Summary of Chapter 3: The Middle Ages_Part 3_MISSIONARY APOLOGISTS A.D. 1250-1320 [Pp.94-98]

 

images            Raymond Martini (C. 1220-C. 1285) was a Catalan Dominican who wrote several works.  There’s Explanatio Symboli Apostolorum (A.D. 1257), where he sets forth the basic articles of Christian belief and holds that discursive proofs for God’s existence are superfluous.  Then there’s A Muzzle for the Jews (A.D. 1267), which is a polemical work impatiently exhorting for the Jews to embrace Christianity.  And lastly there’s The Dagger of the Faith (Pugio fidei) (A.D. 1278) which is a treatise dealing with—God’s existence, the end of man, the immortality of the soul, the creation of the world, God’s knowledge of creatures, and the resurrection of the body.

Another missionary apologist was Raymond Lull (A.D. 1235-1316) a Catalan who is famed or ridiculed for called ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem (the great art) is a brief technique for finding truth.  He authored Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men (1273), an allegorical disputation involving a pagan philosopher, a Jew, a Christian, and a Saracen.

SCHOLASTICISM AFTER ST. THOMAS    [Pp. 98-103]

John Duns Scotus (A.D. 1266-1308) was an English Franciscan who gave greater weight to the extrinsic evidences in supporting the judgment of faith.  He gave ten reasons for the credibility of the Scriptures: Fulfilled prophecies, the Concordant teaching of the texts, the Writers spoke on God’s behalf, the Church’s careful discrimination in drawing up the canon, the Immorality of those who reject the Scriptures, the longevity of the Church as predicted by Christ, the Miraculous conversion of the world to Christianity, the Harmony of the Scripture’s teaching with reason, Josephus’ testimony to Christ, and the comfort experienced by those who become believers.

Nicholas of Lyra (A.D. 1270-1349) was a Franciscan Biblical commentator who made interesting use of the extrinsic signs of credibility in his two apologetic works: In his Proof of the Time of the Incarnation, he uses Scriptural apologetic proofs although they are not altogether clear.  He also wrote An Answer to a Certain Jew Who Denounced the Gospel According to Mathew.

Henry Totting of Oyta (A.D. 1397) provides a view of apologetics that distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic evidence.  The human mind seeks to grasp things through intrinsic reason.  However, many elevated truths can only be known through divine revelation and hence are not susceptible to inner demonstration. When an internal necessary reason is absent, the act of faith requires for its rational justification external reasons giving at least a well-grounded probability.  Miracles and prophecies were the extrinsic evidences heralded.

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY APOLOGETICS [Pp.103-111]

Catalan Raimundus Sabundus (A.D. death in 1436) wrote “Book of Creatures”, whose main goal was contemplative, not apologetic.  It was a: “Natural Theology” treatise aimed at stimulating devotion by allowing the mind to reach to the various stages of the ladder of being to God.  His work demonstrates exceptional confidence in the power of reason to prove almost all of the Christian faith, such that one need not appeal to the Bible or the Church.

He saw that there were two books: From nature, And from revelation.  He exalted natural knowledge excessively and minimized the supernatural of divine revelation that his book was eventually placed on the Index in 1559.  He was not a heretic, but a man of piety.

Denis the Carthusian (died in 1471) wrote on Scripture and scholastic theology.  In his Dialogue Concerning the Catholic Faith; the contents are somewhat Anselmian and covers topics such as:  The relationship between Faith and reason, Denis Demonstrates that reasonable faith is grounded in God’s words and deeds via the Apostles.  He is however grossly incompetent in historical criticism.  In His book Against the Perfidy of Mohammed is a refutation of the Koran.  Among other things, he shows the general truth of Christian Faith.

He also argues from the miracles of Christ, fulfillment of OT prophecies, the destruction of Jerusalem, the purity of the Church and its doctrines, and Christianity’s expansion despite persecution.

Marsilio Ficino (A.D. 1433-99) was an Italian who first headed up the Platonic Academy at Florence.  His main philosophical work was Platonic Theology, which focused on the immortality of the soul.  His main apologetical treatise is On the Christian Religion.  In both works he uses ratio platonica to argue for Christianity.  He held that what separated man from all the other beasts is the natural desire to contemplate God.

