Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD: Athanasius “Defense of the Nicene Definition”[1]

 

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Athanasius Defense of the Nicene Definition[1]

In his letter defending the Nicene Definition, Athanasius concerns himself with several charges laid against the Nicene Council.

Defining Begotten

The term begotten is the springboard from which the Arians viewed Christ not as the Creator, but rather as a creature of the Father.  The first begotten Son, after being created, became the means by which the Father created all other things.  Hence, this creature cannot be the same essence as the Father, and as such is not True God.  Athanasius responds with several arguments.  Two considerations follow.

Man’s Contingency & God’s Necessity

First, he considers man’s contingency and God’s necessity and relates it to our natures.  He points out that in order for man to create there must already exist material, whereas for God to create, he only has to speak the word ex-nihilo.  He continues and points out that man’s generation is in one way, and the Son’s from the Father is another.  Man’s offspring by nature is compounded in begetting children, but God who by nature is uncompounded, is Father of the One Only Son.  That is to say, that the Son is eternally generated from the Father, for in that God ever is, He is ever the Father of the Son.  Athanasius follows this argument and supports it with Scriptures (Mt.9: 27; Heb.1: 3; Ps.36: 9; Jn.14: 9).

Confronting the Arian’s Misinterpretation of Scripture

Second, Athanasius is aware of how the Arians misinterpret Scripture.  They argue for the creation of Christ from Proverbs 8:22 “The Lord created me a beginning of His ways unto His works” and his response is that it does refer to the Son in his humanity, for creation belongs to man.  Moreover, just as we do not lose our proper substance when we receive the Spirit, so Christ did not lose his substance of deity when he became man, but rather he deified and rendered it immortal.  Athansius then continues explaining the Catholic sense of the word Son, and asserts that his name implies eternal.

 The Phrases “From the Essence” and “One in Essence.” 

The Arian’s complain that the terms, “Of the essence” and “One in essence” is not Scriptural.  Athanasius quickly exposes their hypocrisy by asking “why do they [Arians] use phrases like ‘He was not before His generation,’ and ‘once he was not,’ and ‘out of nothing,’ and ‘pre-existence,’ which are clearly not Scriptural.”  He then indicts them of making up fables and mocking the Lord.  He then explains the reason for the usage of these phrases and their meaning.

 “From God”

The phrase ‘from God’ was understood by the Arians to mean that Christ, like men, is the offspring of God.  To combat the heterodoxy, they chose the phrase ‘from the essence of God’ so that the Son would not be seen as a creature, but rather as the Word, which is from the Father, who is the originator of all things, truly from God.  This phrase was installed to prevent any deception from the Arians.

 “One in Essence”

The phrase ‘one in essence’ describes the indivisibility of the Father and the Son, and it was written by the Council to defeat the twisted heretics, and to show that the Word is not a mutable creature, but rather the Creator of all creatures, of all things.  Moreover, the Council anathematized the Arian doctrine, and Athanasius then challenges the Arians to refute the Council’s position.  If they can, then “anathematize” the anathema of the Council.  If there are those who think the phrase is strange, Athanasius affirms that this is so because they are not understood with the intended meaning of the Council.  Hence, Athanasius is essentially telling the Arians to “put up or shut up.”

Athanasius continues and sites several authorities that agree with the Council on the phraseology, and finishes the letter by grappling with the unscriptural term unoriginate that the Arian’s borrowed from the Greeks.

[1] Athanasius,  “Defense of the Nicene Definition,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series,

Volume IV, Pp.150-172, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996)

 

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Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD “Athanasius, On The Incarnation”[1]

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The Universe’s Creation

In his letter On The Incarnation, Athanasius first grounds his apologetic of the incarnation on the universe’s creation.  He does this by addressing fallacious views of creation, the first of which is Epicureanism (fortuitous generation).  They contend that everything is its own cause and is independent of any purpose, but Athanasius argues that the diversity of bodies and parts actually supports an intelligent, creating designer.  Then there are the Platonists (pre-existent matter).  They purport that God created the world with the matter that already existed; in other words, God is seen as a mechanic using available material to construct the universe.  Athanasius contends that this view weakens God, for he could not create the material needed to construct the universe.  But He could not in any sense be called Creator unless He is Creator of the material with which all things have been made.  Moreover he accentuates that the world as well as humans were made ex-nihilo and that Scripture attests to this.  But when Adam disobeyed, the promise of death had to be met out.  Yet, in keeping with God’s goodness, He could not allow his creation, especially his image bearers, his rational creatures to continue in a corrupt state.  Thus, he sent the incorporeal immaterial One who has always been, and through the incarnation takes a body of our nature, and reveals Himself, in order to conquer death and restore life back to us.

