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

1Considering Some Who Have Shaped the Church’s Thought  

The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7.  Too often Christians find themselves imitating the faith of those who actually do not speak the word of God to them in truth.  Instead, they listen to teachers who proclaim what their itching ears want to hear to their utter destruction.  One way to guard against that is to consider how believers through the centuries understood the Gospel, and treasured Christ as they lived out its implications.

There are two cautions, two extremes, I think are critical to consider if we are to love God with our minds and hearts.  First, we must guard against thinking that because something is old (pick a number) it’s irrelevant in the present and for our future.  Second, we must guard against thinking that because something is new it’s relevant for the present and future.  Both extremes are foolish, irrational, clothed in hubris and blind us from discovering objective truth so that we may live out its implications presently and in the days ahead.

The following summaries are provided to encourage, challenge, comfort and invigorate the follower of Christ to consider how in the last two millennia followers of Christ understood and lived out the implications of their faith.  It’s to consider how these believers spent their energies for the glory of God and the cause of the kingdom, and to see where their example is worthy to be emulated.

Some things will seem odd, some things odious, some things onerous, and some things endearing.  I trust in no way you will be bored.  These summaries are but a taste of their substance that I’ve attempted to capture so that you the reader will take up and read at the source.

(Soli Deo Gloria)

                                                           

 The Patristic & Medieval Period

Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans[1]

In his letter to the Romans, Ignatius addresses the issue of his death.  As a prisoner, Ignatius first encourages the Romans to pray not for his deliverance, but for his death.  Secondly, he desires a martyr’s death to prove the genuineness of his faith.  Third, martyrdom is to be via the wild beasts.  Fourth, Ignatius desires death to rid himself from his persecutors.  If the wild beasts don’t want him, he will entice them to rip him to shreds.  For his goal is to attain to Jesus.

Fifth, only by death could Ignatius attain to the true life.  He desires neither the pleasures of this world nor it’s kingdoms, but rather the pleasures of God and His kingdom.  Only through death can he attain to this true life.  Sixth, he exhorts the Romans to demonstrate their fidelity to Christ by imitating him.  Seventh, Ignatius affirms that what he has written to the Romans is in accordance with Gods will.  Hence, to prevent Ignatius from martyrdom is equivalent to the Romans hating him.  Finally, he encourages the Romans to pray for the Syrian church, who only have Jesus Christ as the overseer.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, then Ignatius was a fool.  But if Christ is risen from the dead according to eyewitness accounts (The Gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians 15, etc.) then Ignatius understood true treasure and was thus willing to lay down his life for the Master.

As a young man, in 1984 I attended a lecture where Richard Wurmbrand, the Lutheran pastor tortured for Christ, imprisoned in a communist prison for over 14 years, spoke of his experiences.  It was humbling for I was in the presence of one who loved Jesus in word and deed.  While not all believers are chosen by God to journey that road of suffering, all believers are called by Christ do die to self.  This is why Jesus made it clear that in order to follow him, we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.  The road is hard, for some more than others, but the rewards far outweigh the temporary hardships.  What say you friend?

[1] Ignatius, “Epistle to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, 73, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

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Reflections From 1st Corinthians Chapter 6: HOW IS INEPT JUDGMENT BASED ON IGNORANCE and WHAT MAY RESULT? (Vs. 1-11)

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In this chapter Paul continues the theme of how believers are to properly judge one another in the church.  He does this by; first shaming those who don’t judge (for they will even judge angels), and secondly by warning those who live cavalierly of the shaky ground they are on:

“Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

First, Paul uses an “a fortiori argument” (from the lesser to the greater, or with greater force all the more[1]) in order to point out the gravity of what’s occurring with believers, namely they are “suing each other”.

These whom the apostle calls; “saints” are acting like “aint’s”.  Those whom Paul describes as “called” are living like the “not called”.  Their inability to properly make judgments within the church (Chapter 5) spills over into the court of a heathen judge.  Their moral ineptness to make righteous distinctions was lamentable and occurred because of their ignorance regarding final salvation (e.g., the future judgment of angelic beings and the world they were to execute).  Thus, if the forthcoming judgments are weightier, these present judgments should be much simpler.  But for them it was not the case.

Paul here seems to undermine (perhaps mock) their (lack of) “knowledge and wisdom” about ultimate issues and say something that may seem to be contradictory.  In chapter 5:12-13 Paul says that believers judge insiders and God judges outsiders:  “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges,” yet in chapter 6:2 he says that believers will judge the world.

