Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: "Holiness And Human Nature" by Leon And Mildred Chambers

(For an explanation of the title, "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual, see here.)

This year was the only the second time since 1999 that I could spend Thanksgiving with my parents in my hometown.  The Friday after Thanksgiving, I dined at a Chinese resturaunt with my parents and one brother.  When we got home, I read a 71 page book I had bought at seminary by Leon and Mildred Chambers entitled "Holiness and Human Nature." The Chambers' purpose in writing this is to make us aware of the differences between sins and infirmities.  The Chambers, as Wesleyans in theology, recognize that salvation and sanctification concerns the saving of people from all sin.  Yet they recognize that individuals are still the products of their genetic heritage and family background.  Family background, attitudes, patterns of thinking, emotional dispositions, preconceived ideas, habits, personal methods of problem solving, sets of values, all these can hinder saved and sanctified persons from fully reflecting the image of God.  As the authors write: "Salvation, then, is from all sin.  There is no promise that God will take away our normal human nature.  We are what we are because of genetic inheritance and what we have learned. Salvation from sin does not change one's genetic inheritance nor erase what he has learned.  Man and nature still suffer from the Fall."  These negative effects of the Fall are infirmities, not sin.  There is no promise of deliverence from them contained in scripture.  Yet they can lead to sin if saved men and women fail to mature.  When counseling, Chrisitans must learn to distinguish between sin and infirmities.  Failure to do so can lead to lasting damage to Chrisitans needing to mature.  It is this distinction between sin and infirmities that Paul makes in Phil. 3: 11-12 and 15. In verses 11-12, Paul writes: "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended by Christ Jesus."; he writes in verse 15: "Let us therefore, as many be perfect..." (I use the KJV here because it is correct in using the word "perfect" rather than "mature".) According to the Chambers, verses 11-12 are not refering to deliverence from all sin but the presence of infirmities in Paul's makeup. These infirmites are not sin, but Paul strives to overcome the limitations these infirmities place on spiritual growth. In verse 15, Paul is speaking of deliverence from all sin, or entire sanctification.  The Chambers identify two Chrisitian responses to the presence of infirmities that has caused damage to the health of the Church.  One is to state that when one is delivered from sin, that one's basic humanity has been eradicated.  Those who promote this view treat the manifestation of infirmities as evidence that someone is not saved or has not yet been sanctified.  The other damaging response has been to treat infirmities as evidence that we are not wholly delivered from sin until death and so Christians still must sin while they remain on earth.

The Chambers identify several infirmities that can be found in a Christian's makeup:

1. Erring in judgement: Perfection, as Wesleyans believe scripture speaks of it, is a perfection of motives, not the intellect.  Also, one can behave wrongly without intending to rebel against God.  The Chambers cite Peter's reluctance to associate with Gentiles in Acts 11.  Once Peter knew that God wanted Peter to speak to Cornelius and his household, Peter obeyed without reservation.
2. Lack of harmony among the Spirit-filled: Paul and Barnabas' dispute over Mark was due to personality differences rather than whether one was Spirit-filled and the other not.
3.  Lack of physical perfection which affects personalities and abilities.
4.  Lack of perfection in one's works or discipline:  In 2Tim. 1: 5-6, Paul compliments Timothy's spiritual heritage but then urges Timothy to stir up the gift he already has.  Our failure to be diligent in exercising our gifts should not produce despair as this failure can be remedied. Failure, or refusal to follow this advise, could lead to backsliding.
5.  Memories of past sins forgiven are not sins in themselves.  Yet we can allow these memories to entice us to sin.
6.  Negative emotions such as hurt feelings, impatience, worry, anxiety:  One must understand their motivation before their sinfulness can be determined.  People differ in their emotional responses.  When counseling, we must understand this or we will stumble in our understanding of perfect love.  Emotions can lead to sin.  If the emotions affect the Christian's faith to the point that he/she becomes rebellious, then his/her motives are no longer pure.  Our goals are determined by our motives; when our motives are sinful, then sinful goals will be chosen.  The Chambers point to the example of Martha and Mary.  Had Martha's intent been to publically humiliate Mary, then her reaction to Mary's not helping her would have been sin.  Since this was not Martha's intent, Jesus treated Martha's behavior not as sin but as behavior rooted in an attitude which needed to be changed.
7.  Biological drives: We are all subject to sensory stimualtion.  However, seeking sinful sensory stimulation reflects what kind of persons we are.

The presense of infirmities does not signify that our spiritual growth must therefore be stunted, or non-existent.  We are called to grow in grace. In other words, we are to be "...perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord." (2Cor. 7:1)  When James wrote, "Confess your trespasses to one another, that you may be healed...", the word for trespass used here signified an offense, a stumbling or a false step.  In other words, infirmities.  This word from James is just one way to perfect holiness.  The Chambers identify six other ways to overcome the power of infirmities in our lives:

1.  Learn to walk with the Lord without being dependent upon others for strength.
2.  Become stable; the authors write, "Christian stability is learned.  The person who is stable in most other areas of his life is more apt to be able to be stable in his Christian life."
3.  Learn how to relate to others in a Godly manner.  This, the authors point out, will determine whether we have joy in our Church fellowship or not.
4.  Develop a good conscience.
5.  Develop sound attitudes.  Attitudes are learned and are resistant to alteration.  They are more the result of the emotions rather than of the intellect.
6.  Develop responsible behavior patterns.

The authors warn that indifference to spiritual growth is contempt for the known will of God.

"Holiness and Human Nature" was published in 1975.  It was revised from an earlier work entitled "Human Nature and Perfecting Holiness" published in 1972.  Some of the psycological and medical evidence cited by the Chambers may or not be outdated.  The only information I could find concerning the Chambers comes from the Forward to the book written by W.T. Purkiser.  "Holiness and Human Nature" was published by Beacon Hill Press.  The next "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual" will be an examination of sanctification and genetics.    

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Of The Web 2010

Here is a list of what I consider the best articles on the World Wide Web I came across in 2010: David Wilkerson on the subtle trap that ensnares Christians so that they don't become all that God wants them to be. Dr. Claude Mariottini on praying for Christopher Hitchens. While this short poem by Dr. Doug Groothuis is written from the view point of the chronically ill, I found it helpful in dealing with healthy but difficult people. Dr. Roger E. Olson believes the decline in exposure to hymnody has resulted in a decline in theological knowledge as well as knowledge of Biblical imagery. Roy Ingle points out that one test of our own salvation is whether we pray for the lost. The most balanced article I have seen on why young people leave the Church. The most significant event this year was probably the earthquake in Haiti.  While I am not in agreement with everything written in this article, I did find this these reflections on the event by Dr. Ben Witherington to be the the most theologically sound.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Something New Under The Sun: A Christmas Sermon

(I wrote this sermon last year as part of a series on the scripture references that form the basis of Handel's"Messiah."  When my pastor asked me to preach a few Sundays ago, I thought this would serve as the basis of the sermon.  The sermon preached is very different from the original version appearing here.  Soon the spoken sermon will be posted on my audio blog.)

God is in the business of doing new things.  Yet there is a scripture passage that would seem to contradict this statement and the title of this message:

"...There is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which it may be said, 'See, this is new'? It has already been in ancient times before us." (Eccl. 1: 9-10)

So says King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes.  In speaking of the realm of human affairs, Solomon's statement is true.  Humanity's habits have changed very little, if at all.  We can even say this statement is still true when we speak of heresy.  Today we see a plethora of books by scholars and popular writers rejecting the triune nature of God, debunking the divinity of Jesus Christ.  These writers claim that the Church was made up of many competing factions each proclaiming a different Gospel.  They say that the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity prevailed because the orthodox faction had the power to crush all other competing versions of the Gospel.  Jesus, say these writers, never claimed to be the Son of God; the doctrine of His divinity was forced upon the Church centuries after His death and the Biblical manuscripts were altered to reflect the triumphant orthodoxy.  Much of the current literary output on this subject claims to be revolutionary, that these views have just surfaced recently.  But these views have been around since the Church's beginning.  John the Apostle wrote:

"By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.  And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.." (1Jn. 4: 2-3)

There is a familiar verse from the Old Testament, a promise many of us sing to the tune written by Handel in his oratorio, "The Messiah":

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Is. 9:6)

Isaiah continues in the seventh verse:

"Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order and establish it with judgement and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."