The Reason for the Incarnation

Second, Athanasius asserts that the reason for the incarnation was to give man the knowledge of Himself.  For, to be destitute of the knowledge of God is equivalent to a purposeless existence.  Hence, in the incarnation man can get a “front row seat” and somewhat understand the Father and their Maker, and as a result have a happy and blessed life.  But man rejected the knowledge of God (which is the equivalent of irrationality for Athanasius) and replaced it with idolatry, witchcraft, and astrology, even though the creation along with the Law and Prophets gave further attestation to the Creator.  Such darkness prevented man from understanding the knowledge of God, and as such, only the Lord Jesus Christ could bring about such knowledge to man.  In His mercy, he condescended to man to save the lost.

God’s Ubiquity Not Affected by the Incarnation

Third, the incarnation affected not his ubiquity, for even though he was in a body, he never ceased being the sustainer of all things.  He maintained the same nature (separate from the creation).  Moreover, his miraculous acts (healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead) his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead, testified to his dominion over creation and as such, to his deity.  His public death among other things did not show weakness, but rather it demonstrated strength.  It was the means by which he would destroy death, while simultaneously through the resurrection manifest the monument of victory over death.  His public death was also necessary for the doctrine of the resurrection to be believed as a historical event, rather than a mere fable, both by his disciples and those who would later believe.  Christ’s death on the cross, demonstrated his bearing the curse on our stead, for “Cursed is he that hangs on a tree.”  This death and resurrection secures for the believer the joy of life, rather than the torment of death.  For, just as Christ is the first fruits of life, through the resurrection, believers will follow in like manner.  Hence the fear of death to man is overthrown.  Death is swallowed up in victory!

Proofs for the Resurrection

Fourth, the resurrection has many proofs to its veracity.  First of all, the fact that men from all cultures are turning to faith in Christ points to him being alive, not dead.  Second, being the source of life, it was impossible for him not to bring his body back to life.  Third, even if God is invisible, the fact that his works of casting out demons and overcoming idolatry through his people is manifest are proof of the resurrection.  For, demons would scarcely obey in the name of a dead man, but rather in the name of the One risen.

Responding to the Jews Concerning Christ’s Person from the Old and New Testaments

Fifth, Athanasius answers the unbelieving Jews by using the Scriptures to argue for the incarnation with many references.  He starts with the virgin birth (Mt.1: 23, cf; Is. 7:14), and moves on to Moses’ prediction (Num.14: 5-17; Is. 8:4), his living place (Hos. 9:1), his death (Is. 53:3), his birth and death on the cross (Jer.9: 19; Ps.22: 16; Is.9: 10), his miracles (Is.65: 1-2, Rom.10: 20; Is.35: 3) and more scripture.  He then argues from the withdrawal of prophecy and the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt.11: 13; Lk.16: 16), and points to the fact that it was the Lord himself that would save us (Is.63: 9).

Unbelief of the Greeks Addressed

Sixth, Athanasius addresses the unbelief of the Greeks concerning the absurdity of the incarnation and he points out that it is no problem for Christ to manifest in a body if in fact the Logos Manifests Himself in creation.  Moreover, his manifestation in a body is grounded on his relation to Creation as a whole.  Hence, because he wanted to reveal himself to man, he became man.  Another line of argument concerns the reason for the incarnation.  Since man is the only creature that sinned, he would not see or recognize the Creator through his works, so through the incarnation he manifested his works among them.  He continues with many other proofs to counter their scoffing, but ends his letter with an exhortation for those who love knowledge to find it where it only resides: in Christ, where it’s attained through virtuous living that’s grounded in loving the Logos who is blessed forever more.

[1] Athanasius, “On The Incarnation of The Word,” The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series,

Volume IV, p.36 (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

 

Reflections From ISAIAH 3: THE LORD GOD OF HOSTS…FEAR HIM

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The topic of, “fearing God” from texts of the Old Testament are a puzzle to many of us for many reasons chief among which is the tendency to pick and choose what we like and we confuse the continuity and discontinuity of the Old and New Testament.

Preference not objective truth is often our guiding “compass”.

What I mean is that many professing believers happily embrace a God of love but one of fear and judgment they utterly reject.  If that’s you, friend, then how do you make sense out of the Gospel of Christ?

Why then was he brutally murdered on that bloody cross?  Is it not because God’s love and justice demanded it?  Is it not because the first Adam rebelled against the Holy One of Israel and plunged mankind into an eternal death sentence where the Creator became our enemy?  And was it not necessary for the last Adam to rectify this mess (which the first Adam plunged humanity into) to redeem us from God’s holy just wrath?

