Now Available in Summary Form: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE CHURCH” by Francis Schaeffer

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In  Volume 4_A Christian View of the Church, Schaeffer considers many difficult issues Christendom needs to address if it is going to be salt and light in this world.  Among the issues is orthodox Christian doctrine, which too often is dispersed for peripheral doctrines that don’t hold up the structure of historical Christianity.   We major on the minor issues and ignore the major ones like “the perpetuity of spiritual gifts vs. the Trinity”.  This occurs when we do our theology from a man centered base, not from the God who is there and grounds all absolute truth.

Another issue is that the watching world longs for a love that is real and true.  Believers have an opportunity to demonstrate this love only when God’s truth is their passion and the Lord Jesus is their model.  Too often that’s not the case and God’s name ends up being profaned.   Then there’s the departure from our Reformation roots as evangelicals which has resulted in a loss of confidence in the Scriptures inerrancy and authority, and subsequent promises of blessing and cursing.  This has made the gospel a sham and many of our churches have become tombs for the living dead.  Lastly, if the aforesaid is not reversed, we will be remembered as that generation who talked the talk but did not walk the walk.  To such people Jesus says, “Depart from me I never knew you, you workers of iniquity .”

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Reflections From 1st Corinthians CHAPTER 2: GOD THE SPIRIT REVEALS HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH HUMAN LANGUAGE (Vvs.10-16)

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Paul stays on the same theme of wisdom from verse 6-9 and accentuates the Spirit’s activity:

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

This wisdom of God is evidenced in Christ’s life which is revealed to believers by the Spirit who searches and knows the depths of God.  Don’t miss this, only God knows the depths of God and by human analogy (v.11) we see here that the Spirit of God is God.  That’s why He can reveal God’s thoughts.  He is the third person of the Triune God.

How can this be?  Consider our human interactions, each of us choose to reveal or to hide our thoughts when conversing.  This attribute of thought and communication is one that reveals what it means to be human.  Similarly, the divine being reveals His thoughts through language and this to whomever He wills.  It’s God the Holy Spirit who reveals God the Father’s plans and purposes.

Paul affirms that the Spirit believers have received is the same Spirit who is God who reveals God’s purposes to us.  These are the things which have been freely given to us and contextually is the gospel message of Christ crucified.

Moreover, Paul accentuates that the Spirit is the one who gives God’s divinely sanctioned spokesmen the words to speak and to teach to the church.  This comes not from human invention or wisdom, but through the Spirit’s wisdom and thoughts through human language.  But a major problem obtains for not all people believe and thus accept these thoughts in words:

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul points out that a “natural man” or one un-regenerated has an epistemological problem and therefore lacks discernment.  That is, the thoughts of God which are given through human language are rejected by the unbeliever because they are operating under this world’s wisdom. They think the message is foolishness (implying they understand it) but reject it because they don’t trust/believe that it’s true.  There’s a veil blinding the unbeliever here from seeing and treasuring Christ.

Yet, Paul says that he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet is himself appraised by no one (v.15).  He is making a comparison between the regenerate and unregenerate soul, between the believer and the non-believer, between the wise and the foolish.  The implication here is not about “smarts” but about “grace”.  That is, unless there’s the Spirit’s aid to see, one won’t see, value, or embrace the wonder of the cross.  Paul grounds this from a quote out of Isaiah whose larger context declares the Creator’s incomparable majesty, might, knowledge, wisdom, and benevolence.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?  
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him?  14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?” (Isa. 40:12-14)

Paul is disrobing the wisdom of this world when compared to the Creator’s wisdom and puts an exclamation on this thought when he says, “But we have the mind of Christ”.  What is the significance here?

I think Paul is telling believers that God’s thoughts revealed to us through God’ Spirit, are the exact thoughts that Christ the Son of God possess (this is a clear pointer to Jesus deity and the Spirit’s deity).  Thus, the knowledge and wisdom of the Creator freely bestowed on the believer is the prized possession.  This “foolishness” and “stumbling block” of the cross is truly astounding.