This promise describing the Messiah is older than the Church itself, nearly 650 years before the birth of Christ and nearly a thousand years before the Church's first written declaration concerning the Trinity.  These two verses paint a wide-ranging picture of who Jesus is.  And it is a picture of the Triune God; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Let's examine the names ascribed to Jesus in Is. 9:6.  It should be no surprise that He is refered to as the Child, the Son, the Prince of Peace.  But look at the other names He is given:  Lord of hosts, mighty God, Everlasting Father.  Everlasting Father?  These are names generally associated with the first person of the Trinity.  Then there is the name Counselor.  This is a title given to the Holy Spirit.  The birth of the Child is the revelation of the Triune nature of God to the world.  In the Child does all the fullness of God dwell. (Col. 1:19)  These two verses from Isaiah contain a promise older than any heretical notion of Christ's identity.  It was a promise of the manifestation of the Triune God made nearly a thousand years before the Church first articulated the doctrine of the Trinity.

God revealed Himself through the birth of a child.  And when God revealed Himself through the birth of a baby, He truly did a new thing.  True, we can speak of the Incarnation as an event that occured more than two thousand years ago.  But when Jesus enters the heart of a new disciple when that disciple first truly believes (Eph. 1: 13), a new thing is done under the sun.  You and I are so unique that when Christ comes to dwell in our hearts, Christ, who is still all that Is. 9: 6-7 tells us He is, the clothing of Christ within our flesh and the manifestation of Christ through us is truly a new thing that hapens every day around the world.  There has never been, nor ever will be, another "you" or another "I" through whom Jesus lives out the Christian life as He dwells within us.  As the Christmas season comes and goes, let us not forget that as we continue in our walk with God, the new thing done in us continues to unfold, so that that new thing is always happening in us.  In our usual day-to day routines, this newness of Christ's work in us does not always seem apparent.  That is why we need a season to celebrate the birth of Christ.  We need to take time to thank Him, worship Him and wonder at the new thing He is doing in us.         

(All Scripture quotations are from the NKJV)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Offerings Worth Your Time

Dr. Ben Witherington interprets the Gospel account of Christ's birth in a way that is at odds with many of our traditional views.  It appears that in the interest of veracity, some of our traditions are going to have to be jettisoned.  This post originally appeared last December.

Also from last December, an Arabic Christmas Carol.  The words link Christ the human being as God the creator of the universe.  From the blog His Peace Upon Us. Running time: 7:31.

From this December, Dr. Roger E. Olson posted an Arminian Advent meditation at his blog entitled "For God So Loved The World...That He Coundn't Stay Away."

Michael Novak writes on how real human liberty is grounded in the Incarnation more than in any human ideology.

Many saw on the news or the internet the video of a choir performing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" without warning at a busy food court at a mall.  Is this a creative way to remind people about the real meaning of Christmas? Or do such exercises actually reenforce America's consumer mentality? James K. A. Smith thinks the later.  Video of the performance plus Smith's comments can be found here.  This is from Dr. Smith's Fors Clavigera blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Effective Compassion and Cross-Cultural Ministry

The Acton Power blog recently posted an article on a well-intentioned ministry endeavor gone wrong.  Sometime in the past, a group of Christians decided to minister to the poorest families somewhere in Appalachia.  This group sought out who they believed to be the poorest families in the area and brought them Christmas gifts and food such as turkeys.  Apparently this was done in a pubic way so that the community knew who received these gifts.  One man testified that his father was so humiliated that his life was destroyed.  It shamed him that his family was identified as the poorest in the community and believed that his ability to provide for his own family was denigrated.

The first lesson from this story concerns effective compassion.  Effective compassion? Is there such a thing as ineffective compassion?  Yes there is.  The provision of needs without an incentive to change character habits that perpetuate poverty enslaves those who are seeking help.  Forty-six years of the war on poverty and the failure of the welfare state should make this evident to all.  Private Christian endeavors that fail to teach good character traits replicate the same failures.  For nearly three years I participated in a monthly food give away at my home church.  While recepients were asked if they wanted someone to pray for them, the ministry mainly consisted of people picking up a box of food.  I witnessed no spiritual results in those who received food.  To them, this ministry was nothing more than one more place to find needed food supplies.  There was no other Christian involvement in these peoples lives. One of the meanings for the biblical word "charity" is "to suffer along side of."  Before government took over the role of caregiving from the Church, American Christians involved themselves in the lives of those they ministered to.  They made their charity a vehicle not only for meeting basic needs, but also the teaching of good character habits that lifted families out of the cycle of poverty that had enslaved their families for generations.  Their success is chronicled in Marvin Olasky's "The Tragedy of American Compassion." The dropping off of food and leaving cannot be labeled as effective compassion despite the motivation for the act or how well it made those who performed this act feel good afterward.  One person wrote in the comment section that charity is ineffective unless it necessitates those who want it to actively seek it.  Charity should not be forced on those who do not want it.  The person is correct here, yet he also states that charity should be impersonal. Another person replied that charity should have a human face attached.  This would be in line with charity as suffering along side of someone else.  When in seminary at Jackson, Ms., I heard of a ministry that fed thousands every year and after so many years produced only one person who gave their life to Jesus.  A ministry that sought to forge character as well as meet needs may not result in many souls being saved, but this would have a greater impact as those who would be saved would be multiplied as those saved souls witnessed for Christ.

If one immerses oneself in modern missions literature, one will come across the term "cross-cultural ministry."  Cross-cultural ministry reflects the recognition that when taking the Gospel to a different culture, one must do so in a manner that is culturally relevant for those Christians mean to reach.  Christians in cross-cultural ministries must learn to present the Gospel in such a way that does not offend the sensibilities of individuals being witnessed to.  For instance, western mass evangelistic methods have proven to be ineffective in spreading the Gospel in many third world nations.  These nations can only be reached by Christians actually living among those they seek to reach.

This principle is no less relevant for communities in the United States as it is overseas.  Had the Christians in this story made an effort to understand the Appalachians they sought to minister to, they might have been more sensible to the feelings of men such as the father whose life was destroyed.  One person wrote in the comment section (in addition to some very extreme statements) that :  "There is no shame in offering or accepting heart-felt charity from well-intentioned souls...He should have either refused the charity or just admitted they WERE the poorest in the community and be THANKFUL for such generosity.  Truth is truth.  No need to live in lies, please!" It is just such insensitivity that prevents the spread of the Gospel, here, or overseas. If such "honesty" exhibited by the Church of one culture translates into another culture as something that brings public shame in his or her community, then the Church, in the interest of spreading the Gospel in that culture, must seek to operate in an alternative mindset to reach those they are targeting.  Otherwise, good intentions could result in destructive results for those whose eternal souls are at stake.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Elizebeth Edwards, Good Works and Eternal Rewards

The Christianity Today Politics Blog recently ran a short post concerning the death of Elizebeth Edwards.  Among her views concerning her religious beliefs quoted in the article was this:

"I appreciate other people's prayers for that [a cure for cancer], but I believe that we are given a set of guidelines, and that we are obligated to live our lives with a view to those guidelines.  And I don't believe we should live our lives that way for some promise of eternal life, but because that's what's right.  We should do these things because that's what's right."

One person wrote in the comments section responding to this quote:

"...And I agree with her there.  We should live a certain way because it is right, not to earn any favors from God.  It is right and it pleases God."