He saw that all religion is preferable to irreligion.  Christianity is the most perfect religion because of the worship it renders to God.  That grace is necessary for true blessedness; that the Incarnation of the Word not only raises human nature to the divine, but all of creation can be brought together as a result.  Man is a microcosm.  His work breadth, depth and width theologically and philosophically are truly remarkable.

Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican preacher who wrote an apologetic work titled The Triumph of the Cross.  In it, among other things he addresses the issue of man’s destiny that can be shown by reason.  As opposed to heavily emphasizing proofs from prophecy and miracles, Savonarola argues from the wisdom and goodness of Christ and how the gospel affects one’s life as a result of accepting its truth.

Conclusion: issues of faith and reason were a tension for medieval apologetics but there were also those who advanced and compared religious studies.  The difference between the patristic and medieval apologists was that the former chiefly capitalized on the success of the Church, whereas the latter profited from the reverses of Christendom.  

Advertisements

Summary of Chapter 3: The Middle Ages_Part 2_THE TWELFTH CENTURY [Pp.81-85]

images

            Peter Alphonsi (A.D. 1062-1110) [P.81] was a Spaniard converted Jew who became a Christian at age 44.  In his Dialogue with the Jew Moses, he ridicules the Talmud and mounts a rigorous attack against Islam.

Rupert of Deutz (A.D. 1075-1129) [P.81] writes in his Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, an apologetic that focuses primarily on the miracles of Scripture.

Peter the Venerable (A.D. 1094-1156) [Pp.81-82] is the most eminent 12th century apologist and the last great abbot of Cluny.  In his Against the Inveterate Obstinacy of the Jews, he aims at converting Jews by demonstrating that the divine Messiah, his humiliations, and his establishment of a spiritual kingdom are grounded in the Israelite prophets.  In his treatise A Book Against the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens, he addresses the Moslems through; reason, not hatred, by words, not force, not in hatred, but in love.   He appeals to them from the Koran and affirms that; their book commands them to look to the Christian Bible as divinely authoritative and it is this Bible which points to Jesus rather than Mohammed as the true teacher.  Hence, in following the Bible one is to reject Mohammed.

Peter of Blois (D. 1202) in his Against the Perfidy of the Jews, he warns Christians of the diabolical tactics by which the Jews evade the evidences.  He also used arguments from the Incarnation, virginal birth, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ in his apologetic.

Peter Abelard (A.D. 1079-1142) [Pp.82-84] gave considerable clout to reason in the area of religious conviction.  He maintained that human reason (unlike the Augustinians), making use of objectively accessible evidences, could achieve some kind of initial faith.  For Abelard, the “blind faith” of Abraham is an exceptional grace, and thus not normative for ordinary Christians.

In his A Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian, Abelard discusses the rational grounds for faith and highlights the moral superiority of Christianity, with its’ ethics of charity over every religion including Judaism.

In his Christian Theology, Abelard deals with the divine Logos doctrine, and tackles the Trinitarian implications of the Neo-Platonic doctrine of divine emanations.  Abelard’s enthusiasm to build bridges from Christian orthodoxy to alien religions and philosophies, coupled with his attempt to close the gaps between faith and reason, brought on opposition by Bernard of Clairvoux who distrusted dialectics.  This tension between Abelard and Clairvoux symbolize the struggle of every generation.

Richard of St. Victor (1155) [Pp.84-85] wrote a treatise On the Trinity where he combines the traditional insistence on external signs of revelation with a serious quest for necessary reasons.  He also justifies his initial faith by appealing to the extrinsic evidence of miracles.

Alan of Lillie (D. 1202) [p.85] convinced that Moslems could not be won over through arguments from the Scriptures, vied for using intrinsic arguments for the truth of various Christian doctrines.  In On the Catholic Faith against Heretics of His Time, Alan sought to demonstrate Christianity’s faith by using a few simple truth maxims.  In The Art of the Catholic Faith, Alan (supposedly authored) directs his arguments specifically against Moslem tenets.

THOMAS AQUINAS (A.D. 1225-74) [Pp.85-94]

Augustine’s spiritual theology was declining, while Aristotelian philosophy was coming to the forefront of popular thought.  For the first time since the Patristic era, Christians were being offered a scientific vision of the universe that depended not on the Bible.  Through the Spanish Arabic philosopher Averroes (A.D. 1126-98) the teachings of Aristotle became available and the penetration of Averroes precipitated a major spiritual crisis in the European universities.