Paul is declaring to the Corinthian church and to the world that this message originated with God the Creator and has now been revealed to humanity in plain language by the Spirit’s activity, not the creatures.  Another way of putting it is that the message of the Gospel is not a fabrication of fiction, but a revelation of true reality, this reality is the un-created Creator, who sustains His good creation.

(SDG)

Now Available in Summary: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE BIBLE AS TRUTH” by Francis Schaeffer

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In this second Volume 2_A Christian View of The Bible As Truth

Schaeffer continues to argue for absolute truth that’s based on the God Who is There.  He acknowledges that God has revealed himself not only in nature (i.e., general revelation), but also through scripture (special revelation).  He then argues for the historicity of the origins account in Genesis where God created out of nothing all that exists apart from himself.   He then hones in on the primacy of scripture as God’s final word to his creatures.

This word is both trans-cultural and trans-time.  He further touches on the flow of history in space and time through the book of Joshua and points out the idolatry of Israel and God’s dealings with them.  Lastly Schaeffer considers how one can view the Bible and art.

So click here Volume 2_A Christian View of The Bible As Truth    and read my friends.

 

 

Reflections From 1st Corinthians 2: HOW DO WE MINISTER TO GIFTED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, & PROUD PEOPLE?

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Human pride is that malady that makes much of the creature and little of the Creator. It disproportionately attaches value to self and turns what is good and beautiful into a hideous reality.  Paul continues his thought from chapter one and offers personal biography that’s focused on intent:

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”   (Vvs.1-5)

When a crowd is gifted, knowledgeable, and proud, if we were able, many of us would be tempted to show our intellectual prowess in order to spar with the opposition.

To possess intellectual gifts and have a facility with theological and philosophical ideas and their requisite analysis has an appropriate place in gospel persuasion.  Certainly Paul could do this but when it came to the proclamation of the gospel, his strategy for persuasion is one of simplicity and substance.  This surely mocks human pride and showcases its emptiness.

Paul neither comes with rhetoric nor this world’s wisdom when he proclaims the testimony of God, but instead focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ and Calvary’s cross.  His purpose for doing this was so that believers would not trust in the creature’s mere words, but in the demonstrable power of the God/Man.

The incarnation of Christ (i.e., God became a fully functioning human being without any sin) is not one of the many critical aspects of the gospel, but the absolute heart of it.  In Jesus of Nazareth, God took on human flesh (while not at all compromising the perfections of His being of: aseity, simplicity, omniscience, omnipresence, omnisapience, omnibenevolence, etc.) which to the Jew was impossible (and a stumbling block) and to the Greeks (foolishness) but to the called it’s both the wisdom and power of God.

Now this demonstration of the Spirit’s power had to include signs, wonders, healings, etc.  Something other worldly followed Paul’s proclamation, but the greatest evidence was the church which had regenerated souls who once were dead in trespasses and sins.  This can’t be overstated but too often is misconstrued.  New birth truly is a miracle, where human will adds nothing to that reality according to Paul (something many believers have difficulty reconciling between the order of salvation: does faith precede new birth or does new birth precede faith).

Today, many false conversions obtain in America specifically because of a doctrine of salvation that says “by faith alone” I’m saved.  True, but that faith is “never alone”, it produces the evidence of new life in how a professing believer lives.

This state of affairs generally results from a functional illiteracy of the gospel of Christ, and a relativistic understanding of “faith” that is neither able to be verified or falsified, is not understood to be in the realm of knowledge, and is thus relegated to the private, subjective and personal sphere.  That’s not good news, but rather an indictment on church leadership that has forsaken the eternal, inerrant, infallible word of God and exchanged it for the temporal, errant, fallible word of men.

