this link from here at C201 two weeks ago.

••• For more about A.W. Tozer:

  • A classic A. W. Tozer Devotional; go to this link from C201 in November, 2013.
  • Tozer on the Trinity — Job Descriptions: Who Does What? Go to this link from November, 2014 here at C201
  • For excerpts by Tozer on Christian Leadership which then links you to a series of short excerpts, start at this link from C201 in October, 2013

••• Other Tozer readings here at Christianity 201:

 

June 14, 2016

Our Father

Praying In Jesus NameMaybe it was the point form (or bullet point) nature of yesterday’s post, but lying in bed this morning I considered the possibility of doing something similar on a phrase-by-phrase basis with the Lord’s Prayer.

Specifically, I wondered, “What does this tell us about our Father?”

Our Father

  • The form of address is abba. It’s a familial term, a mark of family intimacy. But you’ve heard that before in countless sermons, so we’ll move on…
  • He provides us with the means to initiate the conversation.
  • He wants to continue to commune with us as he did in those Genesis moments before the fall.

In heaven

  • He dwells in eternity, outside of time. We don’t. His location versus our location shows that each time we pray, we are ripping apart the curtain separating his world from ours.
  • We basically access eternity when we begin to pray; our prayers take place at the intersection of the two realities.

Holy is your name

  • Despite the intimacy, he wants us to remember who he is. He is holy. His very name is to be treated with reverence.

Your kingdom come

  • We invite the coming of a kingdom that is very much in the future.
  • We are invoking the manifestation of something that is described in terms of the rule and reign of a monarch, and that is often expressed in terms of realm or territory.
  • We see a glimpse of the majesty of God.

Your will be done

  • God has volition, and undoubtedly has a plan for the bringing about of that which is in his will.
  • In stating this, we are placing our will and our plan in submission to his. If there is a conflict, we would defer to him. Better yet however is the idea that his will becomes ours. Then there is no conflict.

On earth as it is in heaven

  • Again we see the intersection of two worlds, the earthly realm mirroring the heavenly realm. We are to be an echo here of what takes place there.
  • In the heavenly realm, God simply speaks and it happens or it is.

Give us today our daily bread

  • This one is complicated, because here we are being told to petition and make supplication for our basic, mundane, run-of-the-mill provisions; some would have it that prayer should be more high-minded than this.
  • Implicit in this also is the idea that such provisions, though we may feel we earn them by the our own labor and effort, ultimately come, as do all good gifts, from God; he is the Lord our provider.

And lead us not into temptation

  • Theologically, this one gets even more complicated than the phrase it follows. Does God ever lead anyone into temptation? He certainly allows temptation to cross our paths.
  • Always important to note that the verse asks for help avoiding temptation, but not the sin that can result from it; in other words, while God may allow us to face temptation, he doesn’t lead us into sin. That’s not his nature.
  • Temptation reflects the freedom — I’m avoiding free will for obvious reasons — we are given. We continue to face choices. But we can also enjoy the contentment of not living in the place of temptation.

But deliver us from evil

  • Depending on your vocation or your location, temptation may abound even where a change of job or address isn’t possible. But the prayer asks God to rescue us from the consequences of bad choices vis-a-vis those temptations.
  • This tells us that God is able to deliver.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory

  • The prayer returns full circle to the majesty of God. Kingdom is repeated; the only key word to appear twice in the English text.
  • As a model prayer, God is asking us to affirm that it’s all his, it all belongs to him, it all emanates from his authority and omnipotence, and in all that happens he is glorified.

Amen.

 

September 16, 2012

Basic Concepts Reminder: Fullness of Deity

NIV Col 2: 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…

MSG Col 2: 9-10 … Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

It’s All There!

This term is used only here in the Bible, although Paul and other writers use similar phrases and ideas elsewhere (John 1:16; Colossians 1:19).

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, part of his purpose was to refute a teaching called Gnosticism that was influencing some of the Christians at Colossae.  According to this pagan belief, all matter was inherently evil, and only the soul and the mind were good.  This logically led to a denial of God’s creation of the world as well as a denial of Jesus’ incarnation or humanity.

Gnostics denied that Jesus was ever human and that Jesus died physically or was literally resurrected from the grave.  In this letter, Paul attacks these teachings and argues that Jesus, as God, created the universe (1:16), died on the cross (1:20), and had a human body (2:9).  But he adds more, declaring that during His time of humanity, Jesus also retained all the attributes and characteristics of God (see also Philippians 2:5-8).