Combating Aristotelianism could be realized by simply erecting Christian Aristotelianism.  Thomas wrote a series of philosophical commentaries on Aristotle.  On certain points he conceded with Aristotle.  However, Christian revelation had corrected and completed Aristotle’s deficiencies.

In his Summa Contra Gentiles, (either authored in 1258-1264 or 1270-1272), a work understood by many as addressing Christian missions and the university scholar.  This word has no equal in its field.  The aim of the Summa is to be an apologetical theology confronting the new challenge of the scientific Greco-Arabic worldview.  Among other things, the work deals with:  First Book: Chapters 1-9 deals with all things that make one a wise man in light of the supreme truth (first principles) from which all reality derives.

The theologian who contemplates reality in light of divine wisdom has the task of refuting errors in religious teaching, as well as making known the truth of the Catholic Faith and confuting her opponents.

He understands that if the scriptures are not taken to be authoritative, it is appropriate to argue from reason rather than authority.  This does not mean that Aquinas viewed reason as limitless, but he understood that the human mind could discover the divine.  For him, some truths of God are revealed in nature, whereas other truths can only be known through revelation (i.e., Trinity, Incarnation, Sacraments, resurrection).  Aquinas sees that the chief end of man is to find his felicity in the contemplation of God.

The following are some of His Apologetic Arguments: [Pp.91-92]

Miracles were a sign of being God’s messenger, which are stressed in the prophetic writings.  Aquinas defines a miracle strictly as a work that only God could perform.  Moreover, he argues from the impact of Christianity in the world as a proof of its veracity and he indicts Mohammed’s testimony as that which seduced people with carnal pleasures; it taught no sublime truths but those which are common to man; the Koran is mixed with fables and errors and those who trust Mohammed’s words believe lightly.

Augustine and Aquinas’ Differences: [P.92] His Summa Contra Gentiles is a masterpiece and is considered in the Middle Ages as a work comparable to Augustine’s City of God, of the Patristic era.  Thomas used Aristotelian philosophy, whereas Augustine used Neoplatonic philosophy.  Thomas argues from a metaphysical angle, whereas Augustine argues through interpreting history. Thomas uses dispassionate reasoning in his persuasion, whereas Augustine uses rhetoric as his persuasion.

Concluding Remarks:  In his Summa contra Gentiles towers above all previous apologetic works in its clarity, perfect coherence, balance, economy, and precision.  Aquinas like Augustine responded to the challenges hoisted against Christendom with the tools they had a developed.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? “Why Black Lives Can’t Matter…If…” PART 1

stooges-fix

We humans share many things in common; we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are not what we can do; we long for happiness and fulfillment; we don’t like it when people mistreat us; we dislike it when people lie to us; we all try to make sense out of reality as we know it.  These dearly held notions are mainly communicated through words.

The “Black Lives Matter” notion is a case in point.  The desire to communicate that “we matter” can be put “our lives have meaning” and we should thus be treated a certain way.  But whether or not that’s actually true depends on the worldview held.

For example, if naturalism is true (a la Atheism), and humans are merely material entities without an immaterial soul, an accident of macro-evolution where there’s no design, purpose or meaning, then “Black Lives” actually don’t matter.  This is true for at least two reasons; first, “meaning” is not something physical—it can’t be tasted, seen, smelled, heard, or touched, but its’ effects (which are immaterial) are constantly seen in the physical world.  Secondly, the basis of naturalism is that there is no “mind”, no “design”, no “better”, no “progress” but “eternal matter that just is”.

According to the this worldview, humans are simply born, live out their meaningless lives, and then die, never to be remembered, cherished or loved again.  It’s a cold reality.  Thus if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Another example comes from nihilism (naturalism’s child) which reduces all of life to chance plus matter plus time.  This means that human decisions are matter in motion and are thus determined.  This means that human choices are not significant, but a mere illusion.  The reason is because what seems to be “our decisions” is actually, impersonal, mechanistic matter in motion.  According to this worldview, those in favor of or against “Black lives matter” have no choice in the matter, but are simply determined to one “view” or another.  Thus if this position is true, then really “Black lives can’t matter”.