If one of us can’t “believe” in this book called Holy Scripture, the Bible, because men wrote it, then there’s a problem with consistency.  Daily men are trying to persuade us to their views of: politics, science, philosophy, history, theology, ethics, etc. through their writings.  Why do we choose to believe their views?  Are we to seriously discard everything they say because they wrote it?  There’s more going on here than meets the eye friends.

For Paul and those wanting to be faithful to gospel of Christ, the way to minister to knowledgeable, gifted and proud people is to keep it simple without being simplistic.  Because the gospel of Christ while being simple is exceedingly profound, and it is therefore the duty of every teacher to do their due diligence in order to not be derelicts with the treasure of God’s word.

(SDG)

REFLECTIONS FROM 1st CORINTHIANS: CHAPTER 1: DO CALLED SAINTS EVER HAVE TO OVERCOME PRIDE?

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My goal in writing reflections from 1st Corinthians are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly because it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

This first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church is one of his earliest writings, occasioned by internal strife among believers fueled by pride in the creature rather than the Creator:

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Vvs.1-9) 

 

These verses let us peer into several facts about the letter, the audience and the key issue at hand.  First, as in all his letters, Paul establishes his credentials as sourced in God’s will (v.1), not mans’, so that his apostolic ministry is sanctioned by the Lord of the church not an earthly institution or movement.  Why is this significant?  Because unless one is sanctioned from above, they don’t have the authority to speak into how we come to understand God, love God, and walk humbly before God.  Paul is saying, what I’m about to deliver to you comes from the uncreated Creator through the created creature.

Second, the audience is the church of God in Corinth which means that as Christ’s prized possession, through his shed blood on Calvary have been purchased by God’s mercy and grace and as such have been sanctified in Him (v.2).  They are holy because Christ’s righteousness is theirs.  Moreover, they are saints—holy ones—by calling which means that its’ utterly God’s choosing not theirs (i.e., they brought nothing into the relationship to fulfill this state of affairs) concerning their rescue from wrath.

Again, those called, call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ which I take to mean that Jesus, because of his ontological status as Master, Shepherd, and God incarnate, is the source of all that is good.

Fourth, after describing who they are, Paul gives thanks for the grace the Corinthian church received evidenced in their speech, knowledge, and gifting (vvs.4-9) but something was amiss, there was internal strife.  Paul states:

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.”   (Vvs.10-16)

Fifth, the apostle exhorts the believers not to divide among themselves over their favorite minister (e.g., Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ) as if they were anything special in one sense, (only Jesus Christ is redeemer and savior here, not his servants).  These divisions which must stop are evidenced in quarrels which are caused by their pride.  This problem is an overarching theme which influences what Paul says and how he says it throughout this letter.

Sixth, the contrast between the clever/foolish and between the wise/knowledgeable is also rife in the letter.  Consider how after Paul explains that his call was to preach the gospel rather than to baptize believers (vvs.14-16) and to do this in a specific way that hits a nerve with these prideful believers:

 

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

It’s not as if Paul is denigrating the life of the mind, but for the apostle how Christ is preached, how the gospel is presented, is fundamental to what it accomplishes.  If it rests on the cleverness of speech, it certainly will make the cross of Christ void.  That is, for those who “come behind in no gift and are enriched in all speech and knowledge” (1:5), if they don’t plainly and clearly speak the truth of Christ’s cross, true conversions won’t occur.

Seventh, I don’t think Paul is calling for “dumbing down” the message so that its breadth, length, height and depth are stripped.  Instead, what he is exposing here is the motive of pride which is the cause of why people reject the Gospel message.  The preaching event involves the word of God, the preacher, the hearer and the response.  Paul notes:

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

 Here the same word is either devalued or valued.  If devalued this word is unable to save from God’s wrath, that is those perishing can’t receive the message and thus be rescued.  If valued, then the message utterly rescues those who embrace it for in it God’s power resides.  The same word has two different effects; it has two different responses, but why?