If world means angelic and human beings (v.3)—supporting said notion, then the issue is not if, but when we are to judge these beings—in the future.  Thus, presently, we are to focus on our own, God will deal with the non-believer.  But I’m still puzzled about future judgement.

Presently we are judging whether or not something is in accord with godliness or not, whether it is sinful or righteous.  In the future, sin will be no more, so what then will we judge?  I think the answer is that we will judge not over what is righteous or wicked, but on how righteousness will inform our distinctions (e.g. the wiser way to rule and reign perhaps?).

That is, the present judgments we are to presently make have a moral texture to them.  Distinguishing between what is good and evil.  However, in the future (in the new heaven and the new earth) these judgments will have an application to righteousness alone, for the former world of sin death and corruption will be no more.

I think this makes sense because God is the fountain and eternal source of just judgments before creation and after it.  As the redeemed creation and community of God, in the future there will no longer be slavery to wickedness, only the freedom to make righteous judgments.  I’m aware of the weightiness and nuanced intricacies of the aforesaid, but that seems to me a reasonable view.  So, Paul uses an argument from the lessor (i.e., judge among yourselves) to the greater (i.e., since, or because you will judge angels and the world).

Second, Paul shames the Corinthians because of their ignorance (i.e., they are the redeemed community of God the Righteous Judge) and subsequent ungodly dealings with one another.  These people thought more highly of themselves then they should have, blinded by their own pride, instead of being wronged or defrauded, they executed lawsuits against each other before unrighteous judges.  Both parties (the perpetrators and the victims) were guilty of unrighteousness according to the apostle.  This state of affairs was a bad sign of the genuineness of their faith.

Third, Paul warns them to not be deceived, and then describes those who will not enter God’s kingdom (neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers).  Paul reminds the Corinthians that once they were practiced these things, but now exhorts them to leave it all behind, and embrace Christ in their life, in how they live.

I see Paul alluding to the topic of new birth which brings about new life, and includes the real battle of sin each believer contends with (Romans 6-7).  Paul confronts the Corinthians wickedness with gospel truth and he calls them back to live in light of their identity.  The real followers of Christ will eventually return to Christ, the hypocrites ultimately won’t.

So, it could be said that inept judgment is based on ignorance.  That is, ignorance of our identity in Christ and our inheritance in Him inevitably results in a community that flounders rather than flourishes.

God give your church the grace to courageously, compassionately and swiftly deal with the strays within our own ranks as we entrust those outside the fold to You; the Just Judge who always does what is good beautiful and true.

(SDG)

[1] Peter Angeles, The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, pg.5, © 1992 by Peter A. Angeles

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: WHO ARE BELIEVERS COMMANDED TO JUDGE? (Vvs.9-13)

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Up to this point in the chapter, Paul explains that adultery far from being an act of love (whose ground is God not man) is actually an act of hate, rooted in arrogance it is the—“wisdom” of this world vs. the “foolishness” of God.  This circumstance like all others must be handled with loving discipline, not indifferent neglect, because of the eternal peril it presents to the community God has redeemed by Christ’s cross.

Now Paul turns his gaze on what it means to be God’s people in this present evil age as those who await final redemption (i.e., in theology this is referred to as “the now and the not yet”):

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges.”

Here Paul explains that association with non-believers is unavoidable.    Contextually and as modeled by Jesus (a friend of tax collectors and sinners), association is not discouraged but assumed as a means of being salt and light in the world.  Thus, as Christ influenced those around him with righteousness, we too his people are to follow suit.

Thus, the command to not associate (share our lives with the person) was not with those outside Christ, but with those professing to love God with their lips (“so-called brother”) whose heart (revealed through lifestyle) is far from Him.  Paul, like Christ, refused to tolerate hypocrisy and thus God’s people must do likewise.

Paul concludes the command to not associate with the “so-called brother” to “not even to eat with such a one” which probably includes the table fellowship (i.e., the communion table) of the Lord.  Thus, to prohibit communion serves to tangibly illustrate the persons’ broken fellowship with God, the need for self-examination, and the need for repentance so that the fractured relationship between God and this man may mended.