Still another example is pantheistic monism (a la Buddhism and certain branches of Hinduism), which among other things teaches that the individual is part of the oneness of the universe, that life is illusory and thus “individuality” is not real, but a fantasy.  Trying to get meaning from this position is an exercise in futility.  Ironically, many Westerners have looked to the East for its wisdom and insight on reality, except that at its core, there’s a denial of reality.  According to this worldview, there’s no real “Black lives that matter” because that whole notion too is an illusion.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Yet another example is moral relativism (a la the University), which among other things is the self-refuting position that there’s no such thing as absolute truth (i.e. correspondence view of truth) and “we know this to be absolutely true”.  That is, the basis for reality is not any higher power, God, etc., but the individual who creates what is true and right for herself/himself.

If this worldview is true, then “Black Lives can’t matter” for it means that we can’t tell anyone that they are wrong because the individual decides; we can’t complain about the problem of evil because the individual decides; we can’t blame or praise anyone for deeds they’ve performed because the individual decides; we can’t object to injustice because the individual decides; we can’t improve on our morality because the individual decides; we can’t have meaningful moral discussions nor demand tolerance from the opposition because the individual decides.

The “Black Lives Matter” position under this worldview is incoherent at best and diabolical at worst.  Under this self-refuting worldview, “Black lives can’t matter”.

In contradistinction to the aforesaid, theism (a la Judaism or Christianity) holds that the universe—contra naturalism—is not a closed system but one that is open.  This means that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future.  Moreover, in a theistic world human beings are not chance accidents or illusory entities—contra nihilism and pantheistic monism—but created in God’s image and likeness with the purpose to reflect the wonder of the Creator unlike any other creature.  And in opposition to moral relativism, theism grounds all truth and morality in the Creator not the fading whims of the creature.

Only in a theistic worldview can one coherently and rationally argue that “Black lives matter”.  For if the God of Scripture (I.e., The Law, Prophets, & Writings, and the New Testament) actually exists, not only do Black lives matter, but every life matters.  The reason is because human meaning under this worldview comes from the Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, All-knowing God who came near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And I would further say that only from this theistic worldview can emotions rightly and compassionately be expressed, because they are rationally based on the God who is there, the One to whom all humanity will give account for their lives—which indeed matter.

(SDG)

Chapter 2 Summary: The Patristic Era_Part 4_THE LATIN APOLOGISTS OF THE THIRD CENTURY [pp.38-45]

images

After considering some of our Eastern Apologetic Fathers, a look at some of the Latin apologists reveal men who were very practical most likely because most of them were converted Lawyers.  Among them was Marcus Minicius Felix [p.39-40] who was well versed in classical philosophy, letters and expresses himself in a pleasant Ciceronian manner.  There are more prominent ones, which we will consider.

Perhaps the most famous of these men is Tertullian a prominent speaker for the Carthaginian Church at the beginning of the 2nd century.  He was converted about (AD 193) and wrote profusely in defense of Catholicism until his lapse into Montanism (AD 207).  He was a skilled lawyer in the practice of the Roman courts.  [Pp.40-43]

The Apology (AD 197) is perhaps his finest work where he employs his juridical skills to defend Christianity raising questions like: “Why are Christians exclusively convicted for their name without a trial?”  In it he also notes how absurd charges brought against Christians of infanticide, sexual promiscuity, and atheism, issues of which he refutes with wit and sarcasm.  After refuting the charges that Christians are evil, he proceeds to demonstrate their goodness.

This book is the most powerful and moving of its kind, it throbs with a fierce love of truth and virtue, it’s filled with intensely passionate and searing argumentation that’s biting and clearly this African raised the Roman court to new heights of eloquence.

In his work Prescription of Heretics reveals his forensic talents, arguing that Christ gave over His revelation to the Church so that it may be taught by its authorized spokesmen.   For Tertullian getting at the truth equaled being at a Church that could claim to have continuity with the Apostles.  Heretics are not entitled to appeal to Scripture, because those were given to the Church.  This shows that he was a Papist whose hermeneutics were exclusive.

Concerning the issue of Faith and Reason he viewed the latter as foe not a friend because he wanted to liberate Christianity of the straightjacket of all metaphysical systems whenever God’s revelation was in danger of being trumped by human speculation.