The following is an expanded version of my response at the CT Politics Blog:

It is true that we should love God more for who He is than just for the rewards of His mercy.  Any good work that we do should be undertaken without mixed motives.  But the quote from Elizebeth Edwards reveals the mistaken belief that to do a good work to please God is on the same level as doing good works to please men.  Jesus warned us not to pray, give to the poor or fast to be seen by men. (Mt. 6: 1-3, 5, 16)  But Jesus also commanded us to pray, give to the poor and fast in secret and the Father who sees in secret will reward us openly. (Mt. 6: 4, 6, 18)  The rewards Jesus speaks of are not necessarily health and wealth or any other thing we may desire. (See here)  The Father gave His Son so that our sins could be forgiven and so we can have fellowship with Him here on earth and for eternity in heaven.  Not to be mindful of such rewards is to neglect the Father's will for each individual and the cost He paid to see that His purposes for us are fulfilled.  Doing good works to please God is an inseperable part of pleasing God.  Jesus told His disciples that if their righteousness did not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5: 20)  Jesus told the rich young ruler, "...If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven..." (Mt. 19:21) Jesus pictured what righteous deeds look like in the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Mt. 25: 31-46)  Those that minister to the vulnerable and despised ones are the righteous ones.  They are the ones who receive eternal life.  You might argue: "Wait a moment.  In this parable, the sheep did not know that they were ministering to Christ by performing those good works.  Doesn't this prove Elizebeth Edward's contention?" No.  Jesus spoke this parable for our benefit so that we may be encouraged to do good deeds and receive eternal life. Paul commands us to walk worthy of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. (1Thess. 2:12)  If we are truly abiding in Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit will guide us so that we engage in the works the Father and the Son want us to engage in.  It is only by the Holy Spirit's guidance and empowerment that we can do what is truly right.  It is right that we examine our motives.  If we do good works that are inspired by the love of God and men that God Himself pours out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), we can be sure that we are pleasing God and doing what is right.  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mt. 6: 19-21)

All scripture quotes from the NKJV

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spasibo, Danke, Merci, Spasibi, Liels Paldies, Thank You

Today marks the fourth anniversery of the beginning of this blogging enterprise.  This year has exhibited two contradictory trends.  This year has seen the least amount of posts while readership seems to have increased. This year my profile page records 375 viewings.  Until recently this has been the only measurement of readership.  Recently I added Blogger Stats to my dashboard, so now I have a better sense of how many readers this blog has had.  According to my profile page, only 1,325 readers have viewed my profile page in four years.  However, according to blogger stats, 3,463 people have actually read posts appearing here. I don't know who is reading them, but I do know from where.  Majority readership, of course, is in the U.S.  But a sizable number of people in Russia have been readers.  Readers can also be found in Germany, Canada, France, Ukraine, the Netherlands, the U.K., India and Latvia. This is quite encouraging and has greatly eased my disappointment in the very few comments that appear here.  This year has been a transitional year marked by many interuptions that have prevented me from publishing long planned articles.  Hopefully this next year will see a return to greater productivity.  Thanks to all, including the six official followers of Redemptive Thoughts, for giving some time to reading what appears here.

One reason for the lower output has been the amount of work that went into the writing of some of the articles.  "A Post Without Answers" was a respose to prominent Christians' views concerning God's role in the Haitian earthquake.  It was the hardest single article I ever wrote for this blog.  As I was writing it, further reflection forced me to change my position on some aspects of the issue.  I did a series on Tim Keller and Theistic Evolution entitled Sola Smorgasbord, the title refering to the fact that Keller is Reformed, that many in Reformed circles think they own the doctrine, and yet Keller himself mixes Christian and non-Christian thinking to an alarming extent to bring about a "reconciliation" between Biblical faith and Evolutionary thought.  I had intended to write just one article on the subject, but one grew to seven, three of which are listed by Blogger Stats as the most read of any article appearing on this blog.  These three are Part I: A Faith And Evolution Reconciliation?, Part II: WDJS (What Did Jesus Say?) and Part V: Congregational Confusion On A Scale Previously Unimagined. (To read the whole series, visit the May, 2010 archives.)  The series on Dennis F. Kinlaws "Lets Start With Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology" took more time than expected.  The last in the series is also one of this blog's most read articles. One last article I would like to mention that had some readership is The Lab Rats Are Dead, an article on Obamacare.  Some might think it to be a bit ridiculous, but I was quite pleased with it.  Enough with this exercise of self promotion, until 12/6/11.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Lk. 1:79- "To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

This is, of course, the final verse in Zacharias' prophecy concerning the cousin of John the Baptist, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus, God the Son, is our light, our guide.  But what are we guided through so that we can reach our final destination God the Father intends for us?  The Lord guides us through the darkness that inhabits our own hearts.  "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jer. 17:9) The Lord immediately answers this question: "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind..." (Jer. 17:10)  God the Holy Spirit, sent from both the Father and the Son, enters the hearts of believers to search our hearts and test our minds the very moment we truely believe.  The indwelling Holy Spirit reveals to us what dwells in us that displeases our Lord.  The Holy Spirit reveals things to us we have hidden from others and ourselves, even things we thought were innocent and beneficial, but are really unholy. The Holy Spirit teaches us to cooperate with Him so we may be transformed into the very image of God's Son Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit also teaches us the truths contained in God's Word (Jn. 16:13) which enables us to discern between good and evil.  In this way, we are guided into the way of peace with God and with Man.     And this way of peace is the road to our final destination, being in the presence of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit forever.  Amen.

(All scripture verses from the NKJV)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Mt. 12:37- "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Who says that a promise has to be comforting?  A promise is simply a guarantee that a certain action will be undertaken in the future, or a continuing action will take place over a period of time, such as when couples marry, they promise to love each other till "death do we part."  Older people can remember a time when one's word was one's bond; if one promised to do something, if the parties agreed with a handshake, the action was as good as done.  Those of us who have faith in God know that God keeps His Word and He has given us promises upon promises concerning our soujourn on earth and our life with Him in heaven.

Yet not all God's promises are meant to comfort.  Some are meant as a warning.  In Mt. 12: 33-37, Jesus warned the Pharisees, and us today, that if our heart is not right, Godly words of praise and encouragement will not be a feature of our conversation.  Those who speak words that are not a blessing to God and Man Jesus calls "a brood of vipers!" (v. 34)  In this verse Jesus also calls them evil and those who are evil cannot speak good things.  Then Jesus warns, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgement. " (v. 36)  Jesus is not just speaking of words actually cursing God or profanity or personal insults.  He warns that every idle word will be judged.  Idle.  Useless to the hearer.  If we focus on the trivial, distracting ourselves and others from the eternal, wasting precious time, we will give an account.  If we don't learn to thank God in private, how can we witness for Him in public?  If we don't meditate on God's goodness, how can we worship Him?  How can we lift up the downcast?  If we don't spend time in God's Word, how can we disciple others, rescuing them from wrong thinking and sinful attitudes and behaviors?  How we spend time in private will be revealed in our public behavior.  If we truly believe in Jesus, then our private moments will be dedicated to Him, and we will bear good fruit. (v. 35)  And we will not fear God's judgement because He has promised good to those who obey Him.  We know His word on this is sure.  But we can also be assured that if we fail to produce good fruit, condemnation awaits.  God's warnings imply the possibility of repentance and a different destiny.  There is still time to become men and women of God, those who please God and edify others.  Which promise, justification or condemnation, will you choose?

(All scripture quotations from the NKJV)    

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembering The Edmund Fitzgerald

Here is a video listing those who lost their lives on the Edmund Fitzgerald 35 years ago today from Scott McKnight's Jesus Creed Blog.

Publications And Papers By Wesleyan Theologians

This blog featured a series on Dennis Kinlaw's "Let's Start With Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology", recently.  Dr. Kinlaw has recently published "Lectures In Old Testament Theology: Yahweh is God Alone."
This book is based on classroom lectures given at Asbury Theological Seminary in 1993.  Dr. Kinlaw is the past President of Asbury College as well as the founder and President of the Francis Asbury Society.  Here is a brief review promoting Kinlaw's book from the Touchstone Magazine blog by James M. Kushiner.