Paul by this command for church discipline is commanding that righteous judgment be practiced.  This must be done humbly and lovingly before the God who is there.  Thus, the duty of believers is to judge their own ranks, not outsiders (i.e., those outside Christ, nonbelievers).  But why do this, it seems so “unloving” and “antiquated” and “intolerant”.  Far from God being a “kill-joy”, He delights in our joy and that is why He invites His people to share in his holiness—the fountain of everlasting joy.  Paul is commanding and entreating the Corinthians to fight for each other’s joy in God, rather than not love one another by letting sin pollute their assembly.

Paul reminds the church that it’s God’s job to judge outsiders, and their job to judge insiders.  The command from verse two to remove the wicked man from their midst is rooted in the holiness principle found in the Old Testament.

This is where the covenant people of God who have been redeemed from the slavery of Egypt (which included the false worship of many gods) are to safeguard their ranks from being enslaved once again by removing the false prophets who encouraged Israel to revert to the bondage of worshipping other gods.  At times, even stoning was commanded.  That seems extremely harsh to us “enlightened” people, but could it be that said action is only a shadow of the reality when God judges a people?

Could it be that we have it all wrong when judging non-believers?  Too often we don’t gaze at our own iniquity, but instead target those outside our ranks and are the worse off for it.

Paul is not prohibiting on occasion the need to speak up within the culture and humbly but firmly challenge it’s presuppositions by exposing their false ideas of what is good, beautiful, and true through reason (as clearly the Old Testament prophets demonstrate).

Paul is not stating that there will be times (as in his own life before Felix) where believers will stand before rulers and give an account of righteousness.  It seems that Paul is rather in this instance, saying that the church needs to clean house when the occasion calls for it.  When the uncomfortable reprimand is warranted, for loves sake, the church, not just its leaders, must act.

In the Corinthian situation like in our day, the cultural voice of “wisdom” had to be corrected with the “foolishness” of God’s Word.  It had to be corrected with the orthodox voice of Scripture, and while it may be increasingly uncomfortable, it’s absolutely necessary for the LORD’s sake and our joy in Him.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: HOW IS ADULTERY AN EXPRESSION OF ARROGANCE RATHER THAN LOVE?  Part 2 (Vvs.6-8)

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We boast in many things, the majority of which tends to be sinful.  Paul indicts the Corinthian church of boasting in immorality (e.g., the son committing adultery with his mother) because they did not discipline this immoral act.  This is perhaps grounded in their perverted view of what it means to have “freedom in Christ” (1 Cor.6:12-20).  The point here is their boasting is sinful because it glorifies sin and Paul uses the metaphor of leaven to explain it:

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

The apostle here reminds the Gentile Corinthian church of their roots in the Passover meal which Christ came to personify and fulfill through his death as the Passover Lamb (his body represented in the unleavened bread) holy and pure.

In the beginning of this letter, Paul describes the Corinthians as the “called” and as “saints” even though their lives were imbibing the world’s “wisdom” and its darkness.  The apostle (as God’s divinely appointed spokesman) is commanding zero tolerance for compromise to the Church because like a virus it will spread and eventually destroy the whole body (e.g., leaven, lump, dough).  Moreover, just as Christ is the Passover Lamb who died to sin and is now alive to God, so to the Corinthian’s are to emulate the Master in their sexuality (E.g., Rom.6:1-14), not the wisdom of this world with its’ “enlightened” and “liberated” views of sexual expression that is often praised among the unregenerate.  Paul continues:

Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So, since we belong to Christ and are in this world that’s “leavened-sinful”, we’re to celebrate that feast (i.e., rejoice in God’s holiness that believers partake in) and not go back to “Egypt” into the slavery of the world with it’s greed, malice, wickedness, immorality, etc.  We are to ground our actions in what is sincere (i.e., un-hypocritical) and in the truth (i.e., what’s objectively true—Christ our Passover Lamb, risen from the grave).

The relevance of this passage can’t be overstated.  Adultery, fornication, and all kinds of sexual expression contra God’s design for human flourishing, not human misery, as some contend, are leaving image bearers empty, confused, unfulfilled, and eventually if un-repented of, will take them into a Christ-less eternity (i.e., Hell).