To fear God, among other things, means that we rightly relate to Him as Creator and understand that we are the creature (i.e., contingent, needy, and therefore dependent).  The pride in humanity pushes back and says, “I will be god, I’m self-sufficient”.  That’s the reason for wrath and the reason for judgment.

Moreover, to fear God means that those redeemed by His great mercy live according to His revealed truth because of His great love.  His word is their delight (even when it’s hard to understand and reconcile with life’s tragic experiences which are real).  Again, according to Solomon, the fear of the LORD is the pathway to knowledge and wisdom (See the proverbs).  But who is this one we are commanded to fear?

He is the changeless One (i.e., the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in the perfections of His being.  God’s attributes of being (self-existent, omni-present, omniscient, omnipotent, omnisapient, holy, loving, etc.) are simultaneously held.  This means that because God is holy and just, the judge will rightly deal with all wrongs and make them right.  Thus, when we His followers “pigeon hole” Him and reduce the Holy One to a one-dimensional being (God is love, which He is) we miss it and misrepresent the Savior.  He is the God of love, but He is also the Holy One who will judge the living and the dead.

Misunderstanding the continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments also plagues believers.

We also have difficulty with the topic of fearing God because of a gross disconnect believers have between the Old Testament and New Testament.  What for example applied to God’s people under the old covenant that now does not apply under the new covenant?

Christ’s atoning sacrifice on Calvary did away with the sacrificial system.  From the book of Hebrews we know that the sacrifices once performed under the old covenant are now obsolete because they pointed to the reality which is Christ our “Passover Lamb”, the “Lamb of God”.  Yet, as the Law of Moses forbade adultery, God still forbids it today.   And yes for His people.  To fear the LORD under the new covenant, the keeping of said law is evidence that we love God and fear His name (in word and deed).  It is not a yoke of bondage under the “letter of the law which kills” instead it’s the way human flourishing was designed to occur.

TEXT

For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah
Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread
And the whole supply of water;
The mighty man and the warrior,
The judge and the prophet,
The diviner and the elder,
The captain of fifty and the honorable man,
The counselor and the expert artisan,
And the skillful enchanter.
And I will make mere lads their princes,
And capricious children will rule over them,
And the people will be oppressed,
Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor;
The youth will storm against the elder
And the inferior against the honorable.
When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying,
“You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler,
And these ruins will be under your charge,”
He will protest on that day, saying,
“I will not be your healer,
For in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
You should not appoint me ruler of the people.”
For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen,
Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord,
To rebel against His glorious presence.  (vvs.1-8)

When we cease to fear the LORD God of hosts, we put ourselves in a position to bear his wrath generally and his discipline specifically.  God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  In this passage God’s opposition is weighty seen through His removal of supply for sustenance (bread & water), His removal of support for safety (the warrior and mighty man), His removal of guidance (prophet and judge), and His removal of industry (the counselor and expert artisan) is simply devastating.

Solomon says that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and understanding and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” yet God’s people lacked both and the consequences were ruinous.  Brazen rebellion will always result in the Creator being against the creature.  In verses (16-24) God declares to the gorgeous women who seduce their prey that their beauty He will reduce to an ugliness that reflects their hearts toward Him:

Moreover, the Lord said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud
And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, And go along with mincing steps And tinkle the bangles on their feet,
17 Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, And the Lord will make their foreheads bare.”

18 In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19 dangling earrings, bracelets, veils,20 headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21 finger rings, nose rings, 22 festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses,23 hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.

24 Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; Instead of a belt, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth;
And branding instead of beauty.

While we’re not Israel in America, we nevertheless reflect the bold rebellion of Jerusalem and Judah in our age.  So when the supplies run out and our support is no more and our humiliation is realized, will God act to bring His people back to Himself?  Absolutely He will but not before a severe administration of His discipline.

LORD be merciful to us, grant your people repentance, renew our love for You so that our character, holiness, love, wisdom, knowledge, beauty, judgments, compassion, ingenuity, etc. may find their true expression, the purpose for why we exist.

(SDG)

Summary of CHAPTER 3: FROM TECHNOCRACY TO TECHNOPOLY (Pgs.40-55)

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Recall that Technocracy concerns individuals who through their knowledge and power manage a society—sometimes coercing it with its wishes.  This coercion is accomplished through Technology which is the practical application of knowledge in order to accomplish a task through tools constructed.  These two lead to Technopoly which is a state of culture and mind where technology is deified; the culture finds its satisfaction in technology and thus takes its orders from it.

