Summary of “The God Who is There” FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

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One of the most influential Christian thinkers of the latter 20th century is Francis Schaeffer.  His works I’ve found to be thought provoking, uncomfortably challenging, and deeply personal.  The wisdom with which he writes on ultimate issues and cultural contexts is refreshing.

So for the next few months I’ll be posting summaries of his writings that I trust will strengthen, challenge and transform the way you think and live.

In his first book The God Who is There, Schaeffer starts with the issue of absolute truth.  He argues that absolute truth is grounded in the “God Who is There.”  Thus to deny His existence has resulted in a despair that has decimated the West for the last 120 years or so.  This despair is visible in the areas of philosophy, art, music, general culture, and even in theology.

Shaeffer says that this line of despair  arises when absolute truth is jettisoned.  According to him, this truth is grounded in God, and when he is denied, there’s an “upper and lower story” that unfolds.  First, there’s the Upper Story or Above the Line where faith that is not open to verification resides and this “faith” gives meaning to ones life.   Second, there’s the  Lower Story or Below the Line where rationality resides.  Here the world of facts exists where reason and knowledge are attained through science by man’s ability to reason.  Thus, man as the measure of all things, is reduced to being a chance machine without purpose or meaning in life.  This view of knowledge and human nature results in despair.

Shaeffer notes that the Christian Worldview radically differs from the mechanistic worldview that brings despair.  For it answers man’s deepest longings and needs consistently with how his “mannishness” expresses itself.  This is not a world of wishful thinking, but one of reality for God exists!  This means that mankind is not here by chance, but by design for they bear the image of God.

Shaeffer goes on to explain, that because of man’s alienation from God, self, others, and nature, humanity has true guilt.  God’s solution to man’s plight is Christ Jesus who rescues from God’s wrath.  This work of Christ purchased our redemption in real space, time history and is not a a myth, but a reality.  Depending on man’s response to Christ Jesus, either joy or despair is increasingly deepened in the human experience.

Therefore, the Christian’s approach in life when relating to others must be one of understanding the human plight and compassionately championing absolute truth which is grounded in God.   There must be the awareness that to “take the roof off” or demonstrate the irrationality and contradictions lived by a modern person is very painful.  And yet, the believer is to compassionately allow the existential impossibility of living out the modern person’s worldview be felt.

Shaeffer moreover holds that true biblical Evangelism must start in Genesis 1-3 which is the basis for understanding the Gospel of Christ.  For it is here that the Bible says, “In the beginning God…”.  That is, we must start with God to understand all of reality for He, not humanity, is the measure of all things.  From here, the believer must then be prepared to clarify what true-truth is; what real guilt is; that Christ must be truly treasured and that disciples must be truly made. 

Shaeffer, thus encourages believers to be in word and prayer, to be in community with outsiders and insiders—God’s people.  And to remember the indispensability of being in a community where the Bible is being faithfully taught as objective truth rather than some twisted theology foreign to the text of scripture.     

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Reflections from NEHEMIAH 5-8: THE NEED FOR A RIGHTEOUS GOVERNOR

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            In a day when just (righteous) rulers are needed, our land in America is in a deep drought and famine.  The truth of God is twisted, it is suppressed in unrighteousness and the prevailing “wisdom” calls “right” wrong and what’s “wrong” right.  We are at the cliff’s edge and don’t realize the peril that awaits our steps.  This is difficult to bear.

Israel, God’s people who rebelled, went into exile and now returned to their home land, but they needed to get their lives in order.  This occurs by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly before Almighty God.  To do this, they had to secure their borders first and make sure that they treated their Jewish brothers as covenant people and not strangers of their common wealth (5:1-13)

Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live.” There were others who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine.” Also there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”  Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words.I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, “You are exacting usury, each from his brother!” Therefore, I held a great assembly against them. I said to them, “We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?” Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. Again I said, “The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? 10 And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.11 Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them.” 12 Then they said, “We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say.” So I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. 13 I also shook out the front of my garment and said, “Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” And they praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise.