Dr. Kinlaw's book was edited by Dr. John N. Oswalt.  Dr. Oswalt was a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary while I was a student there as well as my academic advisor.  He is now at Asbury Theological Seminary. He took a one year sabbatical to edit Kinlaw's book.  Here is a review of Dr. Oswalt's recent book "The Bible Among The Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?" from Scott McNights Jesus Creed blog.

Dr. Matt Friedeman, Professor of Evangelism and Christian Education at Wesley Biblical Seminary, has written "Discipleship In The Home." Dr. Friedeman has also co-written with Lisa Friedeman Ausley, "LifeChanging Bible Study-Practical Keys to a Deeper Understanding of the Word." Here is a review of the first book from philipmarianne.blogspot.com

Dr. Gary Cockerill, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Wesley Biblical Seminary, will be presenting two papers at the Evangelical Theological Society.  They are " 'Justification' or 'Perfection'? Salvation in the Letter to the Hebrews" and "More Than Paul: The Justification Debate and the Letter to the Hebrews." (Originally read in Brian Small's blog.) When I was at Wesley Biblical, Dr. Cockerill was head of the Hebrews Study Group at the ETS.  I don't know if he still is.  Whether he still is or not, that is quite an honor considering how the ETS is dominated by Calvinists.

Today I saw a video featuring Dr. Al Mohler and others promoting the "New Calvinism."  In that video, Dr. Mohler states that serious Christians searching for a theological home can turn nowhere but to Reformed Theology.  Dr. Mohler is one of the best Christian commentators when it comes to cultural issues, but this comment reveals either willful ignorance or arrogance concerning other theological traditions.  I was planning on posting this article before I saw this video today.  Yet the publications listed here go a long way in showing brother Mohler the error of his thinking.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Audio Impressions

Here are links to stories 99% of blog readers would ignore: 

A professor from All Souls College, Oxford, reads a portion of Ancient Babylonian language.  He then explains how the language is reproduced.  The professor is quite entertaining. Running time: 3:36.

Another individual reads the Epilogue to the Code of Hammurabi in the original Akkadian language in 53 seconds.  This takes a much shorter time than one needs to read a provision of Congressional legislation.  I am sure the original Akkadian language makes more sense.

I found both links through Dr. Claude Mariottini's blog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Prov. 11:18- "The wicked man does deceptive work, but he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward."

"...he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward."

Is this passage a promise that all those who obey God's commands will materially prosper?  NO!  In fact, this passage, the preceding passages and the ones that follow, picture the wicked prospering materially in this world, while the righteous receive rewards of a far different and lasting character.  In Prov. 11:16, we read that a gracious woman preserves her honor, but ruthless men retain riches.  By "gracious," Solomon speaks of showing favor, being kindhearted to others.  Those who exhibit this graciousness gain a character that is looked up to, trusted, respected.  But ruthless men are only kind when it is to their advantage.  Their only gain on earth is riches.  A merciful man is at peace with God and man, while a cruel man "troubles his own flesh." (v. 17)  The cruel man must always worry that his cruelty to others will cause his victims to strike back at him.  He cannot allow himself to rest easy.  The deception of the wicked man (v. 18) brings vexation to him because he lies to everyone and it becomes impossible to keep track of all his lies.  Eventually, his dishonesty is exposed.  The man who pursues evil subjects himself to the world's revenge, the pangs of conscience and a thousand worries.  That is why Solomon warns us that such a life leads to death. (v. 19) 

The righteous have no such worries but have an expectation of a "sure reward" (v. 18), a life of expectation of experienceing the goodness of God. (v. 19)  "Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their ways are His delight." (v. 20)  The wicked will eventually face judgement, but not only will the righteous be rewarded, the posterity of the righteous will share in these rewards. (v. 21)  The righteous may not prosper materially, but their reward is eternal, their treasures are in heaven "where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Mt. 6:20)

All scripture quotations from the NKJV.   

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Audio Impressions

I'm finished with political posts on this blog for the time being.  Now comes the task of listening to all the audio posts saved in my inbox since 5/09, starting with the James White/Michael Brown debate on Calvinism.  The 2 part debate, each part less than 40 minutes each, was on Dr. Brown's radio program "The Line of Fire." The debate was cordial, as was the third episode (mostly) in which Calvinists called in to Dr. Brown's program.  This was the first time I had heard Dr. White speak.  He is a skilled debater, yet his arguement for Calvinist theology failed to live up to the principle both participants agreed to: good theolgy is always preceded by good Biblical exegesis.  White's scriptural analysis was faulty concerning the scripture passages he used to present his case.  For instance, he cited the example of God preventing Abimelech from sinning by having relations with Abraham's wife Sarah. (Gen. 20:1-7) White cited this as proof that human sin is not a choice but these choices are willed by God to further His purposes and bring Himself glory.  As Brown points out, Abimelech did not know Sarah was married and so acted with a clear conscience. (v. 5-6)   The passage also demonstrates that God gave Abimelech a clear choice whether to obey Him or not. (v.7) White stated that when the Old Testament High Priest made atonement for the people, he was only making atonement for Israel, not for the surrounding nations. White asks, "Does Jesus as our high priest make atonement for all, or only those that are His?"  White believes that the Old Testament model of the High Priest is evidence for Limited Atonement.  He fails to mention that the Law had provision for those who wished to join the nation of Israel if they chose to do so.  Christ, our High Priest, has commanded us to pray for workers to gather in lost souls.  Dr. Brown effectively answered White, yet I wish in part 1 that he emphasized the effect of the Fall on Man more when describing Man.

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

Linked from Kevin Jackson's Wesleyan Arminian blog.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Choices For Conservatives In 2012

Now that the mid-term elections are over, the race for the Republican Presidential nomination begins in earnest.  Who appears as the best choice at such an early date?

Many name Mitt Romney as the current front runner.  Yet it is doubtful that he could gain the support of Tea Party conservatives.  He may have valuable experience in the private sector, but his support for the Massachusettes health care plan which was enacted while he was governor should make conservatives think twice about supporting him.  He was a Republican governor in a Democratic state; this caused him to compromise with the Democrat majority.  Has the experience solidified the habit of compromise in Romney so that he would cooperate with the Democrats in pushing their agenda if he were President? I would not be the only Conservative asking this question.  If Romney were to get the nomination, conservative support may be lacking, which could lead to a Democrat victory in the general election.  Romney was a more viable alternative in 2008.  I voted for him in the primary; I was not about to vote for McCain.  But this time around, nominating him may lead to a failure to regain the White House.

Mike Huckabee may cause damage to the conservative cause.  I wouldn't label him as a conservative, but he could siphon off enough votes from a viable conservative candidate that could lead to a moderate winning the nomination.  He himself has little chance of winning the nomination, but he could cause harmful division within conservative ranks. This is a greater danger if the Republicans fail to close their primaries to cross-over voters who want to sabotage the Republicans by saddling them with a nominee who can't win in the general election.

Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is touted by some as a conservative with enough experience to get support from voters.  However, he comes off as very shallow to me.  He says he would run on his biography, how he rose from humble origins.  Yet this seems to indicate that his view of the average voter is one who responds to impressions rather than content.  One lesson to heed from the mid-terms is that voters have become more concerned over a candidate's positions on issues rather than their impressions.  I don't think Pawlenty will get any traction.

Neither will Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, get any traction with his statements that Republicans should abandon social issues and concentrate solely on economics.

Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio are rising stars, but it is probably too early in their careers for them to consider a 2012 run.  I like Jindal, but I am not sure he could connect with people.

That leaves Sarah Palin. Yes, she has negatives, but I think she could overcome them, especially if she was running against an unpopular Democrat incumbent like Obama or Hillary Clinton.  While she is sometimes inarticulate, so was Bush and that didn't stop him from winning.  Yet she still has a rhetorical ability to advocate conservative policies so that she inspires as well as informs.  I see no such ability among other possible contenders.  At this point, the only viable candidate for the conservative voters who gave the Republicans control of the House of Representatives, is Palin.  As for me, she is the only one I could trust to govern conservatively, not just in economic matters, but on social issues as well.  The only person I could consider as a viable choice other than Palin is Rick Santorum, if he would choose to run.    