All the powers and attributes that Jesus possessed in His deity were also present in his humanity.  All that God is in His divine essence is present also in Jesus Christ.  No inferiority or subordination exists within the Trinity or between God the Father and God the Son.  God’s loving, merciful and forgiving nature was manifested and demonstrated by the life and death of Jesus Christ. He was God incarnate, and that is why He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

In Colossians 2:9, Paul is doing more than simply teaching a technical or abstract point of theology.  He is reminding the Colossian Christians and all who would hear this letter that because Jesus is God and Christians have a unique relationship to Him, they too have received grace and enormous blessings (Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:3).  The Gnostics promoted a spiritual hierarchy and caste system that required secret knowledge for advancement.  They also taught that a person had to work through angels and many intermediaries to have access to God.  The Bible rejects these views.  The fullness of God is in Jesus Christ and the Christian is complete in Jesus Christ, who alone serves as a mediator and advocate for all who believe (1 Timothy 2:5).  No superiority or inferiority exists among Christians.  No one is lesser or greater than another.  All Christians are equal (Galatians 3:26-28).

Tim Demy in 101 Most Puzzling Bible Verses, Harvest House 2006, chapter 79

September 14, 2012

The Great Axiom of Domestic Pets

NIV Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

NIV Matthew 15:25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

When the conversation is lagging, here’s a bit of trivia that is sure to get a reaction, I call it the great axiom of domestic pets (in the Bible at least):

The cat is the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible

Actually, as much as I was told that and passed it on to others, I know that my son kept degus and they and hamsters are not mentioned, at least not by that name. (And my friend Steve would then say, “Did you know you can’t tan through glass?”)

The corollary to the great axiom is something I came up with when my dog loving friends jumped all over it:

But the dog is always cast negatively in scripture.

Well, not anymore.  Keith Brenton at Blog in My Own Eye puts an end to that theory at a blog post he titled:

Jesus, Syro-Phoenicians and Dogs

Click title to read at source

I just got in from walking my dog Roadie, and I’m sure that had some bearing on this topic leaping to my mind.

A few days ago, I made the apparently outrageous suggestion in the comments of a Facebook post that Jesus didn’t call people “dogs” in a prejudicial, insulting way in Matthew 7:6 or 15:25-27; rather that He was quoting a maxim of that era to illustrate the pervasiveness of judging others and how wrong it is.

I was immediately shut down with a chorus of “of-course-He-dids” and didn’t have time to defend my contention right then, and the moment passed. So I will now.

First of all, to call someone a “dog” who is of a different ethnicity is completely foreign to the nature of God, who created all men and all ethnicities. To say differently of Jesus — through Whom and for Whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16) — is to declare that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were less bigoted than the Lord when they declared “all men are created equal.” Preposterous.

Secondly, it is not possible for Jesus to have been prejudicial. He could be judicial, because He knew men’s thoughts (Matthew 9:4; Luke 9:47), but not pre-judicial. He could call certain people “a brood of snakes” (Matthew 23:33) because they were children of the great serpent Satan when they were plotting to kill Him (John 8:39-47). It wasn’t like He didn’t know; He did. We don’t have that knowledge, and we are not equipped to judge. He was. But that wasn’t His purpose in coming (John 12:47); that is His purpose when the day set for it comes (Acts 17:37).

Third: “Dogs” was a term of derision in the first century. See Philippians 3:2 and 2 Peter 2:22 and Revelation 22:15. Don’t miss whom these verses talk about, and what they have done or are doing.

They are not about ethnicity. They are about sin.

“Dog” was an insult. In the centuries before, especially in the books titled “Samuel,” the term “dog” is a term of self-deprecation as well as an insult to others, and I believe it is always used as an insult about peoples outside of Israel. Several translators insist that Jesus even softened the term to “puppies” or “little dogs” when speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman — perhaps lest she imagine real judgment in His tone.

In speaking to this woman and granting the miracle she desires, He refutes what He has said in Matthew 7: He gives a holy gift to someone He has called a “puppy.” How could this not be an object lesson to His entourage, to help prepare them for the idea of the total giving of Himself for all mankind?

Fourth: In Matthew 7:1-6, when Jesus — I believe — quotes this maxim about giving dogs what is holy and giving pearls to pigs, it immediately follows what He has just said about not judging people. If He is not quoting a common proverb as a bad example, then it follows (immediately!) that He was violating the principle He has just given them — how credible is that?

How can we escape the conclusion that prejudice and judging and insulting other people is not Christ-like, and is never something that His followers should participate in?

Finally: Let’s face it. It’s easy to create God in our own image — and doing the same to Jesus is no exception for us. We sometimes want to justify things we want to do by maintaining that He did them in this flesh, in this world. But that doesn’t mean He did them, or said them because it gets us off the hook for wanting to say or do them. We all judge, and we all should not judge. Using the excuse of being like Jesus is no excuse because we do not have all of the authority or capability of Jesus to do so.