There’s also the need for a governor like Nehemiah whose heart fears God (5:14-19), so that when men threaten the people’s welfare, it is God who these rulers seek for victory, not mere creatures (6:1-14).  This event is not a myth, but written in space time history demonstrated in the census where the names of the sons of men are counted (7:1-73).  Then there’s the need for the Law to be read, explained and understood so that the people may worship the One True God.  This was a radically God centered event in the history of wayward Israel (8:1-12)

And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place.They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.

So, what do I perceive?  I perceive that the hearts of men are hopelessly broken and in need of the Great Physician to restore them to health.  I can see that Godly leadership is essential for this healing to occur and that a nation is always better off with these than with self-absorbed rulers.  I also recognize that part of what it means to get our lives in order includes performing our civic and religious duties from a Word, Scripture centered point.  Neglect these and the tapestry begins to come apart at the fray.  God, help us your people be like Nehemiah in word and in deed.  (SDG)

Chapter 2 Summary_The Patristic Era_Part 6_GREEK APOLOGISTS OF THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES [pp.51-59]

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The founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus (AD 205-270) and his disciple Porphyry (AD 234-301) were in part inspired by the example of Christian theologians, erected a systematic theology for pagans that was intellectually respectable.  Porphyry’s treatise Against the Christians, attacked through philosophical argumentation: the Historicity of the Bible, Doctrines of creation, Evil as illusory, the Resurrection, Miracles and Jesus’ Genealogy.

Eusebius of Caesarea, (263-339) was the Christian apologist who most effectively answered Porphyry.  Known greatly for being a Church historian, Eusebius is considered by some authorities as the greatest apologist of the ancient Church.  Eusebius has been accused of lacking originality, because he quotes a string of different authors to make a case whenever possible.  Nonetheless, his sheer volumes of excerpts possess a genuine unity of design and argument.  In His books, some of the following are what is covered: [pp.51-54]

In Preparation, he answers the principal objections of pagans as Porphyry who claim Christians are unfaithful to the Greek religious heritage.  In Proof, he absolves Christians from their Jewish accusers that say they have abandoned the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures.  In Proof of the Gospel, he argues from the NT for the surpassing moral stature of Jesus Christ, who in Greek philosophy has no equal.  Eusebius used the signs of the times greatly in his apologetic for the Christian faith.  Among the early apologists, concerning the aforementioned, he surpasses them all.

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 295-373) educated at the famous catechetical school, he grew up during the last and greatest persecution which ended in Egypt (AD 311).  His writings include: [pp.54-55]

Treatise Against the Pagans, where he reiterates the standard arguments against idolatry and polytheism.  He seems to be especially indebted to Clement and Athanagoras.  In The Incarnation of The Word still one of the most widely read pieces of patristic theology, he writes vibrantly and focuses on the positive and doctrinal aspects of the Word.  Unlike the vitriolic writing of Tertullian, his manner of writing is winsome and attractive.  Moreover, his writing is swift with prose, not bogged down with erudition, contra Origen and Eusebius.

In Cur Deus Homo; he deals with the problem of the incarnation.  Much like Anselm would approach the subject, Athanasius contends that it was necessary for God to satisfy his mercy and justice.  Moreover, in this work he points to fulfilled messianic prophecies to demonstrate Christ’s authenticity; he then refutes Hellenistic objections to the incarnation and finally he considers the meaning and effects of the Resurrection.  

Chrysostom [pp.56-57] was not a keen Jewish apologist. His manner is vitriolic and invective as seen in his:  Demonstration to Jews and Greeks that Christ is God (381-87) he demonstrates to the Greeks that Christ did what no mere man can do.  To the Jews he shows that Christ is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies.  Dulles holds that his Homilies against the Jews (AD 387) is an embarrassment to Christian apologetics seen through his unsympathetic accusations of the Jews as stubborn and blind, and demands their renunciation of their errors.

Cyril of Alexandria [p.57] wrote a treatise For the Holy Religion of the Christians against the Impious Julian (AD 435-440) adopts the position that no books apart from the Bible are necessary for a perfect formation in piety and letters.