This stalwart of the Faith is to be highly commended for his faithfulness to his convictions and the Church.  Agree or disagree with his ecclesiology, Tertullian is a serious thinker worthy to be read.

Cyprian of Carthage was its Bishop who wrote several works: [pp.43-45]  On the Vanity of Idols (247) where he seeks to apologetically demonstrate that idols are not divine, and that there is only one God; On the Unity of the Catholic Church (251) which is pastoral in its tone and directed against schism, not unbelief.  Here he mentions the moral miracle of the Church’s universality, it’s inner cohesion and marvelous fecundity.  In his Testimonies are three books which best typify the literature of the early Church.

The Writers of the 3rd Century were exceptional, energetic and talented.  Their focus and genius was on the practical rather than on the speculative aspects of apologetics.  This again is instructive for too often the apologetics being practiced don’t aim at winning the affections, but purely the intellect.  To make Disciples of Christ we are called to do both [P.45].

Summaries__CHAPTER 2: THE PATRISTIC ERA [Pgs.23-71]

images The Patristic (Latin—Father) era of the Church historically describes the times and writings of the “Church Fathers”.  During this time we see the end of the Apostolic age (i.e., Christ’s apostles) and one where their first disciples make a mark on their generation.  Dulles points out that the main apologetic focus during this era tackled both the political and religious venues.

APOLOGISTS OF THE SECOND CENTURY [pp.24-31]

 First, there was the Preaching of Peter, an apocryphal fragment that exalts Biblical monotheism and ridicules idolatry.  This fragment differentiates between Jesus’ miracles and magic because Christians didn’t want their faith confused with pagan religions. [pp. 24-25]

Second, we have Aristedes, who was the most important apologist before Justin Martyr.  In his Apology addressed to the Emperor Hadrian (125 AD), Aristedes focuses on five groups of humanity in a sort of comparative religion excursion, these are; Barbarians, Greeks, Egyptians, Jews, and Christians.  When coming to Christians, he asserts that they surpass all the above because of their worship of the one true God, and their moral pure conduct.  This is a powerful apology for its brevity and cogency. [P.25]

Third, we have Justin Martyr [pp.25-27] who wrote several apologies. In his First Apology, Justin addresses the Emperor Antoninus Pius and Lucius Commodus and argues that Christians should not be condemned based solely on their name.  However, if they deserve condemnation for wrong acts, so be it.  In his Second Apology, much like in the first apology, Justin seeks to defend his brethren from unjust condemnations and in some parts he alludes to pagan philosophies that achieved similar insights Christians believe because of divine revelation.

In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he attempts to show that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament, that the New Covenant has abrogated the Old Covenant and that only Christians are in a position to properly interpret the Hebrew text, not the Jews.

The value of his writings consists of his sincere character, his frank and open esteem of pagan philosophers, and his respect for Jewish Theologians.

Fourth, there’s Tatian a disciple of Justin Martyr [p.27] who wrote a bitter polemic against the Greeks deploring: their immoral Olympian gods; the absurdities of their myths; the indecency of their public religious festivals; and the vices and contradictions of the philosophers.  Then, he advances the superiority of Christianity in his search for truth through the prophetic writings which superior to those of their philosophers.  He would take Moses’ writings over Homer’s texts any day.

Fifth, there’s Athenagoras of Athens [pp.27-28] who Johannes Quasten calls ‘unquestionably the most eloquent of the early Christian apologists’.  In his Embassy for the Christian, he pleads with the Emperors Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Aurelius (176-180) for civil toleration of Christians.  He demonstrates that the charges against Christians (E.g., atheism, cannibalism and promiscuity) were misguided.  He also produced an apologetic work On the Resurrection of the Dead.

Sixth, there’s Theophilus the Syrian Bishop of Antioch is impressed with Moses’ wisdom and of the creation account of Genesis as the only reliable guide to the origins of the universe.  For Theophilus, God is manifest to the soul who is open to the Spirit’s light, but God is hidden to the man who loves darkness. [P.28]

Seventh, in a Letter to Diognetus, whose author is unknown, is a text considered by many critics to be the pearl of early Christian apologetics.  The letter’s aim is: respond to what sort of cult Christianity is, to answer why Christians love each other so much, to answer why Christianity came about so late in the world’s history.  The letter reveals that the author was a brilliant rhetorician and that early Christendom was serious [pp.28-29]

There are however several Weaknesses of the Apologists [pp.30-31].  The following examples: they demonstrated certain excesses in exegesis; they exaggerated the Bible’s antiquity; they lacked any consistent view of classical literature’s value; unfortunately they too rapidly rejected Judaism (although at times it is warranted).  Moreover, they make too little of the Character of Jesus in their apologetic, they were often unclear between the relationship of reason and revelation.  Given that the church emerged from the catacombs, what the apologists did cover is to be lauded and their strength is worthy to be emulated.