I think the reason is found in the quote from Isaiah 29:14 which Paul cites (v.19).  Here, the prophet indicts a people who honor God with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him.  This refers to the Jews, the people of the book, who should have known better but did not.  The result was judgment and destruction.  The same end awaits Gentiles too.

Jesus applied this same text to the Pharisees when their hearts were hardened to his message and person.  The main problem here as always, is that the word of men (i.e., tradition of washing of hands) wants to take precedence over the word of God (Mt. 15:1-9).

Paul in Romans (1:18-23) explains why God’s wrath is justly revealed and why men became fools: “they suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness and thus become darkened in their understanding.  They become fools.

James also addresses this issue in (4:1-7) where the people because they don’t love God but the world instead, live as fools because of the swelling of their own pride.

Paul’s point here is that human wisdom when compared to God’s is foolish and the reason for this is because the knowledge of the Creator is necessarily both ontologically and epistemically superior to all created things.  Ironically, the very foolishness of God in the preaching of the Cross of Christ is the remedy the Corinthian believers don’t see because of their blinding pride:

19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”  20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Of course, the world sees the Cross either as a stumbling block (for the Jew) or foolishness (for the Gentiles “every non-Jew”).  The stumbling block is understood but not embraced, it is scandalous to Jews.  The foolishness is understood but not welcomed because it’s not sophisticated enough for the “wise”.

This demonstrates human ignorance concerning ultimate issues and also explains our need for God to move on the minds and hearts of blinded people which is what takes place for the “called”.  The “called” consist of both Jew and Gentile alike, who when hearing the message of the Cross love and embrace it, they see that it is—the wisdom and power of God:

22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 

Paul continues explaining how God’s infinite superior knowledge, His epistemological prowess, supersedes the creatures finite limited knowledge and how in the simplicities and complexities of the cross God accomplished His purpose of “choosing” the proud while simultaneously crushing their arrogance:

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God.”   

And just in case there’s any misunderstanding of how the Corinthians got saved, Paul continues:

30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Human boasting is the highway to hell.  The knowledge of God revealed to us through Christ Jesus tells us minimally the following things.

First, the knowledge of God reveals that our religious tradition is an epistemological one where we can come to know the Creator God through His son.  Knowledge and specifically of God, is a necessary condition for salvation to obtain, though it is not sufficient.

Second, this knowledge is granted to us by God which means that it comes from outside of ourselves, it does not come from within the human being.  The reason here is so that there will be no boasting before God.  Moreover, this knowledge produces trust, or faith that results in rescue from God’s wrath.

Third, this understanding reveals the human malady of pride and the necessity of preaching the cross of Christ clearly and boldly so that many called may come into the kingdom.  Human pride caused the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden and Sovereign grace has come to rectify that malady.  May we not shy away from the foolishness or offense of the Cross due to our pride, instead may we along with Paul love it and cherish it as we endeavor to be salt and light in this dark world.  Lord have mercy on us.

(SDG)

Summary of “A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO” by Francis Schaeffer

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In chapter one, The Abolition of Truth and Morality, Schaeffer accentuates the fact that the Biblical worldview and the Humanistic worldview can never produce the same results, but necessarily their opposite effects.  This is because the base from which each operates is antithetical to one another.  The former grounds all of reality on the infinite God of creation, who is absolute and from whom all things are measured, whereas the latter, bases reality on finite human beings, which are the measure of all things.  The result of God being passé is that humanity loses its humanness and society and the state become ultimate.  Here “Might Makes Right”.  The humanistic worldview tells me, “You’re no different than a bug.”  Hence, law (i.e., the state and society) arbitrarily become ultimate because their base is false.