When believers buy into the prevailing “Same-sex” marriage and “Transgender” rhetoric of legitimizing its’ position which is blatantly contra design, are we not drinking in the “wisdom” of this world?  Yes, we are and far from being an expression of love, it’s an expression of treason against the self-existent Creator, who alone is the ground of what is beautiful, good and true, not the finite, feeble, dependent creature.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians 4: IS THEIR EVER A TIME TO JUDGE ANOTHER’S WORK IN THE GOSPEL? (Vvs.1-5)

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Paul continues his thought from chapter three and exhorts the believers to think biblically, truthfully, when they regard the apostle’s status:

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”

Like the Corinthians, many of us tend to label and decipher a person’s value based on their status in life.  To assist them in their view of the apostle, Paul says; “regard us as servants of Christ…stewards of God’s mysteries.”  Note the gravity and humility of this statement.

On the one hand, the gravity of being put in charge to steward, care for and appropriately handle the mysteries of God (i.e., to unfold the meaning of the incarnation and work of Christ on Calvary’s cross) as revealed to the apostle by Christ himself.

On the other hand, consider Paul’s humility recognizing that he’s Christ’s servant not a “superstar apostle” celebrity.  Contrary to the Corinthian blunder of comparing themselves among each other, Paul compares himself to no mere man, but recognizes his status before the risen Lord as a servant.  All who are in ministerial work are just that, servants and nothing more.

They are servants who have received mercy and God’s kindnesses.  That’s why any boasting that’s not Christ centered is truly in vain.  The Creator has given all things which the creature enjoys (i.e., salvation and gifts which accompany God’s people) freely, these are not earned.  Thus, to boast in that which you have not accomplished and posing as if you did is indeed delusional.

After describing his position as servant and steward, Paul accentuates that not just anyone can be a steward, only he who is “trustworthy” which implies that many are not and as a result, can’t be stewards (i.e., the Corinthians).  This is emphasized because the Corinthian’s seem to have questioned Paul’s legitimacy as an authority to heed.

Paul explains to these believers that their view of him and especially his apostleship is insignificant because he knows that God the Judge will have the last word on such matters and will rightly approve or disapprove of his work on the final day.  Do we realize the weight of this understanding?  Can we appreciate the profundity of this reality that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and be rewarded for our service and receive our praise from God?

Paul thus commands these believers to withhold their judgment because the day approaches when our works and motives fueling said works will be exposed by the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-wise God who perfectly and without bias judges.

We all long for praise, it seems, especially when we do something well because of our skill set.  This brings a measure of satisfaction, nevertheless, longing for the creatures praise is too short sighted, since they too only see our actions through the “key-hole” of life.  Paul is wisely pointing the Corinthians and us to look for God’s approval, praise and reward for its’ worth has an infinite texture to it that our creaturely praise can’t compare.

(SDG)

1 Corinthians Chapter 3: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BOAST IN GOD ALONE? (Vvs.9-23)

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After correcting the Corinthians on the erroneous bent to make much of men and by default little of God (Vvs.1-8), Paul gives the reason for why they are to boast in God for gospel fruit and not their favorite ministers:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Paul first accentuates that the players are the apostles (the builders) and the Corinthians (the building, the field, the tabernacle of God by the Spirit’s indwelling).  Both are needy, both comprise the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and both have differing tasks according to the wisdom and knowledge of God.

If these believers were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then Paul could not affirm that they are the building of God.  That is, the fact these believers are the temple of God points to the divinity of the Spirit who is God and who is also the author of the gospel message preached by Paul and the other ministers.

Paul continues to explain that this building’s foundation is Christ (the foundation which has been laid down by the apostle) and like a wise master builder was built through Paul because of the grace of God.  Building upon the foundation which is Christ requires great care (a metaphor for edifying and growing people on and in the gospel message).  Here’s where some obscurity arises.

When the work of ministry is performed in accordance to the gospel message, lasting fruit will be borne and its genuineness will be revealed by the All-wise God’s furnace of truth: determining what is acceptable to Him and what is not, purifying what is acceptable and destroying what is not (vv.10-15).  Reward and the loss thereof are at stake here for the workers on God’s field/house, not salvation (as I understand it).  Paul now turns his focus off the workers and onto God’s building, His temple and exclaims to the Corinthians:

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.  18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”

The apostle Paul pricks the Corinthians pride (their “altar of knowledge”) and finds it desperately wanting.  Their boasting in men reveals the ineptness of their capacity to judge righteously (something Jesus commanded his followers to enact) that they are in fact “God’s temple” by the Spirit’s indwelling.  Now Paul warns the perpetrator that “to destroy God’s temple”, will result in their own destruction.  How is God’s temple destroyed in the context?