Reflections From 1 CHRONICLES 16-21 “OF KING’S & WAR: DAVID’S EXPLOITS RETOLD”

top-10-jewish-warriors-660x350

When Israel worshipped the LORD under David’s command, the song of the LORD God of Israel was skillfully sung with instruments, cymbals, trumpets, harps and lyres 16:1-7:

“And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. He distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake.  He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel:Asaph the chief, and second to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom and Jeiel, with musical instruments, harps, lyres; also Asaph played loud-sounding cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests blew trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God.  Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord

The ark of the presence reminded Israel of their God who acts in space time history and reveals His covenant to the chosen ones.  These revelations are to be in song (16:8-36) so that a telling and remembering of Him could be passed down to the generations.  This is why God raised David up as leader, and it’s also obvious to David that his successes are based on the God who is there (17:16-27) not through the arm of man.

Moreover, this warrior-king David, was God’s chosen to administer justice and righteousness for all His people 18:14-17:

“So David reigned over all Israel; and he administered justice and righteousness for all his people. 15 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Shavsha was secretary; 17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and the sons of David were chiefs at the king’s side.

Why do rulers rule?  They should do it so that justice and righteousness reign, not for self-aggrandizement.  Rulers should recognize that they serve those who they rule, but too often, the converse is true.  David as warrior-king was also ruthless when it came to dealing with his enemies and a bloody scene transpired 20:2-8:

David took the crown of their king from his head, and he found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there was a precious stone in it; and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. He brought out the people who were in it, and cut them with saws and with sharp instruments and with axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.  Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”  

Perhaps the puzzling to me was the numbering of Israel and the severe punishment meted out by God (21:1-17) toward David.  Why did God allow Satan to move David to number Israel?  (See: Gleason Archer: Bible Difficulties).  According to Archer:

“God’s anger was unleashed on Israel because of their pride thinking their numbers are what gave them victory and prominence as a nation, rather than God’s sovereign grace.”

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.  Whenever we as a people move away from the bedrock of the Savior as our protector, deliverer and our Good Shepherd, we inevitably fall into self-reliance and pride swells up the soul.  This ends in judgement always depicted in the Angel of the LORD’s destruction through pestilence.

After the judgment was met out, David was terrified of the Angel’s sword before the altar of God.  It’s as if his pride melted away before the God of creation, the God who redeems Israel (21:18-30).  We must thus tell and remember with thankful hearts the deeds of the LORD God so that we don’t forget the Creator/creature distinction and His good acts toward His people and opposite wrath toward His enemies.  Today this is very instructive.

(SDG)

Summary From Chapter#5: GOD, NATURAL RIGHTS AND THE NATURAL MORAL LAW (Pgs.145-163)

310D727a2fL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Beckwith here explores whether or not it is reasonable to hold, as the founding fathers did, that natural moral law requires God’s existence.  He considers the atheistic, theistic and Biblical view as to its origins (Hobbes, Locke, and Aquinas were major contributors to our understanding and disputes).  Beckwith explains that it’s reasonable to believe in natural law being grounded in God’s existence and since the existence of God is a philosophically defensible position, one may legitimately claim it as an item of knowledge.  Thus, those who reject said position, aren’t unreasonable for doing so, yet neither are those who accept it.

Beckwith considers contemporary atheism and some of its key players (E.g., Hitchens and Dawkins) and sees an inconsistency with their worldview and natural rights.  That is, atheism essentially affirms that we are accidental, purposeless, pieces of meat who when we die we’re done.  Humans have no intrinsic value in and of themselves and yet when moral dilemmas arise who cares if there’s agreement or disagreement because there’s no purpose or meaning to life.  But people like atheists deeply care about their views and thus betray their worldview unwittingly.  That’s an oversimplification of what Beckwith considers [pgs.148-152].