In this chapter, Postman accentuates the movers and shakers who embraced old technologies in order to make new ones and thus change our world forever which is possible only through the application of ideas.

According to Postman, James Watts and Adam Smith were pivotal in breaking free from medieval thought into the modern era.  James Watt’s invention of the steam engine (1765) with its practical energy and technical skills replaced the medieval manufacture (i.e., things made by hand) and forever changed the material and psychic environment of Western civilization.  Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations justified the transformation of small-scale, personalized skilled labor to a large-scale, impersonal mechanized production.  He argued that the key to wealth was not land but money and provided the principle of the self-regulating market.  In a technocracy (individuals who through their knowledge and power manage a society) the “unseen hand” eliminates the incompetent and rewards those who cheaply produce goods people want.

Other men like Richard Arkwright who developed the factory system (1780) for his cotton spinning mills, or Edmund Cartwright whose concept of the power loom (1806) revolutionized the textile industry by replacing skilled laborers with workers who merely kept the machines operating.

Inevitably machines to make machines came to fruition and are illustrative of the 19th century thirst for invention where the “how” of invention (i.e., the practicality and profit it produced) muted the “why” of its use (i.e., the implications of what it means to humanly flourish) where people became only a means to an end (i.e., “progress” at what cost?).

This revolution leveled the playing field between the Elites and the Masses, for now the new “Royalty” was not inherited but was earned through “smarts and guts”.  Moreover, the speed of life now trumped the contemplative life and the “Old Ways” were seen as obsolete—they were to be kept private.  Does this sound familiar today?  This arrogance of the present and disdain for the past is not new.

Postman notes several reasons for why Technopoly came to prominence in America.  First, the American character was formed by the wonder of the land and ever changing landscapes which linked the idea of newness with improvement.  This lent itself to a view that the impossible is possible and thus constraints on this idea were frowned upon.

Second, our genius and audacity in the likes of Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, etc. were labeled as “Robber Barons” for through their inventions America’s past was eradicated.  These men created the twentieth century and saw technological innovation as king, thus anything from the past that stands in the way of “progress” is not worth preserving.  In other words, the future need not be tied to the past.

Third, our love of luxuries replaced every Old World belief, habit, or tradition with a technological alternative; prayer was replaced by penicillin, familial roots were replaced by mobility, reading was replaced by television, restraint was replaced by immediate gratification, sin replaced by psychotherapy, political ideology was replaced through popular “scientific” polling.

Fourth, new beliefs trumped old beliefs were Nietzsche pronounced that God is dead, Darwin popularized naturalism as means to explain origins, Marx viewed history as deterministic and thus out of our hands, Freud held that our traditional views must be abandoned in order to understand ourselves, John Watson the founder of behaviorism believed that free will was an illusion, Einstein held that there was no absolute way to judge anything and everything was relative.

This century helped us lose confidence in our beliefs yet what could be counted on was our technology.  Thus, for these well-known reasons Americans were better prepared to take on the creation of Technopoly more than anyone else.

 

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD: Tertullian, Against Praxeas by Sergio Tangari

Tertullian

Tertullian, Against Praxeas[1]

In his letter Against Praxeas, Tertullian defends the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  He acknowledges that the heresy to be refuted is caused by Satan himself.  The heresy of Praxeas, “He says that the Father Himself came down into the virgin, was Himself born of her.  Himself suffered, indeed was himself Jesus Christ”.  These “tares” of Praxeas, force Tertullian to both explain the church’s position on the doctrine, and secondly move him to deal with the misapprehensions of the opposing view.

The Church’s Position

First, there is The Church’s Position.  There is only one God, but in the economy (i.e., the distinct roles each member of the triune Godhead fulfills) of the Godhead is the Son who proceeds from the Father, who created all things, who was sent into the virgin by the Father, and from the Father through the Son the Holy Spirit is sent.  Tertullian asserts that this rule of faith is not new, but rather has been handed down to the church from its inception.  The unity is one of substance (i.e., of nature—divine,), and the three-ness constitutes the persons Father, Son, and Spirit (i.e., one of identity—distinctions).

Objection Raised

Second, there is Praxeas’ Objection.  Although the following objection did not originate with Praxeas, the allegation raised against the church’s view of the Trinity, is that it leads people to either bi-theism (i.e., two Gods) or tri-theism (i.e., three Gods), whereas their view of God leads them to the true worship of the one God.  Moreover, they assert that their view maintains the sole monarchy of God, whereas the church’s view destroys it.  Tertullians’ essential response is that the unity of the monarchy is not destroyed, but rather it is preserved, if the Son and the Spirit are indeed sharers of the one monarchy.