In chapter two Foundations for Faith and Freedom, many key figures are presented as stalwarts in the founding of the USA.  John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, president of what is now known as Princeton University and the only clergy to sign the Declaration of Independence.  Clearly the Judeo-Christian worldview based the signing and forming of this country understanding that there’s a law above the law, and that the lawgiver is God.  After the revolutionary war Witherspoon is quoted, “A republic once equally poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.” This virtue was grounded on a Protestant Reformation view of reality.  Many others helped shape the founding of this country, but of interest to me is the First amendment and its dual purpose.

First, its purpose was to assure that there was no nationally established church (i.e., there’d be no Church of the United States).  Second, its purpose was also to assure that government should not impede or interfere with the free practice of religion, but its interpretation is reversed today.  Separation of Church and State today is used to silence the church.  The view is that religion is not to have a voice in influencing civil government in any way.  So much for original intent!

In chapter three The Destruction of Faith and Freedom, we see that when the majority rules, “Might Makes Right,” absolutes don’t exist, society’s fabric is coming undone, and now sociological law is king.  Now, the law and the courts are the vehicle for coercion which is based on a humanistic concept of reality.  This worldview inescapably necessarily produces a final picture of reality diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview.  We’re in tough times some thirty years later from this writing.

 In chapter four The Humanist Religion reveals that through the Media the humanistic worldview is propagated with its naturalistic base and the dissenting voices are shut up being labeled as “un-enlightened, unreasonable, or even unscientific.”  The Media not only distort reality but often make it up for a story.  They are the unelected federal bureaucracy.  Bias here blindly blinds.

In chapter five Revival, Revolution, and Reform affirms the gospel call’s impact in pre-revolutionary America to personal salvation and social action which its preachers thundered.  We will never know how deeply their message afforded the founding of said country and unfortunately their contributions are conveniently set-aside.  Sadly, our present day evangelical leadership doesn’t have the clarity and resultant back-bone in areas of social action that the preachers of the Great Awakening displayed.  To forget their example only aides our voice and lives from not being salt and light.

Chapter six An Open Window stresses that windows seemingly open are superfluous when the laws waiting to be enacted are so anti-Christian/Jewish.  Our passivity as seeing Christ as Lord over all creation has deeply hurt our voice in the public square of ideas which those in power will not without a vicious struggle go to all lengths to silence.  I’m increasingly perturbed and beside myself.

In chapter seven The Limits of Civil Obedience reminds us that if Lex Rex is under Gods Law which is ultimate, then not to resist tyranny is evil.  To not resist tyranny which is Satanic; is to oppose God who is holy.  Wow!  This is much to consider.  Moreover, when our restrictions on education are the same as Russia’s who do not allow any view contrary to that which the state deems worthy (this is humanism), how then are we any different than they?

In chapter nine The Use of Force many Christians will find difficult because of their lack of understanding of living in a fallen world, not a utopian one.  That is, civil disobedience has a place not only in the OT and NT but also in this country’s history.  Engaging said acts must be done thoughtfully, courageously, tactfully, and lovingly.  For it is one means in which the Gospel was ordained by God to flourish. At times it will be very costly—death to some, but then again for the Christian, our lives belong to God.

Summary Of “POLLUTION AND THE DEATH OF MAN” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Pollution and the Death of Man, Schaeffer’s focus is so timely and insightful that even though this book was written over 30 years ago, the relevance is poignant in a time where “saving the earth” is so dear to so many.  The following are the insights captured.

First, the earth’s ecology is suffering because man, instead of being a good steward of the earth, is ravaging it.  According to American historian, Lynn White, the Christian worldview is responsible for said crisis.  With its theology of dominion and this mentality still reigning, a religious solution must be sought because the plight is grounded in a belief (i.e., a “religious belief”).  Thus a pantheistic solution is suggested by Richard Means.  This worldview holds that “We’re all one essence” and as such, could solve the problem.  But is it true?

First, Schaffer argues that rather than being a solution to the ecological problem we face, pantheism’s base has no categories for particulars.  This means that if all is one, then One is all.  This means that no distinctions can be made.   Thus to argue or berate the Christian worldview (which emphasizes distinctions and Means caricatures) is self-defeating.  One must not also forget that nature is not always “kind” but often ruthless.