Beckwith then considers why moral natural law suggests God.  He holds that God’s existence best accounts for said laws and are most at home in a theistic universe for these objective moral values are grounded in God, the Designer, the Supreme Being (even if Christendom is rejected, some ultimate being grounds natural law).  There are really only two options to buttress the origins of Human dignity and rights; (a) its either accidental, a chance result, or (b) its the result of intelligence.

If it’s accidental then why obey a mindless principle?  Beckwith then considers evolutionary arguments for said position that are merely descriptive, not prescriptive and there’s the rub [pgs.152-157], for that worldview only explains what is not why it is and that is precisely the realm of morals (e.g., what we ought and ought not do).

If it’s the result of intelligence, then we have an explanation that fits most consistently with human experience.  For we obey “beings” not “principles”, we fulfill our duties toward those whom are owed, the objects of which are persons, not accidents.  Beckwith continues and considers examples that have been used to ground these laws in Scripture [pgs.158-162].

He concludes the book with a wise reminder that while politics is not everything, it is not “nothing”.  It is often messy and filled with conflict, but so is much of life (e.g., family, work, school and church).  Thus he ends with words from Ecclesiastes that are often quoted, but not often reflected on:

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
”  (Ecc.3:1-8 NASB)

           

Reflections From 2 KINGS 21-24: “WARNING COMES BEFORE…JUDGEMENT IS REALIZED”

crown-8-persian-persep

            The last chapters of 2 Kings, concludes with God’s judgment being exacted on idolatrous Israel and Judah.  The word was given at Sinai, God’s dealings in Israel were known, but the people followed their “hearts” to exile.  The patience of God was taken for granted such that the mind of the nation became mad due to their calloused hearts.

We’re no different.  As God used the Assyrians and Babylonians to discipline back-sliden Israel, so He may very well do it again today…even if it’s not as clear from a written text.  When the herald proclaims his masters will, eventually it will come to pass.

Idolatry at the core propels us to ask, “Has God said?…” or question what He has already clearly revealed.  We doubt His integrity and treat Him as the creature.  The creature ends up calling the creator a liar by implication and decides to become His judge.  But those who ontologically and epistemologically are finite can’t be trusted to become the infinite One’s judges, nor should they be trusted.  But as it was then so it is today.

Nothing has changed and nothing will until God transforms the stony heart into one of flesh by His Spirit.  In all my studies, I must give myself over to intercession and guard my soul from idolatrous bents the creature constantly encourages.  So must the church in a day where what is wrong is called right, what is evil is called good, and what is righteous is labeled wicked.

(SDG)

 

Summary of Chapter #4: SECULAR LIBERALISM AND THE NEUTRAL STATE (Pgs.119-143)

310D727a2fL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

In this chapter Beckwith begins pointing out that Christians who support a liberal democracy (see chapter 2) nevertheless are dismayed at the fruits of incivility, relativism, and the use of tax dollars to support abortion, SSM (same sex marriage), and public education that’s less educative and more indoctrinative in nature.

In all spheres of life people have embraced “secular liberalism” as the position to maintain and safeguard democracy while simultaneously marginalizing “religious positions” for making public policy.  There’s much confusion concerning the term “religious” but it’s assumed by far too many people such that the  cultural haze is continues to be perpetuated.

After considering the aforesaid, Beckwith delves into the meaning of secular liberalism which at its core makes the individual king when moral disputes arise in order to resolve them.  That is, the individual is ultimate never the state nor any “religious” tradition, all of which is a relativized view of the “good life”.

When it comes to the meaning of “secular” Beckwith notes that restraints on citizens can only be enforced through “non-religious” arguments or worldviews.  The problem of definition of course obtains but no one bothers with this.  They just assume everyone “knows” the meaning being employed.  In other words, “religion” brings bondage to citizens, but the “secular” non-religious bring liberty.   The state here may even pay for the poor to have an abortion, but it must never stop said procedures from obtaining lest personal liberty be hindered.

The reality here is that a relativistic presupposition is being employed in absolute terms.  It’s Secular Liberalism that’s largely responsible for advocating SSM, Abortion, etc., which is fine because the reasons used to support such acts are secular, not religious.  That’s bogus because it’s also coming from a worldview that is absolutely not neutral but “closed minded”.