 Varied Responses to Heresy

Third, there is Tertullians’ Varied Responses to the Heresy.  One response to the heresy is that the unity of the Godhead and the supremacy and sole government of the divine being are not impaired according to Catholic doctrine.  Tertullian argues that since the Son is derived from the substance of the Father, does only the will of the Father, and is given all power from the Father, then the Monarchy is not destroyed from the faith.  Moreover, since the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, the monarchy ends up not being destroyed, but rather, it is preserved.  Furthermore, the fact that the Son will restore the monarchy back to the Father, demonstrates the clear distinction of persons within the Godhead.  Henceforth, those who are claiming to preserve the sole monarchy are actually destroying it, because they are overthrowing the very arrangement and dispensation employed by God.

 Clarification of the Trinity

Fourth, Tertullian clarifies the Catholic rule of faith concerning the Trinity.  He argues that the Father, Son, and Spirit are a unity of substance, but are three distinct persons.  The Father is seen as the entire substance, the Son and the Spirit are derivations of that whole.  The distinction of persons can be seen in that the Father begets, and the Son is begotten, and the Son sends another Paraclete.  The distinction of persons is further seen in the names of Father, Son, and Spirit. 

 Monarchian Position not Coherent

Fifth, he shows the incoherence of the Monarchian position that maintains the Father is the Son and vice versa.  He does this by distinguishing being from having.  Tertullian argues that in order for a father to be one, he must first have a son.  Likewise, in order for a son to be one, he must first have a father.  Moreover, how can I be my own son, or be my own father?  The logic is faulty, and yet the Monarchian responds with “nothing is impossible with God!”   Tertullian’s challenge is to consider whether or not God has really done it.  For he reasons that God really could have made man with wings to fly, but reality does not bear it out, nor does the Monarchian argument for that matter.

 Scripture Must Ground Our Positions

Sixth, Tertullian then challenges Praxeas to biblically ground his position.  He then distorts a passage to make his point concerning the distinction between the Father and Son, “The Lord said unto Himself, I am my own son, today I have begotten myself “.  If this is the case, then God is a deceiver, an imposter, and a tamperer with His word.  But since the contrary obtains, the position asserted by Praxeas is egregiously false.

 Textual Evidence for Plurality of Persons

Seventh, he then demonstrates the scriptural basis for the plurality of persons (Gen.1: 3, 26-27; 3:22; Jn.1: 1, 3, 9), and the unity of substance within the Godhead as a remedy to combat polytheism (Ps.45: 6-7; Isa.45: 14-15; Jn. 1:1; etc.), and then chastises Praxeas for not accepting the clear declarations of scripture.

 Further Evidence From Both OT and NT

Eigth, Tertullian continues with scripture passages in the OT (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:13, 11; Num. 12:6-8; 1 Cor.13: 12; Mk. 9:4; Mt. 17:3; etc.) and in the NT (Jn.1: 1-2, 18; 4:12; 1 Cor.9: 1; 1 Tim. 4:16; etc.) demonstrating the Fathers’ invisibility and the Sons’ visibility.  Moreover, he deals with OT manifestations of Christ, with titles that both the Son and the Father share depicting their deity, and he abundantly shows how in Johns’ Gospel, the distinction of persons between the Father and Son obtain.

Tertullian not only sees that the doctrine of the Trinity is the great divide between Christianity and Judaism, but he also sees the Monarchian doctrine as blasphemous, and as such, damnable.

Many well-meaning professing believers today fall under the error of Praxeas punting to “nothing is impossible with God” God is “mysterious” and a host of other responses that undermine the clarity of Scripture concerning God’s nature and the distinction of persons within the Trinity.  While mystery obtains (e.g., Christ’s incarnation) it’s the duty of disciples to not take the Name of the LORD our God in vain (i.e., misrepresenting His Character or Being).

The doctrine of the Trinity is in fact one of the pillars of Christendom distinguishing it from all other beliefs, and it is foundational to understanding so much of Scripture.

(SDG)

[1]  Tertullian, “Against Praxeas,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, Pp.597-627, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1997)

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD by Sergio Tangari

Justin-Martyr

Justin Martyr, First Apology[1]

In his first Apology, Justin addresses the Roman Emperor; Pius Augustus Caesar, his sons Versimmus and Lucius, both of which are philosophers, the Senate and all of the Roman people.  Martyr’s chief concern is regarding the injustice Christians are suffering at the hands of Roman authorities.  The Christian worldview is being egregiously misrepresented, and as such, Justin challenges these “lovers of truth” (the philosophers) to listen to reason, and to investigate to see whether or not the allegations raised against believers are warranted.