Okay. It’s not a Q.E.D., but it is a simpler explanation to me than Jesus saying one thing and then immediately contradicting Himself, and if you respect Occam’s Razor as a sound principle of logic, then I think you’d agree that William would shave with it.

And it certainly is preferable to the theology of a God who called people dogs based on the ethnicity He gave them.

~Keith Brenton

April 2, 2012

Madame Guyon Quotations

First, the usual stop at Wikipedia (two separate links as noted):

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (commonly known as Madame Guyon) (13 April 1648 – 9 June 1717) was a French mystic and one of the key advocates of Quietism. Quietism was considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, and she was imprisoned from 1695 to 1703 after publishing a book on the topic, A Short and Easy Method of Prayer.

Quietism is a Christian philosophy that swept through France, Italy and Spain during the 17th century, but it had much earlier origins. The mystics known as Quietists insist, with more or less emphasis, on intellectual stillness and interior passivity as essential conditions of perfection.

Guyon believed that one should pray all the time, and that in whatever one does, one should be spending time with God. “Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. He tells us this Himself: “walk before me, and be thou perfect” Genesis 17:1. Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually.”[1]

As she wrote in one of her poems: “There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer … But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known …”

Here are a few of her writings:


The soul seeks God by faith, not by the reasonings of the mind and labored efforts, but by the drawings of love; to which inclinations God responds, and instructs the soul, which co-operates actively. God then puts the soul in a passive state where He accomplishes all, causing great progress, first by way of enjoyment, then by privation, and finally by pure love.


There are three kinds of silence. Silence from words is good, because inordinate speaking tends to evil. Silence, or rest from desires and passions is still better, because it promotes quietness of spirit. But the best of all is silence from unnecessary and wandering thoughts, because that is essential to internal recollection, and because it lays a foundation for a proper reputation and for silence in other respects.


We must forget ourselves and all self-interest, and listen, and be attentive to God.


If knowing answers to life’s questions is absolutely necessary to you, then forget the journey. You will never make it, for this is a journey of unknowables, – of unanswered questions, enigmas, incomprehensibles, and most of all, things unfair.


Regarding your spiritual life, be open, simple and like a child. In the depths of your spirit be like a drop of water lost in an ocean, and be no longer conscious of yourself. In this enlarged condition see and enjoy everything from within God. Within yourself there is only darkness, but in God there is only light. Let God be everything to you…. God’s love is like a weight within us, causing us to sink deeper and deeper into God.


Holy Solitude

Kind solitude
Away from the world and the noise
Divine quietude,
Silence, like the night!

Happy the one that possesses you,
And tastes your sweetness,
The cure of all ills!
Unfortunate are those who do not love you!

It is blessedness,
To be heart to heart with God:
There no disquietude
Troubles the peace of this place.


Rest assured, it is the same God who causes the scarcity and the abundance, the rain and the fair weather. The high and low states, the peaceful and the state of warfare, are each good in their season. These vicissitudes form and mature the interior, as the different seasons compose the year…God loves you; let this thought equalise all states. Let him do with us as with the waves of the sea, and whether he takes us to his bosom, or casts us upon the sand, that is, leaves us to our own barrenness, all is well.


O my Divine Love, the desire I had to please You,
the tears I shed,
my great labours and the little fruit I reaped from it,
moved Your compassion.
You gave me in a moment,
through Your grace and Your goodness alone,
what I had been unable to give myself through all my efforts

I implore you not to give in to despair. It is a dangerous tempatation, because our Adversary has refined it to the point that it is quite subtle. Hopelessness constricts and withers the heart, rendering it unable to sense God’s blessings and grace. It also causes you to exaggerate the adversities of life and makes your burdens seem too heavy for you to bear. Yet God’s plans for you, and His ways of bringing about His plans, are infinitely wise.

Sources: GiGA Quotes, Quotation Park, Wikiquote, Daily Christian Quotes, Madame Guyon Blogspot, Relevant Blog Blogspot, Rachel Jane Rickert

March 22, 2012

Focusing Our God Picture

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1

Source: Crossroad

March 11, 2012

The Fall Retold

I spent a few hours on the weekend reading a book which looks at Christian belief from the background of someone whose background includes time spent as a Zen Buddhist Monk and is now a Christian pastor in Europe. The book is 3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter; as a print-on-demand title through bookstores worldwide. A full review is available at Thinking Out Loud, but I wanted to include here his fresh retelling and commentary on the fall of man.

In the book of Genesis, we’re told that God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  And God said:  Do not eat the fruit of this tree.  You must not know good and evil for yourselves.  You must trust Me to tell you.