Again this distinction only obtains in categories that pantheism does not permit, when the moral problem is only a pragmatic one, the baselessness of the assertion slips down a slippery slope.  Relativism here wins the day and an elite hierarchy is poised to dominate the masses through manipulation.  This ought not to be.

Second, while pantheism is not the answer to our ecological crisis, neither is a Christianity that is “so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good.”  A Christianity of this ilk will not value the creation as intrinsically valuable because God created it.  Instead it will unfortunately make the unbiblical Platonic bifurcation that only the spiritual is valuable, but the material of no eternal good.   Protestant Reformation Christianity however understood that God spoke in both Particular (i.e., Bible) and General (i.e., Nature) Revelation and as such gave unity to all of creation.

Third, the Christian answer is that the God who is there created all things.  While the order of each creature/creation is distinct, it is nevertheless interdependent for flourishing.  Now while the creation is good and reflects God it is not an extension of His essence (i.e., of “What” God is).  Nevertheless, because the creation comes from God the good creator, it has intrinsic value and as such must not be despised.  The Platonic view of matter (i.e., its evil) is antithetical to the Biblical view of creation, to God’s covenant with the creation, to our future resurrected bodies and to how God has ordered the good.  Believers must come under Gods view of creation and live in the balance of its non-autonomous dependence.  While there are distinctions, there’s also unity.  Remember this!

Fourth, a substantial healing is to guide the believers cause as Gods agent on the earth.  Christ’s work inaugurated the future kingdom in this present evil age.  After the fall of man, Christ would come to rectify our separation from the creation and the creator.  This would be accomplished through Him justifying the many, through sanctifying His own, and through the implications of those two realities as God’s people interact in this world in a truthful, humble, loving, and courageous way.

Schaeffer accentuated therefore that believers must see othemselves as stewards over all of God’s creation, live in its order (including marriage) and speak up when injustice occurs because the world will.  Doing this, will bring about a beauty for the world to savor and behold.

Lastly, the critiques of White and Means while they touch on some important issues regarding our religious views and how they practically impact the ecologic dance we’re in, it seems to me that they both missed the issues of: the Fall and our rebellion, God’s simultaneous transcendence and immanence, White’s lower story/upper story tension (i.e., “Fact of evolution –where’s the person?”), Means utilitarian bent though true in some respects ultimately removes distinctions between nature and humans, and clearly both caricature the Christian position “mastery” vs. “stewardship” of the earth.  This is huge.

Summary of “The Great Evangelical Disaster” by Francis Schaeffer

 

IMG_20170911_104955  In his book The Great Evangelical Disaster, Schaeffer considers what he pens to be the most important piece of writing among all his other books.   The following are what to me seemed he was emphasizing.

First, ideas have consequences and when culture reaps the benefits from a country whose roots are  largely from the Reformation, and later abandons these ideas based which are based on the God of Scripture (as so many of our churches have done), then what follows is the disintegration of the culture.  This is due to rationalism—the idea that man is the measure of all things.  And yet, while the culture seems hopelessly lost, believers must battle with the weapons God has given: all but one is defensive—the word of God (Eph.6)!  Battling must be done lovingly, courageously and persistently bathed in prayer.  The mark of the Christian must inform all we do; evangelism, discipling, and nurturing.  The absolute God and His Son are the only cure for the culture’s ills.  We must be healers and surgeons.

Second, the watershed in evangelicalism is Scriptural authority.  We must hold to the inerrant, infallibility of the Bible in all of its teaching.  This includes those things that pertain to historical and cosmological issues.  To falter here is to succumb to the rebellion and relativism of our day which is destroying our culture.  Moreover, to hold to this view of Scripture, means that we must live under the Bible’s authority and we must stand firm here, plain and simple.