Beckwith continues and points out three arguments used to advocate (SL) that doesn’t measure up to rationality and are thus self-refuting in nature.  First, is the Golden Rule argument advanced by philosopher Robert Audi which holds that we ought not to impose our religious viewpoint on those who disagree with us because we would not want that done to us.  Two problems obtain here; one is that the term “religious” is vague and second there’s always a worldview governing human affairs telling us what is and is not good.  Why is SL better than a “religious” point of view?  Beckwith then uses examples which either expose SL’s relativism or radical subjectivism [pgs123-132].

Second, there’s the Secular Argument which essentially hi-jacks reason to mean “non-religious in nature” but Beckwith rightly points out that reason has the properties of either true or false  right or wrong, not black or white, religious or non-religious.  This muddies the waters of reason and clarity  and is used to justify the issue of abortion [pgs.133-138].

Third, there’s the Err on the Side of Liberty argument which ends up being not just obtusely incoherent but also shoots itself in the foot when applied to itself [pgs.139-142].  Beckwith concludes the chapter by pointing out that secular liberalism is no more dogmatic in its stance than any “religious” view ever has been.  The irrationality here is legion and yet largely goes undetected by throngs of people.  It’s bizarre.

Reflections From ROMANS 13:3-14 “BEFORE RULERS, WHAT ARE BELIEVERS CALLED TO DEMONSTRATE?”

romanaureusaeliusobv240

In verses 1-2 Paul commands believers to submit to the governing authorities, not because they are ultimate but because God who is ultimate has placed them in said positions according to His all-wise counsel and purposes.

In the following verses Paul further explains this command of why we are to submit, who these in authority actually are, and as a result the way we are to live our lives in light of the consummation.  Paul starts by explaining the reason believers are to submit to rulers tying it to verse 1:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”    

Paul here implores believers to do the good (C.f., Rom.12:1-2) so that they need not fear rulers.  A great remedy for not fearing man, and especially those who are in authority, is to walk in God’s precepts.  Paul calls rulers, “a minister of God for your good” and they are “a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath” on evil doers.  Thus rulers bring a “”double-edged sword” ordained by God to keep order and peace through fear of lethal force.  He continues and says:

Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Paul here appeals to wrath (we should fear) and to conscience (I take to mean: we should care about our witness) for why we are to be law-abiding citizens.  But is there ever a time when rebellion is warranted?  What do we do if a ruler calls what is good, evil, or conversely calls what is evil, good?  Throughout Christian history believers have differed on this issue.  We have Old Testament examples lauded by the Hebrews writer who actually disobeyed those in authority:

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict… 31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”    

             The king’s edict was disobeyed; Rahab lied to save these spies (she turned on her leaders).  How about Daniel’s three friends who defied the kings command to bow before the golden statue?  How about the apostles in the book of Acts who disobeyed the rulers command to stop preaching in the name of Jesus?  What of Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jews and lied about it, in order to save Jews from Nazi sure destruction?  How about the “Machine Gun Preacher” fighting off ruthless murderers in Africa in order to rescue and save orphans?

Some things are clearer than others granted, but all of us will give an account to God of how we lived in our time with the light given to us.  Nevertheless, what makes Paul’s command so weighty is that he will be eventually executed by the Roman Emperor of his day.  He continues in verses 6-10 calling believers to walk in love and thus fulfill the law:

For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

                        To love God and neighbor is what stirs the heart to obey Christ’s great commission to disciple the nations—nations which along with their rulers are even hostile to the message.  We are being commanded to do what Christ did—go to those who hate you and love them through sacrifice.  That’s powerful!  Paul not only considers this present time, but also appeals to the consummation as a motivator, or carrot of how we are to live and why:

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  

Here the apostle calls all believers to vigilance during their journey on earth.  He calls for strategies to be put in place so that our sinful inclinations don’t get the opportunity to manifest.  Opportunities to sin that numb the senses so that we don’t have to think about life’s perils under rulers like: carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy.

It’s because of God’s mercies that Paul is calling believers to show this sin-riddled, broken and confused world the way of real love which comes from the Master alone.  It’s a call to be and do exactly the opposite of what the world commands.  It’s a call to love which will often require our lives in the process.  God, may Your people submit to the grace and power of the gospel that alone can propel us to action of this sort.

(SDG)