You might wonder why God gave them the option of eating the fruit.  Why not prevent them from doing it?  Why not put a barbed wire fence around the tree?  The reason, as I mentioned earlier, is that God is not automatic, and so His creation cannot be automatic either.  Just as God is free to choose, and he chooses always to be faithful to Himself, we as the image of God are given the same choice — the choice to be trusting and dependent upon Him.  So the possibility exists that we can choose wrongly.

I ought to point out that if God is non-automatic, then the possibility also exists that He can choose wrongly.  There is nobody behind God forcing Him to fulfill His promises.  God Himself must choose to do so.  As I suggested earlier, you see the possibility for choosing wrongly in the Garden of Gethsemane.  If there was no possibility that Jesus would fail to fulfill His promise, then He would not have sweat blood.  He would not have prayed, Please, if it can be any other way, let it be.  You see the same possibility a few years earlier in Jesus’ life, when He is tempted by the devil while in the desert.  The temptation would have been completely meaningless if there was no possibility for Jesus to have fallen for it.  Thankfully, that God has never broken His promises and even died in order to keep them is clear assurance that He will always be faithful.

So, the origin of the possibility of evil is in God, but there is no evil in God.  The creatures that God made in His image also have this possibility, and their choices have often resulted in tragedy.  The best known example is the devil.  He was, at one time, the most beautiful of all angels but chose to turn away from God.  Did you ever notice that the devil is just one person, whereas God is three?  The devil is one because he is exclusively self-centered.  It is his absolute self-centeredness that makes him absolutely evil.

According Genesis, the devil came to Eve in the Garden and said, Did God say you couldn’t eat anything?  Eve replied, Oh no, we can eat anything we want, we just can’t eat of that tree.  And the devil said, If you eat of that tree, you will become like God, because God knows good and evil and you will also know good and evil.  You won’t have to bother God about telling you about good and evil, you’ll know for yourself.  You can be independent.  You can be a liberated woman.  That was appealing to Eve.  She was intelligent, she had an adventurous spirit.  She took another look at the tree and saw that the fruit was very attractive, and she knew that she really would have the knowledge of good and evil if she ate it, and would be self-sufficient.  She wouldn’t need God to tell her.

After eating it, Eve gave some to Adam, and then he ate it.  At that moment they both died.  I don’t mean they had heart attacks and fell over.  I mean their relationship and their identity died.  They knew that they were naked.  They knew they were a threat to each other.  There was no longer trust.  They didn’t trust God and they couldn’t trust each other.  When their relationship died, they were dead.  Their true identity had not been in themselves but in their relationship.

Adam and Eve realized there was a problem, and sometimes I think they could have held hands and gone to God and said, ‘Father we have a problem, can you help us?’  But they didn’t do that because they had become insane.  Their thinking was now fundamentally distorted and unhealthy.  Instead of going to the Creator for a solution, they reached into creation.  They found fig leaves and sewed them together to hide their sexuality, probably because that was what they now found most disturbing and threatening.  In reaching into the creation for a solution, we also see the birth of naturalism, a belief that we should turn to the physical world in order to solve our problems.

God came into the Garden and called for Adam.  Why did He want to talk to Adam if Eve was the one who took the first bite?  Here you see the function of hierarchy.  Adam was with Eve when she did it, and he was responsible for her.  For this reason, God wants to know from Adam what has happened.  That’s not politically correct, but that’s the way God does it.

In confronting Adam, God asks a wonderful question:  Where are you?  Remember that God knows everything.  The question is not for God to get information.  The question is for Adam, so that he can ask himself where he is.  Adam gives a good answer when he replies, I’m in fear, and nakedness and hiding.  That was all true.  That was his situation.

Then God asks a second question:  Who told you that you were naked?  In other words ‘What are your sources and why have you believed them?’  He also asks: Have you eaten of the fruit that I told you not to eat?  Did you bring this fear and nakedness and hiding on yourself?  Adam’s answer, in this case, could not be worse.  He says, The woman, who you gave to me, offered me the fruit.  It’s your fault and her fault.  In other words, ‘I am a victim.’  It was here that victimization and denial began.  ‘I’m not responsible, I’m a victim.  I don’t need to be forgiven, I’m entitled.  I don’t need to confess and repent.’  This attitude has remained popular in the human race.

God made coats from the skins of animals and clothed them.  He killed the innocent and He covered Adam and Eve with the blood of the innocent.  It was a visual and applied prophecy of the Crucifixion.  Here, and in many other episodes described in the Bible, you can also see how the God of the third circle is not a passive and silent God.  He is not a New Age elephant.  He is active and communicative.  From the beginning, He is deeply engaged with His creation and working faithfully toward its salvation.