Third, practicing the truth will be difficult, unpopular and misdiagnosed by many.  Biblical inerrancy must not only be professed, but it must be lived out.  Where disagreements over secondary doctrinal issues arise, we must lovingly interact.  But at the same time there must be church discipline for those who go past the boundaries of historic Christianity.  The church and the culture desperately need such a stand, for if there’ no such stand, all will be lost.

Fourth, both the “pietistic fundamentalists” and the “accommodating evangelicals” have committed the same error of compromising one of Christ’s commands in order to do the other.  The former don’t want to compromise holiness but they neglect their need to be salt and light.  The latter want to walk in love, but neglect to placard God’s absolutes.  Neither of these extremes will do at the end of the day.  Believers are called to be holy as the heavenly Father is holy while simultaneously being salt and light in a corrupt dark age.

Both holiness and love must be founded in the truth that Christ is the Lord over all creation and the affairs of man.  When absolute truth is not the lenses we see to understand reality, and when the Bible is discarded as God’s truth for all mankind, then man becomes the measure of all things.

The result is that image bearers are seen as a myth (i.e., the creation account of being created in God’s image as male and female is discarded for a naturalistic Darwinian account) and thus the weak and marginalized are at the mercy of the elite and powerful.  If we are not image bearers but chance matter, why should we treat our 80 year old mother any different than our 2 year old German shepherd?  Ultimately, there’s no difference between man and animal, people have no intrinsic value.  But is that objectively true?  I think not.

Fifth, the world-spirit confuses the kingdom of God with this world and its power structures.  It advances a utopian ideal (e.g., you can have your best life now, not the future promised by God in his word), it prevents Micah 6:8 from being done among believers, it devalues history by denying the past and reconstructing it to suit our present sensibilities, it suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness in the academy, it confuses human sexuality and the consequences are destructive for the family, the home and the society.  In feminism the driving force is equality without distinctions.  When this wins the day confusion gets ever more dominant evidenced in Western civilization’s gender identity crisis.

Sixth, the stakes are massive and if we evangelicals continue to accommodate   the world-spirit we have nothing to say, we will be remembered as the generation that championed relativism at the expense of God’s absolute truth as revealed in the Bible.  This must be lovingly confronted and lamented at the same time.

Summary of “DEATH IN THE CITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Death in the City, Schaeffer accentuates six sobering observations.  First, the reason for why there’s death in the city is that we have turned away from our Reformation roots.  God has been discarded by not only our culture but also by many professed Christians. The propositional force and nature of the Scriptures is what has been abandoned and what we must return to in order for life to spring forth in said desolation.

Second, just as the God who is there exists, it follows biblically that He is both holy and gracious in revealing to us His propositional truth.  To neglect Him and thus His self-disclosure (which we have) is to fall into judgment.  Jeremiah  wept for the church and the culture.  We must also.  His message was one of truth and grace.  When said truth is trampled, judgment follows.  Nothing has changed.  To speak prophetically to our culture it will require us to preach the two sides of the same coin with humility and love.  That’s a tall task and one which God enables us to accomplish.

Hence, there must be a dual weeping, a knowing that preaching judgment is hard but indispensable.  For where false religion, adultery, extortion, lying, and the oppression of the poor by the powerful exist, there’s judgment.  We must call sin, sin; beware of our affluence and its trappings, and put our hope not in man’s power but God’s strength ultimately.  If we preach this way coupled with humility and love, then the world might start taking us seriously.  We’re truly in Jeremiah’s days.

Third, are we perturbed that the message of judgment is ever lingering before men but do we love God and people in such a way that we cry out with the truth compassionately?  Jeremiah did and his message of judgment on both great and small brought a price on his head.  The people wanted him dead.  Nothing’s changed, people want us dead as well.  Disdain for God’s word is ever real, nothing new and always our doom.  God help us in our weakness.