First, Christians are being condemned for simply bearing the name.  Justin points out that a mere name does not constitute whether one is evil or good, but rather the actions one does or does not commit should condemn or acquit them.

Second, Christians are charged of being atheists and Justin points out that they are atheists of a certain kind.  This atheism is not equivalent to our modern usage of the word.  Instead, it concerns the refusal of Christians to worship the pantheon of Roman gods, which Justin rightly labels as “demons”, which are not gods at all.  Instead Christians acknowledge only Jesus Christ as God, the only one worthy to be worshipped.

Third, Justin accentuates the need for Christians individually to be tried to see if they actually are evildoers, and if found guilty, they ought to be punished.  But to merely condemn one for bearing the name “Christian” lacks reason, and it is a travesty of justice.

Fourth, Justin points out the foolishness of idol worship and demonstrates how God is to be served.  Idols are nothing but soulless dead representations of contingent beings (creatures) and as such, to worship them is not only senseless but an offense to God (creator).  Since God is the only necessary being, he is the source of all things, and as such, the service that God accepts, must conform to the excellencies that reside in Him.  Moreover, Justin points out that the Christians worship is rational and is based on Christ’s teaching, who among other things, calls all men to repentance from dead works to serve the living God.

Fifth, Justin continues with a litany of Christ’s teaching found in the Gospels.  Concerning truth telling, the believer is to let “your yes be yes, and your no, no”.   Regarding civil obedience, give to Caesar what belongs to him, and to God what belongs to Him.  Here, Justin distinguishes the proper relationship the Christian is to have with the state and with God.

Sixth, Justin answers the heathen analogies to Christian doctrine, to the history of Christ and to his Sonship and points out that although there are similarities, truth and redemption are only found in Christ Jesus the Lord.  Since the aforementioned obtains, Christians have abandoned the worship of false gods, the practice of sorcery, and promiscuous behavior.

Seventh, Martyr points out that the life and works of Christ are predicted in the Hebrew prophets, and as such uses fulfilled prophecy to argue for the veracity of Christian doctrine.  He starts off with Moses describing the time of Jesus’ coming and his passion.  Then Isaiah (the most quoted prophet) describes the predicted virgin birth, reign, and crucifixion of Christ, while Micah describes Bethlehem as the place of his birth.  Furthermore, the Psalmist predicts his incarnation, crucifixion, and ascension.   Justin also points out that Judea’s desolation, Christ’s healing ministry, and rejection by the Jews are also foretold.  Hence, if what was foretold has already been fulfilled, for Justin, it stands to reason that the predictions not yet fulfilled, will be.  And are thus worthy to be believed.

Eighth, Justin explains that even though demons have instituted the rite of baptism in their temples, true baptism is reserved only for those who are born again.  He continues to explain that partaking of the Eucharist is reserved only for those who have been regenerated and baptized.  He finally explains the reason they worship on Sunday and explains their liturgy.

Justin concludes his letter in the manner in which he started, he appeals to reason and justice. He challenges his audience, if the material presented is reasonable and true, and then they should honor it and not decree the innocent to be killed.  If it is nonsensical, they should totally disregard it. He then warns them that they will not escape the coming judgment of God if they do not stop their injustice.

[1] Martyr, Justin, “The First Apology of Justin,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, pp.163-187,) T & T

Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD by Sergio Tangari

1

Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp

Ignatius like Polycarp comprised part of the band of disciples after the apostles.  They are known as the “Apostolic Fathers” the bishop of Smyrna, a disciple of the apostle John

While Ignatius highly esteems Polycarp and feels privileged to behold him, nevertheless he commends and exhorts the bishop of Smyrna for many things.  Polycarp is commended for his steadfastness in the faith and is exhorted to be constant in evangelism, diligent in intercessions, focused on church unity, winsome in his speech, sober as God’s athlete who awaits his eternal reward.  Moreover, Polycarp is exhorted to consider the times and zealously contend for the faith, which is being challenged with false doctrine.

Polycarp now focuses on household codes.  Concerning widows, they are to be nurtured, protected and befriended.  Concerning slaves, both male and female are to be treated with dignity.  If marriage is to honor God, it must be patterned after Christ’s relationship with his church, and the husband/wife union must have the bishop’s approval.  To heed the bishop results in God heeding the flock, the goal of which is the unity of the body.  Finally, Polycarp is exhorted to appoint a Messenger in Antioch for the work of the gospel.

This is definitely not business as usual.  Note the preoccupation Ignatius reveals with eternal issues in correspondence to the Great Commission (MT. 28:18-20):

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

To accomplish Christ’s command, Ignatius understood the urgent need for Polycarp to practice the things exhorted (i.e., evangelism, intercessions, church unity, gracious speech, etc.)