It’s not destroyed by food, drink, illicit sex or a host of other sins.  Contextually, what destroys God’s temple (His people, His church) is pride revealed through their boasting in the creature (e.g., Paul, Cephas, Apollos, etc.) instead of the Creator (i.e., the source of all the good gifts they enjoy and derive tremendous benefit from).  When we make much of the creature, we tend to make little of the Creator and when this occurs, deception is occurring, demonic activity is raging and we are the tools being used.

Remember that the comparison between this world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom in the cross of Christ is made so that those who fancy themselves to be clever will humble themselves to accept the foolishness of the cross.  Paul’s warning the Corinthians who claim to know God, that if they are operating under the world’s wisdom (see chapter 1-2) then they can’t belong to Christ.  And if they in fact do belong to Christ, then their boasting is not based on God’s wisdom and knowledge, a knowledge that is simple yet profound, easily understood yet incapable of being fully grasped.

So Paul concludes this thought by commanding the Corinthians never to boast in men because they belong to God who is their greatest treasure, supreme good and delight.  To boast in the creature is an act in futility (this is not addressing the command elsewhere to give honor to whom honor is due) because we are finite, needy and utterly dependent on God who is infinite, self-existent and kind to us through the foolishness of the cross of Christ.

To boast in God alone then means to make much of God, and little of man.  It means that our praise is properly placed according to the worth of our object.  It means that we are rightly appraising what is true, beautiful and good.  It means here that we recognize that any gospel fruit is sourced in God alone, never in the minister.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 1: MUSLIM INVADERS by Rodney Stark

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In this chapter Muslim Invaders, Stark points out that Muslim invaders got their orders from Muhammed who until his death fought, raided and plundered previous Christian lands in accordance with the Quran (Sura 9:5), such that 80 years after Muhammed’s death the Middle East, North Africa, Cyprus and most of Spain became part of the Muslim empire after conquering Christians.

Many historians hold that the Conquest of lands for Muslims was purely economic and also due to a population explosion that never occurred (Pg.14).  Moreover, rather than the hordes of Muslims believed to have invaded, the conquests were won through small, well organized and led Arab armies committed to the spread of Islam (Pg.15).  An example is the conquest of Syria that occurred, among other reasons, because the Arabs were considered liberators to those under Byzantium’s oppressive empire they were welcomed, and when the Byzantine (Greek) armies were overrun, the Arabs soldiers mutinied and fled.

Persia, the Holy Land and Egypt (among others) were also conquered for the following reasons: First, “civilized” empires had no disciplined armies and thus mostly employed foreign soldiers for hire.  The guards who stood inside the fortified cities were merely window dressing not real soldiers.

Second, there was a chronic shortage of troops.  Because Byzantium was so vast, they could not possibly control their borders.  Third, Byzantium’s cavalry were mostly Arabs who sympathized with the Muslim cause and thus would join forces with the Arabs.  Fourth, Muslim soldiers trained since childhood from the same tribes, villages and families.  This created social pressure to never retreat in battle but rather to show their mettle.

Fifth, camels were a superior form of transportation compared to the cavalry of Byzantium.  The desert is the perfect place for the former to last and the latter to perish and thus geography proved to favor the Arabs over against Byzantium if they needed to retreat.

Sixth, smaller Muslim ranks favored rapidly moving in stealth as opposed to the time it took to muster large troops.  Couple this with the Imperial forces lacking tactics when vulnerable and their end was disastrous.

Seventh, Arabs were led by elite warriors who advanced in rank through their own merits, not via birth rite.  Thus, these leaders were battle hardened and more able to succeed in battle compared to the nobles.

Conquered Subjects

            The conquered peoples of the lands were not treated well contrary to popular demand.  Instead the intolerance Islam showed the conquered manifested in the: excessive taxation compared to Muslims; outlawing Jewish or Christians to build sanctuaries of worship, not permitting them to read or pray aloud either publicly or privately; their nobles were burned; their Jewish males beheaded; there was major bloodshed.  The point here is that Jewish and Christians were not the only intolerant peoples, the Muslims were also contrary to popular notions.

Conversions

            A small number of elites governed the non-Muslim (mostly Christian) newly conquered lands.  This means that there were no mass conversions contra to popular notions.  Conversions were either “treaty conversions” or “personal beliefs and practices conversions.”  This means that sometimes tribes (E.g., the Berger Tribe) would convert for weapons, but not really believe the teachings of Muhammed.  Others would convert for fear of their personal safety.  Conversions of conquered people were slow, never quick.