Salvation is necessary because ever since the unfaithfulness of Adam and Eve we have been living in a condition of self-centeredness.  The human condition has imploded like a supernova – like a huge star that has exploded outward and then reversed direction and collapsed into a black hole, whose gravity is so strong that not even light can escape from it.  Everything gets sucked into it.  Self-centeredness is what it means to be dead.  It’s what it means to be a sinner.  It’s a disastrous situation, and, according to the third circle, it’s the cause of suffering in the world.

Ellis Potter

February 23, 2012

E. Stanley Jones Quotes

Don’t know him?  Let’s start at Wikipedia:

Eli Stanley Jones (1884–1973) was a 20th century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian. He is remembered chiefly for his interreligious lectures to the educated classes in India, thousands of which were held across the Indian subcontinent during the first decades of the 20th century. According to his and other contemporary reports, his friendship for the cause of Indian self-determination allowed him to become friends with leaders of the up-and-coming Indian National Congress party. He spent much time with Mahatma Gandhi, and the Nehru family. Gandhi challenged Jones and, through Jones’ writing, the thousands of Western missionaries working there during the last decades of the British Raj, to include greater respect for the mindset and strengths of the Indian character in their work.

This effort to contextualize Christianity for India was the subject of his seminal work, The Christ of the Indian Road, which sold more than 1 million copies worldwide after its publication in 1925.

He is sometimes considered the “Billy Graham of India”.

continue reading the Wikipedia entry here


“When we say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God. Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God is Christ”


“God, to redeem us at the deepest portion of our nature – the urge to love and be loved – must reveal His nature in an incredible and impossible way. He must reveal it at a cross.”


“We are personalities in the making, limited, and grappling with things too high for us. Obviously we, at very best, will make many mistakes, but these mistakes need not be sins.”


“Some have said that the power of a Redeemer would depend upon two things: first, upon the richness of the self that was given; and second, upon the depths of the giving. Friend and foe alike are agreed on the question of the character of Jesus Christ.”


“At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”


“A Rattlesnake, if Cornered will become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is – a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.”


“If the Holy Spirit can take over the subconscious with our consent and cooperation, then we have almighty Power working at the basis of our lives, then we can do anything we ought to do, go anywhere we ought to go, and be anything we ought to be.”


“Many live in dread of what is coming. Why should we? The unknown puts adventure into life. … The unexpected around the corner gives a sense of anticipation and surprise. Thank God for the unknown future.”


“The opponent strikes you on your cheek, and you strike him on the heart by your amazing spiritual audacity in turning the other cheek. You wrest the offensive from him by refusing to take his weapons, by keeping your own, and by striking him in his conscience from a higher level. He hits you physically, and you hit him spiritually.”


Sources: Search QuotesGood Reads, Inspirational Stories, Finest Quotes, Quote Summit.

December 1, 2011

A Strong Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura

Hold your fire!

Please put down your weapons!

Don’t shoot!

Today Christianity 201 is going more Christianity 401.  I think today’s post will certainly stretch some of you, while for others, it may not be such a big stretch.  First of all here’s how Jim Greer at Not For Itching Ears introduced this article:

I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I will break it up into 4 parts.  Here’s Part 1:

And here’s the article; there’s a link at the bottom to parts 2, 3 and 4.  (And if you think this is controversial, you don’t even want to know what Jim posted yesterday, November 30th.)  Again, remember, this is an Eastern Orthodox view, but the Orthodox church is part of the broader family of Christian believers.  (If you comment, mention if you are referring to just this part, or if you read the entire article.)

“If we are to understand what Protestants think, we will have to first know why they believe what they believe. In fact if we try to put ourselves in the place of those early reformers, such as Martin Luther, we must certainly have some appreciation for their reasons for championing the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (or “Scripture alone”). When one considers the corruption in the Roman Church at that time, the degenerate teachings that it promoted, and the distorted understanding of tradition that it used to defend itself -along with the fact that the West was several centuries removed from any significant contact with their former Orthodox heritage — it is difficult to imagine within those limitations how one such as Luther might have responded with significantly better results. How could Luther have appealed to tradition to fight these abuses, when tradition (as all in the Roman West were lead to believe) was personified by the very papacy that was responsible for those abuses. To Luther, it was tradition that had erred, and if he were to reform the Church he would have to do so with the sure undergirding of the Scriptures. However, Luther never really sought to eliminate tradition altogether, and he never used the Scriptures truly “alone,” what he really attempted to do was to use Scripture to get rid of those parts of the Roman tradition that were corrupt. Unfortunately his rhetoric far outstripped his own practice, and more radical reformers took the idea of Sola Scriptura to its logical conclusions.