It’s uncanny how relevant this letter was then and is so today.  These exhortations are pointed, concise, and conspicuously God centered.  Christians would do well to pattern their discipleship according to this brief powerful letter.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 “HOW CAN WE HONOR ONE ANOTHER IN THE MARRIAGE UNION?”

1-corinthians

            In chapter 7 Paul continues the theme of believers walking uprightly in our relationships.  Because of Christ’s atonement (i.e., his sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection for those who trust in him) God is glorified in our bodies.  How?  Let’s read:

“Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.(1 Cor.7:1-5)

Let’s make several observations.  First, it’s good to be single.  Apparently someone had previously written to Paul from Corinth concerning the state of the church and wrote: “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Here, he can’t mean that there is to be no physical contact because he would be contradicting his command elsewhere to greet one another with a holy kiss.

Contextually, this has to do with sexual intercourse as the following verses unfold.  What’s “good” about a man not touching a woman?  It seems he’s referring to the virtue of being unmarried for the purpose of glorifying God and being about the business of the kingdom as the rest of the chapter depicts.  That is, singleness in the church is not to be frowned upon, but rather appreciated and lauded.

As the self-existent One, who is the source of all life, the virtue of goodness is necessarily based on God’s ontological status (i.e., the divine nature in all its perfections shared by each member of the trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) and thus the Creator rather than the creature determines what is good.  Here, to be single is good, but immorality is not and thus a real problem.  Thus, Paul offers a “game changer”, as we say.

Second, it’s good to be married.  While singleness is a good thing, it’s not if immorality is a struggle, thus, marriage is the good option Paul commands:  But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.  The clause, “But because of immoralities” calls attention to sexual sin contextually (6:12-20) and offers the solution “each man is to have his own wife and likewise also the wife to her husband”.  There are several observations that can be noted.

First, each man is to be devoted to the one woman he has entered into covenant with and not another wife.  Second, that being the case, the singular term “wife” not wives supports monogamy, not polygamy. Third, this is a safeguard for those longing to sexually express themselves within the context of a one flesh union between a man and a woman.  Fourth, this contradicts the in vogue notion of “same-sex marriage” that many in Western civilization have embraced.  Fifth, the same holds true for women.  Sixth, both male and female have a bent to immorality, both are culpable before Gods’ court of justice, and both are graciously given a solution—marriage.  Now in this covenant relationship there are duties given for flourishing to obtain.

Third, duties obtain for both man and woman.  Paul continues his thought and describes the duties both husband and wife are to fulfill toward each another.  When Paul says; v-3 “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband” he makes abundantly clear that they equally share the responsibility to make the marriage union flourish.

First, Paul grounds his command of duty/fulfillment on the idea and reality that “authority” over the other’s body is a non-negotiable.  What does authority here mean?  On the surface, biblically when one has authority over another they possess the power to command persons (and affect them) to live a certain way, to do certain things.  This attribute of authority again is grounded in God’s being—one way image bearers express the Creators presence, objective reality, His existence.

Second, Paul is sounding the alarm when he states in v-4:  “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” 

The alarm here is that both husband and wife belong to each other, they are distinct persons, but have a one flesh union which forever changes how they are to live.  It seems clear that they are not “free” to make autonomous sexual decisions, but instead are to always submit to the desires of each other within God’s design for sexuality (which clearly exclude bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexual adultery, etc.), but not as clearly when it deals with oral copulation.

When we consider a text that does not give us specifics (e.g., Paul here does not specify what I brought up), a wise approach to get at the meaning of a biblical text, is to consider the entirety of what Scripture teaches (on a given topic) deal first with the clearest texts and then proceed to the more obscure texts.  By this approach, the obscurity, while not completely removed, does have more light shed on it by the clearer passages in scripture.  After Paul describes both duties and authority, he commands both husband and wife to obey.

Fourth, husbands and wives are commanded to stop sinning against each other.  Paul gives a prohibition because then like today, husbands and wives were sinning against each other by depriving each other of sexual intimacy v-5; “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

To deprive means to withhold something good possessed by one for the benefit of another—the covenant spouse here.  That is, if one spouse desires sexual relations the other is to concede.  Only by mutual agreement is the married couple to withhold sexual relations.

This opens up a “can of worms” that’s filled with pain, manipulation, and abuse which reveals our brokenness as people.  Nevertheless, we must understand that what fuels this command is love for God and Christ Jesus (though imperfectly expressed) in the marriage union between a man and a woman.