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

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In volume three A Christian View of Spirituality, Schaeffer dovetails the thought of the “God who is There”, and considers what spirituality consists of.   He starts off by accentuating the fact that no people are “little” or insignificant because they are image bearers and it’s often the little matters that have monumental consequences in life.  Moreover, true spirituality is always grounded in the thought life where ideas ultimately govern people’s destiny.  Because the life of the mind is downplayed in many Evangelical circles, too many of its’ youth who grow up in church leave the faith never to return.  a major contributing factor is the egregious way God’s word is ignored and handles by leadership.  Sermons are constructed in shallow and glib manners.  This has terrible effects on the witness and vitality of the church.   The remedy is getting back to sound doctrine and living out its implications so that Christ is honored among the nations as the church community is true to the Lord. Follow the link Volume 3_A Christian View of Spirituality  and enjoy friend.

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

1-corinthians

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)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 2: HOW IS GOD’S WISDOM MANIFEST IN GOSPEL COMMUNICATION? (Vvs.6-9)

1-corinthians

Paul continues this theme of wisdom and turns it (if you will) upside down.  On the one hand, the apostle refused to succumb to the pressure of using rhetoric as a means to connect with his audience, so that when he preached Christ, the testimony of God would not lose its power, but also so that these “word smiths” would not rely on human wisdom, tact, etc., but instead on the Spirit’s power.

On the other hand, it’s that very tactic of Paul that is Gods wisdom (which seems foolish to the unregenerate soul).  Paul explains:

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Note how Paul says that the wisdom he speaks of is God’s wisdom spoken among the mature (i.e., those who understand that their calling and standing before God was all God’s doing, not theirs).  The mature here are those the world considers to be foolish because they trust in the eyewitness account of the God/Man’s life death and resurrection.

So this wisdom of God is spoken among the “called”, “saints” etc., a wisdom sourced in the Creator not the creature, it’s a wisdom in this present evil age that is from the age to come, it’s a wisdom the rulers of this age do not possess nor can grasp, it’s a wisdom granted by God.

So this wisdom (which I take to mean Christ crucified contextually) was previously hidden predestined by God before time to be mysterious for His glory.  Now I’m not sure how to interpret the phrase “to our glory”.  Could it be that Paul is referring to future glorification in the consummation of the new heavens and the new earth?  Perhaps it speaks of the praise due to those who embrace the message of the cross (even though their calling, redemption, and saintliness are God’s work) and thus despise this world’s wisdom of rejecting the message.

Again, it could be pointing to the honor and value we place on those who possess certain kinds of knowledge that when applied to the knowledge of God, that one has reached the heights of knowledge.  Perhaps it’s all three, or something else not mentioned but Paul continues and provides a phrase that clarifies God’s wisdom compared to the creature:

but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”    

I take rulers to refer to demonic spirits or Satan himself, not human beings.  The reason is because since the beginning in the Garden of Eden unto the present, satanic deception has been a constant affront to God’s word and plans.  Demonic spirits and Satan himself have outlasted all rulers.  Through the wisdom of God’s word and message, demonic ideas that exalt themselves above the knowledge of Christ are demolished by argumentation.  These ideas are called “strongholds” in 2 Cor. 10:1-6:

“Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”  

These ideas come from the god of this world (Satan) who blinds those who don’t believe the message of the cross.  We have a real enemy, and God with his foolishness (i.e., Christ’s Cross) defeated Satan and his creaturely wisdom (i.e., the crucifixion) through the hidden means now revealed to the called—redemption through the last Adam’s atoning death and resurrection from the grave.  Death died with the death of Christ and no creature had a clue what was truly occurring—including Satan.

This previously hidden wisdom, knowledge and power have been displayed to those who love God, not to those who hate Him.  So why is the cross God’s wisdom?  It’s because through it God accomplished his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of being a blessing to the nations, plural, through the Messiah.  To Greeks this is foolishness (which indicates they understood the message but rejected the implications of it) and to the Jews this message is a stumbling block (Messiah is to reign, not die, thus a dying deliverer is intolerable, an oxymoron).  Nevertheless, to the “called” both Greek and Jew alike, the message is the power and wisdom of God.

May we His people not cower with the message of Christ, but instead may we clearly and winsomely proclaim it, explain it, and live out its implications among those who are perishing whether it is foolishness to them or a stumbling block.

(SDG)