PROBLEMS WITH THE DOCTRINE OF SOLA SCRIPTURA

A. IT IS A DOCTRINE BASED UPON A NUMBER OF FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS

An assumption is something that we take for granted from the outset, usually quite unconsciously. As long as an assumption is a valid one, all is fine and well; but a false assumption inevitably leads to false conclusions. One would hope that even when one has made an unconscious assumption that when his conclusions are proven faulty he would then ask himself where his underlying error lay. Protestants who are willing to honestly assess the current state of the Protestant world, must ask themselves why, if Protestantism and its foundational teaching of Sola Scriptura are of God, has it resulted in over twenty-thousand differing groups that cant agree on basic aspects of what the Bible says, or what it even means to be a Christian? Why (if the Bible is sufficient apart from Holy Tradition) can a Baptist, a Jehovahs Witness, a Charismatic, and a Methodist all claim to believe what the Bible says and yet no two of them agree what it is that the Bible says? Obviously, here is a situation in which Protestants have found themselves that is wrong by any stretch or measure. Unfortunately, most Protestants are willing to blame this sad state of affairs on almost anything — anything except the root problem. The idea of Sola Scriptura is so foundational to Protestantism that to them it is tantamount to denying God to question it, but as our Lord said, “every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a bad tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17). If we judge Sola Scriptura by its fruit then we are left with no other conclusion than that this tree needs to be “hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 7:19).

FALSE ASSUMPTION # 1: The Bible was intended to be the last word on faith, piety, and worship.

a). Does the Scripture teach that it is “all sufficient?”

The most obvious assumption that underlies the doctrine of “Scripture alone” is that the Bible has within it all that is needed for everything that concerns the Christians life — all that would be needed for true faith, practice, piety, and worship. The Scripture that is most usually cited to support this notion is:

…from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (II Timothy 3:15-17).

Those who would use this passage to advocate Sola Scriptura argue that this passage teaches the “all sufficiency” of Scripture — because, “If, indeed, the Holy Scriptures are able to make the pious man perfect… then, indeed to attain completeness and perfection, there is no need of tradition.”1 But what can really be said based on this passage?

For starters, we should ask what Paul is talking about when he speaks of the Scriptures that Timothy has known since he was a child. We can be sure that Paul is not referring to the New Testament, because the New Testament had not yet been written when Timothy was a child — in fact it was not nearly finished when Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, much less collected together into the canon of the New Testament as we now know it. Obviously here, and in most references to “the Scriptures” that we find in the New Testament, Paul is speaking of the Old Testament; so if this passage is going to be used to set the limits on inspired authority, not only will Tradition be excluded but this passage itself and the entire New Testament.

In the second place, if Paul meant to exclude tradition as not also being profitable, then we should wonder why Paul uses non-biblical oral tradition in this very same chapter. The names Jannes and Jambres are not found in the Old Testament, yet in II Timothy 3:8 Paul refers to them as opposing Moses. Paul is drawing upon the oral tradition that the names of the two most prominent Egyptian Magicians in the Exodus account (Ch. 7-8) were “Jannes” and “Jambres.”2 And this is by no means the only time that a non-biblical source is used in the New Testament — the best known instance is in the Epistle of St. Jude, which quotes from the Book of Enoch (Jude 14,15 cf. Enoch 1:9).

When the Church officially canonized the books of Scripture, the primary purpose in establishing an authoritative list of books which were to be received as Sacred Scripture was to protect the Church from spurious books which claimed apostolic authorship but were in fact the work of heretics (e.g. the gospel of Thomas). Heretical groups could not base their teachings on Holy Tradition because their teachings originated from outside the Church, so the only way that they could claim any authoritative basis for their heresies was to twist the meaning of the Scriptures and to forge new books in the names of apostles or Old Testament saints. The Church defended itself against heretical teachings by appealing to the apostolic origins of Holy Tradition (proven by Apostolic Succession, i.e. the fact that the bishops and teachers of the Church can historically demonstrate their direct descendence from the Apostles), and by appealing to the universality of the Orthodox Faith (i.e. that the Orthodox faith is that same faith that Orthodox Christians have always accepted throughout its history and throughout the world). The Church defended itself against spurious and heretical books by establishing an authoritative list of sacred books that were received throughout the Church as being divinely inspired and of genuine Old Testament or apostolic origin.

By establishing the canonical list of Sacred Scripture the Church did not intend to imply that all of the Christian Faith and all information necessary for worship and good order in the Church was contained in them.3 One thing that is beyond serious dispute is that by the time the Church settled the Canon of Scripture it was in its faith and worship essentially indistinguishable from the Church of later periods — this is an historical certainty. As far as the structure of Church authority, it was Orthodox bishops together in various councils who settled the question of the Canon — and so it is to this day in the Orthodox Church when any question of doctrine or discipline has to be settled.

b). What was the purpose of the New Testament Writings?