Men often don’t walk in a loving manner toward their wives and wives accordingly to their husbands.  The reason for such turmoil is the real distinctions between men and women.  The lack of appreciation and understanding of these distinctions has from Adam and Eve unto today been a real problem.   That is, according to God’s design, a man’s greatest need is to be respected, while a woman’s supreme need is to be loved.  And while the needs are distinct, both spouses are commanded to honor one another.

The prohibition to “stop depriving one another” means that if that’s presently the case, it is to cease in the present.  Yet, if mutual consent to withhold obtains, it’s for a very practical purpose; “so that you may devote yourselves to prayer”.  Could it be that Paul is commanding the spouses to entreat God with the same passion with which they sexually pleasure each other?  I don’t see why not, but this activity of intimacy between spouse and God has a “time” or “duration” of activity not specified.

There’s a time for everything under heaven Solomon wrote and here Paul is saying to married couples, “there’s a time for sex and a time to refrain in order to pray”.  Whatever the duration here, the key is that the spouses are in agreement.  So there’s a time for sex and a time for prayer, but he does not end it there.

Paul finishes the command and provides the reason for it: “and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.  Both spouses are addressed because when marriages fail and adultery occurs there’s usually culpability from both parties.  Paul is alluding to the practical need for sexual relations to continue when he says, “come together again” for the purpose of denuding satanic temptation to commit adultery.

The reason for the command is because there’s a lack of self-control, thus the loving act for the spouses to do is to sexually fulfill each other (however imperfectly it may be done).  Obedience here is the path of holiness to the LORD which is our highest good and joy.

These verses unfold the gravity of marriage and their reflection of God’s love and care for His people.  Elsewhere Paul explains that marriage is the mystery unveiled of Christ and His union with the Church (Eph.5).

We live in a time where “sexual liberation” is lauded in a way that actually dishonors God and thus dishonors human beings.  Sexuality expressed according to God’s design is magnificent, when it goes awry, while for a time may be exhilarating, will in the end be another means for human destruction.  God have mercy on our souls and bodies.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 7: PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE & SINGLENESS AS EXPRESSIONS OF LOVE FOR CHRIST

1-corinthians

             Paul continues his instruction to the called saints who are in the world but not of it.  In chapter 5 the apostle tackles the issue of immorality caused by the Corinthians’ pride and warns of God’s looming judgment as the impetus for repentance.

In chapter 6 Paul continues to address the believers’ immorality and resultant ineptness to wisely judge among themselves when being defrauded by another professing Christian.  He then points to Christ’s atonement as the basis for believers to humble themselves before God and each other.  It’s humility that safeguards God’s people from sexual immorality which is for their good, not harm.

In chapter 7 Paul addresses the aspects of marriage, singleness, divorce, separation and remarriage.  These were massive issues then as they are today.  These issues are emotionally charged, and often difficult to grapple with because what can be a joyous relationship too often becomes a miserable existence for image bearers.  Our brokenness has not served us well.

The sexual tension that both married and single experience has not changed and the views in said realities either reflect Gods’ design or rejects it.    Since this letter is for believers and how they are to conduct their lives before the consummation, it’s critical to heed Paul’s teaching (Christ’s authoritative spokesman), and if non-believers mock and contradict what Scripture teaches, God will deal with them.

In the church the sexual confusion over male/female distinctions has adversely impacted our marriages resulting in the divorce of many couples.  Much of this is because God’s people make a habit of ignoring their inheritance—the Word of life, the Scriptures, which bring light to our darkened minds and restoration to our broken dispositions.   Too often (in the name of love) believers unwittingly imbibe a Godless worldview in order to be “relevant” to the culture.  Ironically, the Christian is most relevant when the word of life is spoken and practiced before the watching world not ignored.

In what follows, Paul is going to challenge 21st century believers with what it means to be loving, what it means to be salt and light, what it means to be presently relevant by lauding God’s truth not lies (because we love Christ) in the context of our most cherished relationships.

(SDG)

Now Available in Summary form “THE CREATION HYPOTHESIS” Editor J.P. Moreland

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In  The Creation Hypothesis_  J.P. Moreland and others  argue for the possibility of an intelligent designer as an alternative to Darwinian evolution concerning the question of origins.

The apologetic value of the book, other than the extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter, is the scientific evidence that argues strongly on behalf of an intelligent designer and as such, it seems to be a useful tool for dialogue with naturalistic skeptics.

Moreover, it’s also a much needed tool to educate the church who have unwittingly swallowed a naturalistic worldview, and as such, have crippled many in their respective vocations (be it biology, education, law, philosophy, etc.) to letting their light shine for Christ