Reagan Anniversary

Today as I continue to recover from my experience as a poll worker on election day, I am taking time to take note that today is the 30th anniversary of a great day: the election of Ronald Reagan.  So many think that the current economic slump is the worse economy since the Great Depression.  Not so.  Many are now too young to remember the double digit unemployment rate, the double digit inflation rate and the double digit interest rates of the Jimmy Carter years.  Conventional wisdom at the time was that our problems were simply to big and the world too complex for any solution.  Most Conservatives were convinced that the Soviet Union would win the Cold War.  Many are simply too young to understand the pessimism that reigned in the U.S. prior to Reagan's election.  They simply have no way of knowing just how much of a difference Reagan made.  And he made that difference  with a Republican Senate when more Republicans were moderate and the Democrats held the House.  This should be a message of how Conservatism can defeat the Liberal establishment even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Chris Christie has proved this in New Jersey.  With the House now in Republican hands, lets hope the Republicans will not be lured into thinking Conservatism cannot win the day.   

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lab Rats Are Dead

Lab rats.  We all know what they are.  They are those unfortunate creatures experimented upon for the benefit of saving human lives.  Their purpose is to test whether treatments for diseases and injuries will be safe for humans.  If these animals suffer adverse reactions to these treatments, then these treatments do not make it out of the laboratory.

There are other kinds of lab rats.  Some have described the states as laboratories for possible Federal government policies.  Take New Jersey, for instance.  Governor Chris Christie managed to balance the state budget ahead of schedule in a heavily Democrat state. (See previous post.)  This accomplishment will embolden many Conservatives to do the same in Washington D.C.  But the Health Care system in the state of Massachusettes is another story.  More people signed up than anticipated when the health care plan was enacted in 2007.  This has caused the plan to be over budget since its inception.  State approved health care providers, all not-for-profits, responded by increasing premiums to cover the rising costs.  The state enacted cost containment measures, price controls, to keep premiums from rising.  This has resulted in the insurance providers refusing to insure any more patients at the rates the state is demanding.  All the while, those who are enrolled in the plan are mandated to deal only with state sanctioned insurance providers, so they are prohibited from switching to other insurance providers who cover less and thus charge less.

Yet the MS plan is the model touted by the Obama administration as to how the Federal Government should deal with health care.  The problems the MS plan has produced will be super-sized by the Obama health care plan.  James C. Capretta writes: " The risk of cost overruns is even higher at the federal level than in Massachusetts. The Congressional Budget Office projects just 17 million people will be getting subsidized insurance through the state-based exchanges in 2016. But the population with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line--roughly the group targeted for subsidized coverage--is more like 130 million people. CBO assumes the vast majority of low- and moderate-wage families will stay in job-based plans with no additional federal help. But what if they are wrong? Employers are already looking for ways to shed as much of their health care bill as they possibly can onto taxpayers. If 30 or even 50 million Americans end up in the exchanges, federal costs will soar." (From Kaiser Health News, via The Christian Science Monitor.)

As Capretta points out, the conduct of Obama's team indicates that they plan to deal with this nation wide in the same way MS is dealing with its plan's cost overruns: by putting caps on costs.  The result nation wide will be the same as it has been in MS.  Insurers will refuse to provide coverage which will in the end make access to treatment more restricted for Americans whom Obama wants to force to buy health insurance.  All in the name of costs.  (Mitt Romney's defense of the MS plan, enacted while he was governor of MS, should be reason enough not to support his Presidential run in 2012.)

Another model for Obama Care has been the British health care system. In Britain, only those of the higher income brackets have access to the private health care plans they choose.  The rest of the population have no choice but to put their lives in the hands of the government bureaucracy.  Recently, the British health care system has sought to cut patient access to medical care.  Here is a partial list of these cuts as outlined an an article on the British news website Daily Telegraph, via Gene Veith's blog:

* Restrictions on some of the most basic and common operations, including hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and orthodontic procedures.
* Plans to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from budgets for the terminally ill, with dying cancer patients to be told to manage their own symptoms if their condition worsens at evenings or weekends.
* The closure of nursing homes for the elderly.
* A reduction in acute hospital beds, including those for the mentally ill, with targets to discourage GPs from sending patients to hospitals and reduce the number of people using accident and emergency departments.
* Tighter rationing of NHS funding for IVF treatment, and for surgery for obesity.
* Thousands of job losses at NHS hospitals, including 500 staff to go at a trust where cancer patients recently suffered delays in diagnosis and treatment because of staff shortages.
* Cost-cutting programmes in paediatric and maternity services, care of the elderly and services that provide respite breaks to long-term carers.

The article states later: "As well as sending more patients home to die...the savings would be made by admitting fewer terminally ill cancer patients to hospital because they were struggling to cope with symptoms such as pain. Instead, more patients would be given advice on 'self management' of their condition"

In America, the phrase for these savings is " cost cutting. "  In Britain, the phrase is "efficiency savings." In any language, this means more people being denied the care that would be available in a market-based system.  In any language, this means the state will determine who lives and who dies.

Animal Rights activists, such as PETA, equate all creatures as having equal worth as human beings.  Sometimes they will sabotage laboratories to "rescue" the lab animals from being experimented upon.  I hope that the newly elected conservatives will act as a sort of political-PETA, not only sabotaging but overturning Obama's health care "experiment."  Because in Obama's health care experiment, THE LAB RATS R US.  But the difference between Obama's experiment and actual laboratory experiments is that in Obama's experiment, when the lab rats die, the experiment is deemed a success!

(Mr. Guthrie has a pre-existing condition called type 2 diabetes.  Yet he is unwilling for the country to be forced to pay for his treatment.  Nor is he willing to empower a bureaucrat to, in the name of "cost cutting" or "efficiency savings", to strategerize his untimely demise.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Change Of Course

Some readers of this blog know that I am politically conservative.  Last year I made the decision to reduce the amount of politcal posts here.  This year, only two short political posts, both concerning Sarah Palin, have appeared on this blog. (I am thinking of creating a seperate blog to write on politics and culture.)  However, with less than a week before the election, this blog will feature a number of posts relating to the choices we as voters have before us.  Here are some links to articles concerning the size and scope of government:

This article on Gov. Chris Christie of NJ includes a must see interview of him.  Despite the fact that NJ is a Democrat state, Christie has balanced the state's budget ahead of schedule.  His success will embolden other Conservative Republican governors to save their states from economic collapse.  He is definitely a future Presidential possibility.  (From the blog The Reformed Broker, via The Christian Science Monitor.) Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing sweeping changes to reduce the national government and empower individuals and localities.  (From The Washington Post, via Gene Veith.) Germany's Conservative government defied its socialist neighbors and our socialist President in its response to the financial crises.  It resisted advice to spend government money and increase regulation of businesses.  Germany's economy is now booming. (From the New York Times, via Veith.)  In fact, Big Government has been a failure since the New Deal; the Hoover Dam being a case in point. (From the Ludwig von Mises Institute, via the Christian Science Monitor.)

Gene Veith describes why American Christians switched from Democrat to Republican over the past 40 years.

Science is supposed to be an unbiased discipline.  Here is an article on how members of the scientific community, and their liberal patrons in government, play politics with stem cell research; how they promote embryonic stem cell research, which has showed little promise, while hiding the successes of adult stem cell research. (From The American Thinker, via the Family Research Council.)

Here is an article that should make Christian Consevatives wary of Libertarian influence in Conservative Circles. (From the Christian Science Monitor.)

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is ignoring Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's abuses of power.  (From the Christian Science Monitor.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Ps. 12: 3-4 "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, who have said "With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?"