In Protestant biblical studies it is taught (and I think correctly taught in this instance) that when you study the Bible, among many other considerations, you must consider the genre (or literary type) of literature that you are reading in a particular passage, because different genres have different uses. Another consideration is of course the subject and purpose of the book or passage you are dealing with. In the New Testament we have four broad categories of literary genres: gospel, historical narrative (Acts), epistle, and the apocalyptic/prophetic book, Revelation. Gospels were written to testify of Christs life, death, and resurrection. Biblical historical narratives recount the history of God’s people and also the lives of significant figures in that history, and show God’s providence in the midst of it all. Epistles were written primarily to answer specific problems that arose in various Churches; thus, things that were assumed and understood by all, and not considered problems were not generally touched upon in any detail. Doctrinal issues that were addressed were generally disputed or misunderstood doctrines,4 matters of worship were only dealt with when there were related problems (e.g. I Corinthians 11-14). Apocalyptic writings (such as Revelation) were written to show God’s ultimate triumph in history.

Let us first note that none of these literary types present in the New Testament have worship as a primary subject, or were meant to give details about how to worship in Church. In the Old Testament there are detailed (though by no means exhaustive) treatments of the worship of the people of Israel (e.g. Leviticus, Psalms) — in the New Testament there are only meager hints of the worship of the Early Christians. Why is this? Certainly not because they had no order in their services — liturgical historians have established the fact that the early Christians continued to worship in a manner firmly based upon the patterns of Jewish worship which it inherited from the Apostles. 5 However, even the few references in the New Testament that touch upon the worship of the early Church show that, far from being a wild group of free-spirited “Charismatics,” the Christians in the New Testament worshiped liturgically as did their fathers before them: they observed hours of prayer (Acts 3:1); they worshiped in the Temple (Acts 2:46, 3:1, 21:26); and they worshiped in Synagogues (Acts 18:4).

We need also to note that none of the types of literature present in the New Testament have as their purpose comprehensive doctrinal instruction — it does not contain a catechism or a systematic theology. If all that we need as Christians is the Bible by itself, why is there not some sort of a comprehensive doctrinal statement? Imagine how easily all the many controversies could have been settled if the Bible clearly answered every doctrinal question. But as convenient as it might otherwise have been, such things are not found among the books of the Bible.

Let no one misunderstand the point that is being made. None of this is meant to belittle the importance of the Holy Scriptures — God forbid! In the Orthodox Church the Scriptures are believed to be fully inspired, inerrant, and authoritative; but the fact is that the Bible does not contain within it teaching on every subject of importance to the Church. As already stated, the New Testament gives little detail about how to worship — but this is certainly no small matter. Furthermore, the same Church that handed down to us the Holy Scriptures, and preserved them, was the very same Church from which we have received our patterns of worship. If we mistrust this Churchs faithfulness in preserving Apostolic worship, then we must also mistrust her fidelity in preserving the Scriptures. 6

c). Is the Bible, in practice, really “all sufficient” for Protestants?

Protestants frequently claim they “just believe the Bible,” but a number of questions arise when one examines their actual use of the Bible. For instance, why do Protestants write so many books on doctrine and the Christian life in general, if indeed all that is necessary is the Bible? If the Bible by itself were sufficient for one to understand it, then why dont Protestants simply hand out Bibles? And if it is “all sufficient,” why does it not produce consistent results, i.e. why do Protestants not all believe the same? What is the purpose of the many Protestant study Bibles, if all that is needed is the Bible itself? Why do they hand out tracts and other material? Why do they even teach or preach at all —why not just read the Bible to people? The answer is though they usually will not admit it, Protestants instinctively know that the Bible cannot be understood alone. And in fact every Protestant sect has its own body of traditions, though again they generally will not call them what they are. It is not an accident that Jehovahs Witnesses all believe the same things, and Southern Baptists generally believe the same things, but Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists emphatically do not believe the same things. Jehovahs Witnesses and Southern Baptists do not each individually come up with their own ideas from an independent study of the Bible; rather, those in each group are all taught to believe in a certain way — from a common tradition. So then the question is not really whether we will just believe the Bible or whether we will also use tradition — the real question is which tradition will we use to interpret the Bible? Which tradition can be trusted, the Apostolic Tradition of the Orthodox Church, or the muddled, and modern, traditions of Protestantism that have no roots beyond the advent of the Protestant Reformation?”  

Read  Part 2 of this post.

Read Part 3 of this post.

Read Part 4 of this post.

June 18, 2011

From the Mind of Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias is one of the leading voices in the field of Christian apologetics, and an author of many significant books on the subject.  RZIM, his organization is based in Atlanta, Georgia; and he has a daily radio program heard throughout Canada and the United States.  These are in somewhat random order; so take a minute to pause between them; feel free to comment if one especially strikes you.


“We experience emptiness not when we are wearied by our trials, but when we are wearied by our happiness.”