Fourth, in light of the aforesaid, persistent compassion is vital and yet costly.  Jeremiah illustrates the physical and psychological price that will be paid by those who follow in his footsteps.  Like Jeremiah we must:  a) preach the truth of judgment, b) recognize that our country is already under God’s judgment, c) practice the truth, d) know it will be costly, e) persevere doing the above regardless of the price.  When historically the church fails to do the above, defection is followed by destruction.

Fifth, the man without the Bible will be judged according to his own standards which he has broken.  The man with the Bible will be judged according to the light of Scripture which he has broken.  The fact is that all are under judgment.  But in Christ, God’s rescue is available and can be realized by the compassionate clear preaching of the Gospel.  We are debtors to the lost and often we don’t feel this.  God help us here.

Lastly, we must live as Christians before the lost.  This includes a life of dependent prayer to the God of Creation who is there.  He will hear the cry of our hearts and respond to believing supplication.  And when He is silent, we must continue to trust the Faithful One who is amazing.

Reflections on ISAIAH 2: “GOD’S TERROR & GLORY IN THE LAST DAYS…”

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In light of the Vegas shootings this past week, and the seeming senseless killing of people by another human being, many are asking, ” What’s this world coming to?”  I can assure you friends it is both terrifying and glorious.  Not because of finite creatures, but because of the LORD God, the self-existent One who alone upholds all that exists by the word of His power and who will right all wrongs justly and mercifully.

I recall when I first heard of God’s end time coming when His saints would be taken up into glory and the wicked would endure God’s fury.  It jolted my soul.  Isaiah certainly proclaims the glory and horror of the “Last Days”.   

On the one hand, the last days are a time when the mountain of the LORD is filled with all the nations being taught of God through His law, Yahweh will be the Judge of the nations, and wars and conflicts will finally cease :

“Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Vvs.2-4)

But between the Last Days and now, Israel, the house of Jacob was not walking with the LORD.  They abandoned the Holy One of Israel and exchanged the worship of the invisible God with the idols of earthly wealth:

“Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with influences from the east, And they are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners. Their land has also been filled with silver and gold And there is no end to their treasures; Their land has also been filled with horses And there is no end to their chariots. Their land has also been filled with idols; They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made.
” (vv.5-8)

What’s frightening is that Jacob abandoned the LORD in chapter one and in this chapter God is the one who has abandoned wayward Israel because of their sin.  On the other hand, the day of reckoning approaches when:

 “The proud look of man will be abased And the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” (v.11)

 The pride of man’s heart will be crushed on the day of the LORD’s reckoning:

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
13 And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14 Against all the lofty mountains, Against all the hills that are lifted up, 15 Against every high tower, Against every fortified wall, 16 Against all the ships of Tarshish And against all the beautiful craft. 17 The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Vv.12-17)

Moreover, the terror of the LORD and the splendor of His majesty will arise as He makes the earth tremble:

“Men will go into caves of the rocks And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the Lord And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats Their idols of silver and their idols of gold, Which they made for themselves to worship, 21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs Before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, When He arises to make the earth tremble.” (Vv.19-21)

This majestic splendor of power will cause God’s enemies to retreat into caves and mole holes, but such terror can’t be avoided and will be met out to rebellious humanity including people of the “Book”.  The prophet concludes with a command because of the Day of the LORD:

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?”   (V.22)

The influence of the nations with their “goodies” and temporal pleasures, their LORD-less worldview and commitments to finite treasures should not cause God’s people to spurn the Infinite One whose fury will decimate the ungodly on the appointed day, the Last Days!

LORD, in view of this text and your prophets’ warning, prepare us to meet You, embolden us to proclaim the coming terror of the majesty of Your splendor, for this fleeting life is about to come to an abrupt end to all the earths’ people.

LORD, teach us Your ways and embolden us to walk in Your truth, season our lips as it were with salt so that we may know how to speak to each individual as we ought.

SDG