"Our lips are our own..."  Those who speak thus, according to David, speak deceit.  They flatter their neigbors (v. 2) and boast about themselves. (v. 3)  "They speak idly everyone with his neighbor..." (v. 2); the words they speak serve no useful purpose.  Those who speak such things, and those who allow themselves to listen, waste valueable time.  Such talk ends in oppressing the vulnerable (v. 5) and the Lord will bring judgement upon those who engage in it. (v. 5)

In this day we value our personal autonomy.  Our very dignity as persons is tied to our supposed authority to decide our own destiny.  We Americans fought a revolution on the principles of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  Yet sinful men and women say, "My lips are my own."  If God's Word tells us this is what the sinful think, then the truth must be the opposite.  Our lips are not our own.  We are not to speak deceit or flattery, to curse anyone made in the image of God. (James 3: 9-12)  Instead of flattery, we are to speak words that build up, edify, that warn against sinful conduct and ungodly thinking. (Gal. 6: 1-2, IThess. 5:11, Jude 22-23)  Yes, the Lord has given us the freedom to decide what we speak.  But we are not free to exercise this freedom free from acountability to a holy God. Our words will bring upon ourselves either blessing or curses. 

If our lips are not our own, does it not logically follow that our thoughts are not our own?  Christ said, "...what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man...But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adultries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Mt. 15: 11, 18-19) If we are not free to speak what we like without being accountable to a holy God, and if what we speak is the result of what we think, then our own thought life is not our own either.  The carnal person responds: "This threatens my very self identity, my very individuality, my dignity and worth as a person."  The Christian must respond with a resounding "No!"  In salvation and sanctification, we become more like our savior.  As we spend time in Christ's presence, Christ transforms us into the person He wants us to be.  We begin to think His thoughts and desire what He desires.  We are then able to see our neighbor as Christ sees them so we no longer use our lips to flatter and deceive but to bless them.  Our thought life is freed to think about God, Man and ourselves as God truly created us to do.  We are free to produce fruit that pleases God and confirms to ourselves and others that we are indeed redeemed.  You see, none of us are really free.  We are slaves, either to God or to sin.  (Rom. 6: 15-23)  The only freedom we have is to choose our masters: the master of our lips, our thoughts, our very being.        

All Scripture quotations from the NKJV

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

2Cor. 1: 11- " also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf, for the gift granted to us through many."

It is right to refer to Paul as a giant of the Faith.  Unfortunately, he is often portrayed as superhuman in his obedience to the Gospel, that he was so disciplined in his own strength to follow Christ that we could never repeat his example.  This portrait of Paul is false.  To gain an understanding of Paul and his life as a disciple, the first step is to know who it was who lived within Paul: Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul was a unique individual, but so am I and so are you.  And in my case, and in yours, if you are a true believer in Christ, when we first believed, Christ took up residence in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13)  It was not Paul that lived the Christian life in his own strength, but Christ living in Paul (Gal. 2:20) empowered Paul.  This empowering was made possible by Paul's obedience to the Holy Spirit dwelling within him.  And just as Christ lived on earth and conducted His earthly ministry in the power of the Spirit (Mk. 1: 9-11, Heb 9:14, Acts 1:2), so did Paul.

While both Christ and Paul operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, neither wanted to live and minister on earth without the prayer support of the disciples.  Jesus desired that His disciples tarry with Him in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mt. 26:40).  Paul was the same way.  He and his fellow laborers were putting their lives on the line and at times it appeared that they would die for the sake of the Gospel (2Cor. 1: 8-9).  God had brought them to this point so that Paul and his companions would not rely on their own strength but on "God who raises the dead..." (v. 9).  God delivered them from death.  And by God's sovereign grace, God included the prayers of the Church as a means of saving Paul and his company.

You and I suffer in our Christian walk when we fail to pray for each other.  God can still deliver us from crises, but if brothers and sisters in Christ fail to pray for each other, will we always emerge with the full character change God wanted to work in us by placing us in these situations?  Is it too much to claim that we will never be the persons God wants us to be without the prayer support of our brothers and sisters?  Will those who fail to intercede for their bretheren also suffer loss?  The answer to this last question is definitely yes.  Paul told the Corinthians that his deliverance resulting from their prayers was an occasion for thanksgiving on the part of the Corinthians. (v. 11)  They could thank God that Paul and his fellow workers were delivered from death.  They could thank God that the Church and the world had living examples of men who trusted in God's grace rather than in worldly wisdom. (v. 12)  All disciples are called to give an account of their faith to an unbelieving world. (1Pet. 3:15)  Because the Corinthians were obedient, they could point to God's deliverance of Paul and his companions as irrefutable evidence that God is real and God delivers those who trust in Him. 

The Corinthians also had the example of Paul's deliverance by God as a bulwark against doubt when they themselves might have gone through trials similiar to Paul's.  But the Corinthians had these blessings because they prayed for Paul.  When we fail to intercede for each other during our trials, we deny ourselves the blessing of witnessing deliverances by God that strengthen our faith.  And so failure by the Church to intercede for those in need of prayer diminishes the strength of all who belong to Christ's body.  But obedience in this matter blesses all, strengthening the weak so that they may stand, that the foundation of their faith may withstand trials.

Will you be obedient in this matter?  If you are, not only will those specifically prayed for will be strengthened, but yourself and the whole body of Christ will be blessed.

Scripture quotations from the NKJV.    

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday Night Frozen Dinner And An Intellectual: Edward Gilbreath's "Reconciliation Blog"

(For an explanation of the title, "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual," see here.)

Over the past couple of Friday evenings I have been reading past articles from the "Reconciliation Blog" which is written by Edward Gilbreath, a former editor at Christianity Today.  The reconciliation in "Reconciliation Blog" refers to the reconciliation of the races.  Much Evangelical Christian writing on race and its relation to culture and politics has been pretty abysmal.  Yet Gilbreath's posts on this blog are outstanding.  Very few writers are able to step into the shoes of others and understand them as well as Gilbreath.  Gilbreath writes with the intention not to argue a position, but to promote understanding among people seperated not only by racism, but by perceptions of each other which perpetuates misunderstanding.  From a 1/30/09 post , Gilbreath, who is African American, writes, "...there are many systemic issues related to the 'race' problem...Indeed, often times, the racial divide is a matter of perception, not racism." Now, when an African American writes that racism is not the only culprit that is responsible for the plight of black Americans, and that white Americans are not the only party in the racial divide who need to examine themselves, a white person such as myself is of course is appreciative.  Yet, Gilbreath writes some things concerning how whites view race relations that need to be heeded if true racial reconciliation is to take place.

As Gilbreath himself understands, this country has made great progress in how African Americans are perceived and treated.  Yet when whites are confronted with continuing hostility from the African American community, whites often respond with this attitude: "Things have improved so much for people of color in the U.S.  The Civil Rights movement has ended discrimination and there is now so much more opportunity for people of all races.  We know that whites oppressed other races in the past; why can't they get over it.  Things have changed."  Yes, things have changed.  But white Americans are often unaware of the racism that African Americans still have to contend with.  Why is it that banks are more likely to approve a loan to a white couple than to a black couple?  The same goes for loans made to white owned businesses verses those made to black owned businesses.  The 1/30/09 post linked to above refers to racial conflict in Paris, Texas.  Blacks and whites met together to air their grievences in an open meeting.  One issue concerned a white judge who had given a black teenager a long prison sentance for pushing someone.  A few months before, the same judge had given a white teenager a very light sentance for arson.  The judge, who attended the meeting denied that racism had a role in the plight of African Americans: "I think the black community in this town is suffering a great deal from poverty, broken homes, drugs...Because a large percentage of the black population is caught up in that, in their anguish they are perceiving they are the victims of discrimination.  But white people are not the enemy.  Poverty, illiteracy, drugs, absentee fathers-that is the enemy.  Thats not racism.  Thats the breakdown of a community." (From the post linked to above.)  Gilbreath agrees that the judge's words contain a lot of truth.  But then he immediately points out the systemic issues related to race that whites often ignore which I quoted above.  In a 3/9/09 post, Gilbreath reminds us that "Though we've long since repudiated and attempted to move forward from our nations biggest failures on the matter of race, a lot of the residue of our failures continue to inform our personal and constitutional relationships today.  To ignore that fact only hinders our efforts toward true progress and reconciliation." In another post, from 4/21/09, Gilbreath writes about how the progress we have made in race relations has led to new and even bigger boundries between black and white.  He links to this article concerning white college students who put a noose in their window so African American students could see it.  In the comment section of the article, white students write that they cannot see why the African American students should be upset.

Is it realistic for whites to expect that blacks should have completely gotten over past bitterness?  In the article about Paris, Texas linked to above, another sore spot in race relations was the honoring of the Confederacy at local government buildings.  A white person may say "Hey, slavery has been extinct for almost 150 years.  Its time to move on."  When I lived in the South, some of the same white people who expressed such sentiments spoke with emotion concerning the land their families lost when it was seized by the Federal government during Reconstruction.  Bitterness and hatred can take generations, centuries to heal.  Only in the past couple of decades has the hatred between Catholics and Protestants begun to abate.  Still, not everyone from either side is willing to let go of their anger over how one side tortured those on the other side.  How many years will it take for some Armenians to move past their hatred for all Turkish people because of the genocide commited by Turkey against the Armenians in the early 20th century?  How long will it take for the Chinese to forgive Japan for its barbarism when it invaded China in the 1930's?  Some Africans still hate Europeans because of how Europe brutalized Africans during Africa's colonial days.  My own mother is 82.  One of her grandfathers, whom she knew, was a teenager living near Gettysburg, Pa. when the battle of Gettysburg was fought there.  If my mother knew her grandfather who lived during the Civil War, how many African Americans the same age as my mother actually looked into the eyes of their relatives who had been slaves and heared them relate what had been done to them?  Memories die hard.  To expect the entire black community to "just get over it" is a bit unrealistic.  Especially when more recent memories of Jim Crow and lynching are taken into acount.  When whites, even within the Church, take this into account, this will make actual reconciliation more of a reality. 

One surprise for me was Gilbreath's take on the notion of a color blind society.  In a 4/7/09 post, he notes that non-whites are more productive in work environments that acknowledge differences than in work places that stress a color blind environment.  In a color blind work place, whites expect non-whites to assimilate into the white world.  They have no clue how this creates identity crises for non whites.  Non whites see more bias in environments that strive for color blindness than in businesses that acknowledge differences.  This post is a must read.  I wanted to quote from it but I think it needs to be read in it's entirety.  It made me think of the issue of all black student groups on college campuses.  These groups have been criticized as a regression from the progress made concerning race over the past few decades.  Yet I have read that students in these groups perform better academically than their counterparts who are more "assimilated."  How should this affect thinking on reconciliation?

Gilbreath and I do not agree on everything.  He voted for Obama; I did not.  Yet there is no condemnation in his tone for those who he doesn't see eye to eye with. I wish the same could be said of other bloggers who write on the issue of race, and when I write this, I am referring almost exclusively to white bloggers on the left. Just today he posted an article on a book entitled "Divided By Faith" which states that Evangelical theology actually makes racial reconciliation more difficult.  I have not read this book, nor have I read Gilbreath's own book on the subject, "Reconiliation Blues."  This opinion concerning Evangelical theology certainly causes me to defend it as a first response.  I am sure I would take issue with some arguements from either work.  Yet after becoming more familiar with Gilbreath's work, I know there is a possibility that some of my assumptions may have to change.  I have been intending to read "Reconciliation Blues."  Hopefully I will get to it next year.  (I do not feel justified in buying more books until I have read some I already have, especially those I bought while in seminary.)

The "Reconciliation Blog" is not updated often.  Gilbreath is focused upon his other blog, "Urban Faith," which will be explored on this blog in a future post.            

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

Is. 1:18- " 'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' "

This is a much quoted verse in imploring lost souls to repent and be saved.  Some take the first portion of it, "Come now, and let us reason together," interpreting it to mean that God and sinners work out a contract between each other. But, of course, God is the one who alone who sets the terms of salvation: "...For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Is. 1:20.  Man is to be willing and obedient if he is to be blessed.  Is. 1:18-20 can be seen as a warning against individual inward impurity, the evil desires harbored secretly until acted out before all to see.

 Yet what are the sins Isaiah is refering to here?  Isaiah is speaking for the Lord in rebuking the oppression of the defenseless, the poor, the fatherless, the widow in the land of Israel.  Isaiah charges that though worship of the Lord in Israel still takes place, the worshippers' hands are full of blood. (Is. 1:15) Isaiah commands that Israelites cleanse themselves of impurity.  This cleansing is to have certain specified salutory effects on their behavior to society's weakest: " Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Is. 1:16-17) God, speaking through Isaiah, told the Israelites that these sins rendered their worship false and detestable in God's eyes. (Is. 10-15)  And God, speaking through Isaiah, warned Israel that without repentance, destruction would surely come. (Is. 1:20)

Today, this warning can legitimately be applied by individual believers to their lives.  Not to be involved in ministry to the vulnerable indicates a heart not fully in tune with a holy God.  One of the meanings of the word "charity" in Greek is "to suffer along side of."  Giving money to needs is not adequate; we must be involved in individual's lives, seeking not only the releif of immediate needs, but the transformation of individuals into disciples of Christ.

The Church can also employ the standard spoken of by Isaiah to call society into account.  The Church, at least part of it in America, campaigned against slavery.  The Church, at least part of it, struggled to make the indigent able to care for themselves.  The Church, at least part of it, fought against the abuses of industry.  Today the Church, at least part of it, defends the unborn and the disabled.  Recently, the Church has pioneered the fight against sex-trafficing and forced prostitution in the U.S. and around the world.  And the Church, at least part of it, continues to show God's love to the poor.  We need to examine ourselves individually to see if our hearts are aligned with God on these issues.  We must train disciples to engage in what Wesley called "Social holiness."  Wesley's ministry in England prevented that country from experiencing a revolution like France's.  Even secular historians acknowledge this.  In this day, we have let the government take over the Church's role of helping the weak, with the result that the weak become further ensnared in what brought about their weak state to begin with.  This has resulted in the Church losing much of its prophetic voice in the 20th century.  This is a major reason the Church appears impotent and irrelevant today.  And it up to today's disciples of Christ to recover this prophetic voice.  Not to do so is sin indeed.    

Friday, October 1, 2010

To Those Evangelicals Who Oppose Sarah Palin, This Post Is For You

Did you know that there are seventeen female members of the U.S. Senate and that all of them, including the four Republicans, support the decision in Roe v. Wade? That figure may change as at least four of the women running for the Senate this year as Republicans are pro-life.  That these women were nominated is due in large part to Sarah Palin.  Yet there are many who label themselves evangelicals who wish Palin had never appeared on the public scene, who thinks she is an embarrassment, who opposes everything she stands for.  This post is for you.  If Palin is able to reverse the institutional support for abortion on demand by supporting pro-life candidates and possibly as President, don't you think that outcome outweighs any objection you have to her positions on issues and her person?  Are your objections so great that they would in your mind outweigh her influence on a party and government policy toward a pro-life mindset?  Talk to me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Threats To Christian Conscience

The federal Department of Education is on the verge of taking control of private colleges and universities.  It has informed Congress of it's intention to remove these educational institutions from the authority of independent accrediting agencies and placing them under the authority of state governments.  This would put government bureacrats in a position to determine course content and guidelines for hiring faculty and staff.  This unprecedented power grab is an attempt to enforce liberal orthodoxy in the fields of history, political science, sociology, law, science and religion. If you think I am unwarranted in this assessment, consider this: The Congress is debating an amendment to a House of Representitives bill (HR 5466) mandating that faith based groups that receive federal funds may not take religious criteria into account when hiring workers. This provision is sponsored by the not too soon to be departing Patrick Kennedy.  "The law has long protected the religious freedom of both the people who receive government-funded services, and the groups that provide the services – long before President Obama, and long before President Bush,” said Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel of USCCB, in a statement. “Stripping away the religious hiring rights of religious service providers violates the principle of religious freedom, and represents bad practice in the delivery of social services." (From article linked to above.) One can see a more than a trend.  This is naked attempt to seize control of the thought life and ethical standards of the American public in the wake of a probable public repudiation of increased federal control over our lives which will take place this November. Not only is Christian conscience in the university and the market place under threat from without, but there are threats from within as well.  It is no secret that universities have been engaged in thought control aimed at viewpoints at odds with secular orthodoxies in various academic disciplines.  In the field of counseling, Christian students have been told that if they did not change their beliefs concerning same-sex relationships, they would not graduate. A student at Eastern Michigan University was assigned to counsel a person who was seeking assistance with a same-sex relationship.  The student notified her supervisor who reaasigned the person to a different counselor.  Yet the University informed the student that if she wished to remain in the counseling program, she had to go through a "remediation program" aimed at changing her religious beliefs concerning same-sex relationships. (For background, see here.)  Some colleges don't even wait for a conflict to arise before they attempt to enforce thought control upon Christian students.  At Augusta State University in Georgia, a Christian counseling student's views concerning same-sex relationships became known to her professors.  They told her she must enroll in sensitivity training courses and participate in activities promoting same-sex life styles.  She was told by the University that her beliefs were incompatible with the counseling profession and if she didn't change them, she would not graduate from the counseling program.  Meanwhile, in North Carolina, members of the North Carolina bar are attempting to alter the state code of ethics to prohibit lawyers from taking sexual orientation or "gender identity" (practices such as pedophilia or polygamy) into account when hiring or choosing which clients to represent. (originally seen at Ken Ham's blog.) Christians in the U.S. certainly don't suffer persecution as Chrisitians do overseas.  Yet there is a very real threat to Christian practice in the secular marketplace.  While we must actively oppose these attempts to dictate our beliefs and practices, in the end, the only effective weapon we have is prayer and an effective Chrisitan witness.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biblical Archeology

Here are some links concerning Biblical Archeology from this year:

From Ben Witherington's blog: Pictures from the excavation of Ephesian terrace houses which shed light on Paul's ministry in Ephesus.  It might take two attempts before you can see the pictures.

Also from Witherington: The Gobeckli Tepe, the earliest temple known to have been built.  Its discovery debunks the notion that civilization begat religion, but in actuality, it was religion that precipitated the formation of civilization, particularly urbanization and large-scale agriculture.  Witherington also posted video of the site.  See here.

From Darrell Bock's blog: An ancient wall from Solomon's Temple verifies the Old Testament account of Solomon's kingdom.

New Findings suggest The Dead Sea Scrolls were not the work of the Esscenes but by 2nd Century B.C. Temple priests exiled after the royal takeover of the Temple in Jerusalem.  From Gene Vieth's blog.

Dr. Claude Mariottini explains the process of Carbon-14 dating.  He includes a video presentation.

Carbon 14 dating shows that these manuscripts could be the second oldest existing complete Christian text. Sent to me by Dave Bartlett.

The discovery of a statue of the Moabite god Hadad.  From Dr. Mariotinni's blog. Also from Mariotinni's blog: the discovery of a new Sumerian temple and new discoveries concerning the building of the Pyramids.

Finally, two artcles from Victor Reppert dealing with how archeological discoveries have dealt a blow to theories that question the historicity of Scripture. See here and here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christian Presence

Long ago I noticed that many Christians arrange their lives so they have no contact with the secular world.  Many want to live far out in the country so they don't have to deal with urban areas, which is where most of the lost dwell.  They read in scriptures that we are not to love the world, so they shun the world.  Yet they spend big bucks for Christian entertainment to deal with the same emptiness that unsaved people try to supress through secular entertainment.  All the while, the Church makes little impact on society.  Here is the way K.P. Yohannan describes the situation:

"What does the Lord Jesus think of our religious merry-go-round?

"The question that must be asked of every Christian activity we support is simply this:  'Will this event create any impact on a lost and dying world?'  If the answer is no then we must reconsider sponsoring it.  We must ask if this is something from our agenda or His.

" 'But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.' (James 1:22)

"We have switched to a retreat and survival mode.  Actually confronting the takeover of our school systems and institutions by decades of secular humanism is too much of a strain for our kind of religion.  That would require going out and witnessing to the publicans and sinners of our day. 

"So we are running into temporary survival shelters such as Christian schools, religious radio and TV broadcasts, Christian concerts and a myriad of other escapisms.

"The controlling force behind this massive retreat from the post- Christian, secularized culture of the West is fear rather than holiness.  It is laziness rather than righteousness.  And it is born from a lack of love rather than a genuine desire for seperation.  (Emphasis mine-JHG)  Could it be that these 'good things' are really enemies of the best?

" 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.'  (2Timothy 1:7)"

From "The Road To Reality: Coming Home To Jesus From The Unreal World."

I decided to post this in place of "Monday Morning Devotions" this week.   

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"We Are All Free To Choose, But We Are All Slaves To The Consequences."

The quote above was spoken by my pastor in a sermon a few weeks ago.  What is your opinion concerning it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Morning Devotions

1Jn. 2:25- "And this is the promise that He has promised us--eternal life."

Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (Jn. 8:44)  Satan tells us many lies.  But what is Satan's greatest lie?  That Jesus is not the Son of God, that Jesus is not the Christ. 

There is a difference between a created being and a begotten one.  Man is a created being.  When humans reproduce children, they beget children.  Humans reproduce, or beget, of their own kind.  None of us were begotten of the heavenly Father because we are not of the same kind as the Father.  We were created by the Father out of material not of His own being, out of material He created out of nothing.  Jesus is the Father's only begotten Son, He is of the same kind as the Father.  Jesus and the Father are one.  If Jesus is not the only begotten Son of the Father, then His sacrifice for our sins would have been for nothing.  Only a perfect sacrifice would meet the demands of the Father's justice, and if Jesus was merely human, not the only begotten Son, then He would not be the perfect sacrifice, for He would be tainted by sin as well.  If this were the case, Jesus would not be the Christ, the Messiah sent from the Father. 

Those that deny that Jesus is the Christ, John calls anti Christ. (1Jn. 2:22)  If we abide in the truth that Jesus is the Christ, which we heard from the beginning, then we abide in the Father and the Son. (v. 23-24)  Today there are some who believe truth or doctrine is not as important as doing what Jesus did.  Their favorite quotation is from St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words."  Yet if we abide in the truth, we abide in both the Father and the Son.  Those who deny the doctrines concerning the Son does not have the Father. (v. 23)  Abiding in both the Father and the Son qualifies us to receive the promise of eternal life. (v. 25)  We don't understand much concerning the Trinity; there is so much about it that is a mystery.  Yet all who do put their faith in Christ are taught by the Holy Spirit that the doctrine of the Trinity is true. (v. 27)  To abide in Christ is not only to seek to be Christian in action, but also to be truthful in knowing and teaching others who Christ really is.  We cannot abide in His person without abiding in correct doctrine concerning Him.  We cannot have the eternal life promise to us if we do not abide in correct doctrine.    

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wesley Biblical Seminary Has A New President

WBS President Dr. Ron Smith stepped down from his position earlier this year.  He will work full-time with the Francis Asbury Society as well as serve as scholar in residence at Asbury Theological Seminary.  Dr. Smith will be replaced by Dr. Jim Porter.  As WBS is my theological alma mater, I pray for his success in leading WBS in meeting the challenges ahead.  I wish Ron Smith well in his new position.  I will be sorry not to see him in future visits to the seminary.

Recently I have had some dialogue with some lamenting the liberal direction Methodist/Wesleyan seminaries have taken.  This has not been the case with WBS.  As I heard Dr. Porter reaffirm WBS's doctrinal stand that Scripture is both infallible and inerrant, those seeking a conservative seminary affirming Wesleyan holiness teaching will find a true home at WBS. They will also be trained to apply their theology to ministry.

Here is a link to a video from the television series "Revelations" about WBS made before Dr. Smith stepped down.  It is over 7 minutes.