“A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”


“One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven. …works have a place–but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit of having earned it.”


“I do not believe that one can earnestly seek and find the priceless treasure of God’s call without a devout prayer life. That is where God speaks. The purpose of prayer and of God’s call in your life is not to make you number one in the world’s eyes, but to make him number one in your life. We must be willing to be outshone while shining for God. We hear very little about being smaller in our own self-estimate.”


“Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true.
Morally you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way.
Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ in to it.”


“There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny.”


“These days its not just that the line between right and wrong has been made unclear, today Christians are being asked by our culture today to erase the lines and move the fences, and if that were not bad enough, we are being asked to join in the celebration cry by those who have thrown off the restraints religion had imposed upon them. It is not just that they ask we accept, but they now demand of us to celebrate it too.”


“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.”


“You cannot really have the world and hold on to it. It is all too temporary and the more you try to hold on to it, the more it actually holds you. By contrast, the more you hold on to the true and the good, the more you are free to really live.”


“Where the eye is focused, there the imagination finds its raw material. The right focus must be won at immense cost and discipline. Train the eye to see the good, and the imagination will follow suit.”


“It is theoretically and practically impossible to build any community apart from love and justice. If only one of these two is focused upon, an inevitable extremism and perversion follow.”


“It is a mindless philosophy that assumes that one’s private beliefs have nothing to do with public office. Does it make sense to entrust those who are immoral in private with the power to determine the nation’s moral issues and, indeed, its destiny? …. The duplicitous soul of a leader can only make a nation more sophisticated in evil.”


“Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religions but also a caricatured view of even the best-known ones. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”


“God is the shaper of your heart. God does not display his work in abstract terms. He prefers the concrete, and this means that at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes.”


“The tragedy is that just when we need to remember the most because we have climbed some pinnacle of blessing and success- that’s when the tendency is to turn our back upon God.


Sources:

Good QuotesQuotation Collection, Christian QuotesLiberty Tree, Christian Apologetics Forum, Just My Thoughts, Simply Quotastic

This is an awesome exercise to do.  If there are any authors or speakers you’d like me to research, let me know, but I encourage you to do this sort of thing yourselves as well.

May 14, 2011

God is Looking over Your Shoulder as You Read This

A great post from Randy Bohlender, which appeared on his blog under the title — it will make sense in a minute — 

God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Chicken Man

Back in the sixties, there was a radio drama spoof featuring a crime fighter in a chicken suit. Yes, it seems silly now…well, honestly, it was silly then too.

The signature sound marked the end of each episode:  A voice over would proclaim “Chicken….Maaaaaaan!, and  a manic crowd in the background would emphatically shout “He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!”

If you’re completely lost, listen to the original episode here.

So I was in the shower this morning – really, this is where these thoughts come to me – and I began to think about how God’s omnipresence was explained to us in Bible college.

Our professors handed us the mantra “There is no place where God is not,”, which, though technically true, sounds about as compelling as the Chicken Man’s signature shriek.   Combine the two for fun.

There is no place where God is not.

He’s everywhere, He’s everywhere!

I can’t help but think the omnipresence of God means something far more immediate than the ubiquitous whereabouts of Chicken Man.  Interestingly, I can handle thinking about an all powerful, all knowing God being in Chicago, Calcutta, and Catan, because in thinking about Him in those places, I don’t think much about Him being here.

With me.

Glancing at what I’m writing.

Taking a sip of tea from my cup as we talk about me taking a sip from His.

I desperately want to live with a greater awareness of the immediate presence of God.  Yes, He is everywhere, but He is also near.  He sees everything, but He also sees me.  I want my decision making, my ethics, how I treat my children and how I treat a stranger to reflect what I know about the presence of God – specifically, that I am in it, as I sit at my table or walk the aisle of a big box store.

We’ve mystified the presence of God to refer to those times when we feel His presence in a tangible way.  Whether it’s a powerful sermon or (more likely) that great key change on the song you like, there are times when you feel Him near, but they’re rarely the times when you need to be aware of Him the most.  You need Him most when you feel Him least – in a hundred different decisions made daily.

Yes, He’s everywhere, He’s everywhere.

But He’s also right hear.  Listening.  Speaking.  Wanting.

In your pursuit of the God of the Universe, don’t ignore the God in the room.

 ~Randy Bohlender

December 12, 2010

What’s Your Concept of God?

Today’s post is by Justin Buzzard, who pastors in the San Francisco area, and blogs at Buzzard Blog, where this post appeared under the title…

A Quote That Changed My Life

When I was 20 years old I read a sentence that changed my life. I still remember where I was sitting, how the book felt, and what started to happen in my heart.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

-A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

Anyone else changed by this sentence?

The book continues:

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow.