Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 5: HOW TO PROPERLY APPROACH GOD

This chapter starts off warning against being foolish when approaching God in worship:

“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.  When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God. (Vv.1-6)

Our demeanor here seems to be foolish and evil if we think that our primary function of worship is to “offer” religious duty to God (as if He needed anything from us).  The sacrifice of fools prevents them from principally “hearing” the law of the LORD when it’s read and explained.  There are several lessons I have derived from this text.

First, my heart must first be instructed through God’s self-disclosure in Scripture through my mind before any offering I give is acceptable to God.  That is, clear instruction on God’s intended meaning in Scripture precedes and is to inform the worshipper on how to approach this great God.

Second, if primacy to the aforesaid is not given, then idolatry will follow which at its core takes God’s name in vain (i.e., misrepresents His nature and character) and leads the devotee into bondage because God’s truth is substituted for a lie.  Right doctrine is necessary for right living.

Third, the fool apparently parades his folly through much “speech”.  That is, the fool has forgotten to consider that true worship can’t be bifurcated or separated from the knowing and doing dynamic.  It is the two-sided coin of acceptable worship before God for when we don’t follow through on what we have vowed (promise made), sin results.  For as the standard of truth, goodness and beauty, God always does what He says and says what He does.  His people are to follow suit.

What a difficult concept for us to consider and live out in a culture that largely de-values truth telling on the one hand (e.g., P.C. speech), but deeply longs for it on the other hand.  Jesus said that believers must be people whose word can be counted on:

33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”   (Mt.5:33-37)

The fourth lesson is that it’s better to refrain from speaking than to proceed and to sin (v.6).  I have often dishonored people and God with my speech.  This human malady has been around since the beginning of time and is out of control through our social media forums.  Believers need to be very careful how they speak about people with whom they disagree for human beings are precious image bearers not accidents of evolutionary theory.

Of all the created order, what separates human beings from it is the capacity we have for communication through words.  It is the instrumentality of words that the soul reveals ideas which have the power to either edify or decimate individuals, communities, provinces and even nations.

Like many of you, I’m prone to much speech.  My tone, timing, and audience make the art of communicating well difficult to master.  But believer and unbeliever alike will give an account to God for every idol word that comes out of our hearts.  This is sobering and worthy to consider.

(SDG)

 

ECCLESIASTES: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF VANITY?

Ecclesiastes-Main

        

In Hebrew, the word for vanity is hebel—הָ֫בֶל, which means “vapor” or “breath”. This word is dominant in the book of Ecclesiastes compared to the rest of the Old Testament books.  Hebel can refer to that which is, worthless or       unsubstantial such as an idol (Jer.10:5) or life itself (Job 7:16).[1]  This word is found in contexts where the activity engaged brings no profit be it through: Egypt’s might (Is. 30:7); idol worship (Dt. 32:21) or Abel and Cain’s labor (Gen. 4).

Hebel evaluates people and things making value judgements on them and concluding that these lack any real “substance.”[2]  Deceitfully gaining riches in light of our finitude for example is hebel—worthless.  Among our worthlessness under the sun is our might, beauty and youth all of which in our culture are worshipped (Prov. 31:30; Is. 30:7; Ec. 11:10).[3]

To the Preacher, it is death that precisely makes life meaningless or vain (Ec.3:19) and that is why he is so pessimistic about human existence.  In Ecclesiastes the dominant use of hebel is the universally considered devaluation of a person or thing.[4]  The nihilism is very dark and gloomy for life without God is no life at all.  That’s the message, that’s the reality check, that’s the abyss.

(SDG)

[1] BDB, Pg.210

[2] TDOT, Pgs.313-314

[3] Ibid., Pg.319

[4] Ibid., Pg.319

Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 2: THE PREACHERS DOWNWARD MUSINGS—VANITY Part 2

In my struggle and acquaintance with failure concerning every sector of existence (E.g., moral, practical and contemplative) the Preacher’s outlook is not re-assuring but utterly depressing.

Vanity, futility, empty, meaningless are all man’s endeavors under the sun and thus so is his life.   The Preacher indulged himself with pleasure and came up empty whether sexual, intellectual or acquisitional pleasure, it’s all empty:

“I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had home born slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines.(2.1-8)

He became greater than all of his predecessors and still his activities are considered useless (Vv.9-11).  There’s no boasting here but deprecation of all the things worldly men (of which I once numbered) would die for!  Wine, women and song, riches and pleasures galore—empty says the preacher!

He understood that wisdom far excels folly as the light conquers the darkness and yet even this to him is vain because like the fool so the wise man will die and his memorial will be forgotten:

“So I turned to consider wisdom, madness and folly; for what will the man do who will come after the king except what has already been done? 13 And I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness. 14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I know that one fate befalls them both. 15 Then I said to myself, “As is the fate of the fool, it will also befall me. Why then have I been extremely wise?” So I said to myself, “This too is vanity.” 16 For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die! 17 So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.”   (2:12-17)

The herald understanding his plight completely despaired of life, his legacy and his toil, the accumulation of which is vanity (2:18-23).  Yet, he reflects on the good life and considers that its basis is found in God alone and happiness is to be had in Him alone:

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? 26 For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind.” (2:24-26)

God gives wisdom to the wise and good person but for the sinner (who in this context is the opposite) their task is gathering and collecting for those God sees as good.  The struggle and restlessness this nihilistic Preacher is enduring is horrible to bear.  The Preacher is saying that existence without God is empty, a breath not worth taking, toil that leads to “nowhere” in the blink of the eye.

What a dark hole his soul sank into, what an empty chasm he’s fallen into, what a dingy dungeon is his abode, the abyss has (almost entirely) swallowed him up.

God and the meaning of life is the question for the man who has wandered from the paths of righteousness.  His plight is a warning to all who do shun God, deny his existence and indulge in fleeting pleasures—emptiness is the reward.  Why?  Because all pleasures in life that put God at the periphery are vain being He is the giver and sustainer of life in whom there is no darkness at all.

The Preacher is warning me to flee all pleasures that have not God at the hub, to consider the vanity of life without Him and to pursue Him in my gloomiest hour for He alone will not disappoint.

(SDG)

WHAT’S SO “GOOD” ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY? Perspectives on the Work of Christ

Good-Friday-Wallpaper-06

What’s so good about Good Friday?  This question deals with what Jesus of Nazareth accomplished over 2000 thousand years ago on Calvary’s bloody cross.  On that hill far away, the Son of righteousness fully satisfied God’s justice and love.  Since its inception, the Church has celebrated the grueling, horrific death of an innocent man who by virtue of his ontological status (His nature as the God/Man) secured rescue from God’s just white hot wrath toward rebels born of Adam.

But how can this be good?  One could argue, and many have, that this act was unjust, cruel, and an act of child abuse (i.e., the heavenly Father sent his one unique Son to die for those who hate God).  Who would ever treat their own sons and daughters in such a way by ordaining them to be brutally murdered by the Jews and the Romans on Calvary’s cross?

God did.  He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who makes covenant with His chosen ones and does nothing wrong.  He’s the God who sets the standards of what is true, beautiful and good.  He’s the God of creation who spoke the worlds into existence out of nothing, sustains its order, and is taking history into a glorious reality never before known or imagined.  To read the full article, click on What’s so good about Good Friday?

Reflections From 2 CHRON: 35-36 “LAMENTATION IS THE PROPER RESPONSE FROM A PEOPLE THAT REBEL AGAINST YAHWEH”

images

The conclusion of this book is sobering and truly lamentable.  After celebrating the Passover Feast like never before under the kings of Israel’s rule, Josiah when hearing of coming judgment turned to the LORD, was then set on pleasing Him (34:27) but the damage had already been done.  God assured Josiah that because of his humility, he would not see the captivity of Judah in his life time (34:28).

Even though Judah’s captivity loomed on the horizon and the word of the LORD would be fulfilled, Josiah’s heart was nevertheless bent towards God (35:18-19).  The king would die before witnessing the shameful and horrific sight of God’s judgment on the land (35:20-25).  Josiah was so loved by Israel that even Jeremiah the prophet lamented his death (35:25).

Unfortunately, the hearts of Israel had gone past the point of no return as the state of their wickedness demonstrated their embrace of the surrounding Nations abominations (36:14).  This is clear as they; defiled Gods house (36:14), continually mocked God’s messengers (36:16a), despised God’s words (36:16b), and scoffed God’s prophets (36:16c).  This resulted in God’s wrath (specifically the LORD’s wrath) being poured out on His people (36:16d).

This wrath was merciless as the Chaldeans “slew Israel’s young men with the sword”, and no compassion was shown to neither; the sick, the virgin, nor to the elderly.  God had absolutely delivered Israel into the hands of foreign kings (36:17).

We can learn many things here and a few are sobering.  First, it’s madness to rebel against the great I AM, the Self-existent One.  Second, we humans are blind to this doom of madness.  Third, when God’s word comes to us it is His mercy for the good of all. Fourth, those who reject the revelation of God Himself will be crushed.  Lastly, today is the day to submit to His will.

(SDG)

 

 

2 CHRONICLES: 21 “A FOOLISH KING’S REWARD”

images

          The saga of the kings of Israel and Judah continues its’ sad account of the age old truth: before you and I, God has placed both blessing and cursing, life and death, therefore we should choose life.  Yet too often the kings like us, chose death not life.

Jehoshaphat now dead previously appointed his first born son to rule, but he did so wickedly.  He killed all his siblings and many of Israel’s rulers (Vv.1-4), yet God because of His covenant with Davids’ house, did not destroy Jehoram, even though he did evil in the sight of the LORD by causing Israel to play the harlot.

However, God will not be mocked (Vv.14-20) for He promised calamity by His own hand to come upon Jehoram even through a letter delivered by the prophet Elijah came to pass:

14 behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15 and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’”

16 Then the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who bordered the Ethiopians; 17 and they came against Judah and invaded it, and carried away all the possessions found in the king’s house together with his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.

18 So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. 19 Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. 20 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

To trifle with God’s people and His authority is no small matter.  Rulers forget that they are not ultimate, but God who raises them up is.  What God promised to the king came to pass and what He promises to us will also.  Obey Him and blessing will follow, disobey Him and cursing is assured.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 4: FROM THE SIXTEENTH THROUGH THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES_Part 1

imagesThe sixteenth century saw primarily religious controversies within Christendom.  Protestants and Catholic controversies were over the Mass, indulgences, purgatory, the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.  The primary apologetical issue was the credibility of the Faith.

The seventeenth century saw much skepticism and religious indifferentism largely due to the Christian disunity.  The main apologetic focus (for Protestant and Catholic) was to show Christianity’s importance and relevance.

The eighteenth century manifested blatant attacks contra Christianity due to the Enlightenment’s appeal to the sciences in history to prove their case.  Hence, Christian’s apologetic focused on scientific historical evidences and also on the role of metaphysics in the debates.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS [Pp.113-116]

Martin Luther (A.D. 1483-1546) constructed no formal system of apologetics, although polemicized with the Jews.  Saw reason in two spheres.  The first sphere: reason is a a proper guide when used properly to sharpen man’s natural prudence and might even lead to a sort of civil righteousness.  In the second sphere: reason is incompetent and arrogant when concerned with divine things, it’s “the devils whore”.  Luther understood that reason prior to faith can only be used to raise objections and engender doubts.  But if it was submitted to faith, then reason was a useful handmaid to faith.  For Luther, the problem of faith and reason was not epistemological (i.e. how we know what we know), but rather soteriological (i.e., how one can be saved and know it).

Philipp Melanchthon (A.D. 1497-1560) was Martin Luther’s Systematizer.  In his Loci communes (A.D. 1521) he adopted a negative view of the autonomous use of reason and philosophy.  But philosophy was not only a great servant of the faith; it is also a propaedeutic device (I.e., preliminary instruction) for leading men to the gospel.

John Calvin (A.D. 1509-64) was the most systematic of the sixteenth century reformers.  In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (completed definitively, A.D. 1559), he saw several things:  First, by contemplating creation, man could arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence, wisdom, life, power, etc.  But man’s inherited depravity, unless aided by positive divine revelation, leads him only into idolatry.  Second, the witness of the Spirit is the primary and sufficient reason for admitting the origin of Scripture.

THE COUNTER REFORMATION AND BAROQUE SCHOLASTICISM [Pp.116-120]

Whereas those responding to Luther were mainly in Germany and the Low countries, Catholic apologetics in a more traditional style continued to be in Italy and Spain.

Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola (D. 1533) in the footsteps of his uncle Giovanni inveighed the philosophical errors of the Epicurean Aristotelians.

St. Robert Bellarmine (A.D. 1542-1621) was an Italian Jesuit and the greatest Systematizer of Catholic polemics against the Protestants. He wrote Disputations Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith against the Heretics of this Age.

Cardinal Caesar Baronius wrote Ecclesiatical Annals, intended to offset the propagandistic of the Lutheran account of Church history.

Francisco Suarez s.j. (D. 1617) wrote on the motives of credibility, putting primary emphasis on the inner qualities of Christian doctrine, its purity, and its efficacy in leading men to a higher moral life.

FRANCE BEFORE 1650 [Pp.120-123]

The chief apologetical questions focused on the dangers and values of doubt, tolerance, and religious indifference.

Philip du Plessis-Mornay (A.D. 1549-1623) was the leading Protestant apologist and Hugenot of the sixteenth century.  In his treatise On the Truth of the Christian Religion, he specifically emphasizes as method; one must find common ground by arguing from principles that are accepted by your adversary.

Moise Amyrut a Hugenot author, wrote A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which Accounts All Indifferent (A.D. 1631).

Catholic apologetics after Montaigne combines skepticism and fideism to pave the way for faith by exposing the feebleness of reason.

J.F. Senault in his L’ Homme criminel (1644) grounds his apologetic from an anthropological stance and prepares the way for Pascal’s existential logic of the heart.

FRANCE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY [Pp.123-133]

Blaise Pascal (A.D. 1623-62) after making breakthrough discoveries in mathematics and physics, he became convinced that the certainties of faith are unattainable, except to the heart that loves.  In his Pensées he covers many issues.  First, the psychological fabric of man mingled in a paradox of our pride and feebleness.  Second, he makes no effort to ground the faith metaphysically.

He thought even if one can prove God’s existence, all these arguments at best leads one to deism.  He instead proved the existence of God by referring to man’s unhappiness until he finds happiness in God (a la Augustine).

Third, Pascal makes an inventory of the various philosophies and religions, profoundly analyzes the relationships between faith and reason, and as Augustine, he finds a unity of the two in diversity.

Fourth, his biblical apologetic is profoundly Christocentric, arguing from miracles and prophecies.  For Pascal prophecies are the greatest proofs of Jesus Christ.  He also demonstrates a keen understanding of the human heart and a deep Christian spirituality in his apologetic.  His apologetic work outshines most in helping unbelievers come to the faith.

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (A.D. 1607-1704) in his Discourse on Universal History, he relies heavily on historical apologetics, specifically using prophecy.  He uses a more questionable approach were the desolation of the Jews is an apologetic strategy. He also impugns Protestants for their lack of unity and stability in his A History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688) and concludes that Catholicism’s constancy in doctrine, is never contradictory, and thus built on the rock.

Pierre Daniel Huet (A.D. 1639-1721) was an erudite man who became Bishop of Avranches.  He wrote several philosophical works on faith and reason.  His major apologetical work,  A Demonstration of the Gospel to his Highness, the Dauphin.  He viewed that all the Biblical books were written at the times to which they are attributed to their commonly supposed authors.

Jacques Abbadie (A.D. 1654-1727) was a Hugenot pastor who wrote Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion, where he demonstrates extensively God’s existence, the necessity of religion, the truth of the Jewish religion, and the truth of the Christian religion.  He displays a defiant attitude toward all those who oppose Christianity in his Treatise on the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, especially towards Mohammedanism.

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.  

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.

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 17-18 “THE CONTRAST BETWEEN A FOOLISH AND WISE KING IS WORD FOCUSED”

top-10-jewish-warriors-660x350

Jehoshaphat followed Asa his father as king over Israel and Judah.  He was like David in his earlier years and did not worship the Baals, but instead sought God, followed his commandments and did not become stiff-necked like the rest of Israel:

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did. So the Lord established the kingdom in his control, and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. He took great pride in the ways of the Lord and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah.  (17:3-6) 

 This king walked with God and was thus honored by Him in battle (18:31).  By contrast Ahab was an evil king, for unlike Jehoshaphat he did not receive the word of the LORD, but instead the word of man as ultimate.  Before going into battle this king would inquire of prophets who would tell him “good news”, but they were merely mouthpieces of deceiving spirits sent by God:

20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ 21 He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ 22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”(18:20-22)

Several observations are evident from the context; first, Ahab viewed the word of God from a true prophet as (Micaiah) evil and the deceptive false word of man as good:

But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the Lord here that we may inquire of him?”The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me but always evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imla.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” (18:6-7)

Somewhere it is written, “Woe to the nation that calls what is righteous evil and what is wicked good” (sort of).   Second, Micaiah was determined to speak God’s word whether or not it was popular or even if it caused him harm—which it did landing him in prison (18:12-13, 14-18).

Third, God was behind the scenes working out His providential purposes, puzzling as it may be to us:

18 Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. 19 The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ 21 He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ 22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.” (18:18-22)

This text is one of many (Is.19:1-15; Ez.14:6-11) that reveals the God of love acting in a way that evil might be attributed to Him; actions that seem cruel, wicked and manipulative for the purpose of ridding Israel of her idolatry and letting the nations know that God is the LORD.

Fourth, Micaiah lets Ahab know that if he returns from battle, then he indeed is not God’s prophet; “27 Micaiah said, “If you indeed return safely, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Listen, all you people.”  Here the prophet is putting himself under the authority of God’s word.  He is not above the word, nor is any earthly king.

The events turned out as God said they would, how could they not?!  And yet the choices of human beings play significant roles in how history unfolds.  For every action we take, an account to the God of creation will be given.  This is a deeply sobering matter.

The wise king heeded the prophet’s word, the foolish king did not.  So if any of us are going to be considered either wise or foolish, there’s one issue to settle: what will be our response to the revelation of Yahweh?

(SDG)