Apollinaris of Laodicea [p.57] (AD 310-390) wrote a treatise On Truth where he argues against Porphyry.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus [pp.57-59]  (AD 393-485) was a great Antiochene theologian who composed The Cure of Pagan Maladies; or The Truth of the Gospels from Greek Philosophy.  He advances among other things the need to refute the notions that: Christians refuse reason and opt for blind faith; that the Biblical writers were ignorant and unpolished; that the Cult of martyrs is a senseless superstition; moreover, he uses quotes from pagan philosophers as a well as sacred ones in his argumentation and his apologetic work tends to depict the strengths and weaknesses of Greek apologetics in the patristic age.

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 10-14 “WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EVIL & GOOD KING?”

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Ruling comes with much pressure.  That burden is an opportunity to either submit to the LORD God or to rebel against Him.  Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam instruct us on what it means to be objectively evil, regardless if our relativistic culture denies this reality.

First, Rehoboam shows us the brazen foolishness of youth.  He discards the wise council of the elders to gently and kindly deal with the people for the foolish advice of those with whom he grew up.  Instead of being gentle, he was counseled to be brutal with the people:

 

Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” They spoke to him, saying, “If you will be kind to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to the people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter for us.’ Thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! 11 Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”  12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” 13 The king answered them harshly, and King Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the elders. 14 He spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the Lord might establish His word, which He spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.(2 Chron.10:6-15)

 This ultimately came from God’s hand (v.15) and yet they were culpable.  This tension in Scripture is rife where one’s actions while evil are somehow ordained by God and He is not unjust in punishing their evil deeds.  Rehoboam did what so many kings before had already done, “…he and all Israel forsook the law of the LORD (12:1)” and because of this “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD (12:14)”.  It is evil to turn a deaf ear to God’s word and thus seek some other “word” by which to ultimately live; it is evil to have a predisposition to listen to the creatures’ voice above and beyond the Creators.

Why, because the creature is finite and contingent, whereas the Creator is infinite and self-existent; because as Creator He owns everything and thus the creature owes its very existence to the Designer of all things.  When we as people look to creatures for ultimate understanding, purpose and meaning for life; “empty will be our fill”.

Rehoboam was not the only ruler who did evil in God’s sight, so too did Jeroboam for the king set-up “teflon” priests in order to worship other gods:

14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. 15 He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made.

Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them.  “So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you.” (2 Chron.11:14-15; 13:6-8)

To worship any “god” (which is no god at all), instead of worshipping the One True God of Israel, is ultimately damnable.  Too many around me think this statement is truly “nonsensical” poppycock!  (Look up this word).

The two characteristics that were evil and remain to this day is first that God’s word and thus His law are neglected and replaced for the creatures’ word and law in order to rule.  And secondly such neglect leads to idolatry and the worship of false gods.  But another king did not do evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Asa, unlike these previous two evil kings, “…did good”:

Asa did good and right in the sight of the Lord his God, for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah. And the kingdom was undisturbed under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, since the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years, because the Lord had given him rest.(2Chron.14:2-6)

Redirecting people who have gone astray into idolatrous living are never just told to stop, instead they are told to turn to the LORD God, which means to repent!  This king models an amazing prayer for divine help in the face of war and a foe far too great for the people to overcome:

11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” 12 So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.

In this petition for help, king Asa affirms first a personal relationship to the Creator by means of the covenant name of Yahweh; he secondly recalls the rescue through the Red Sea from Pharaoh’s army and in his plea he continues, thirdly to confess human weakness comparing it to God’s might which is incomparable.  Moreover, he acknowledges that it’s because of the renown of the LORD that they are meeting the enemy in battle (God’s glory is at the core of this event), and finally, he reaffirms the covenant relationship between Israel and God thus “Your name be exalted!” is the final cry.

I see this petition as a model for doing spiritual warfare, especially with the idea of scientific naturalism that blatantly and brazenly mocks God’s existence.  But I also see that this prayer is for the churched, the influential who are in charge, who unwittingly have forsaken the God of Creation, while giving lip service to His name.  LORD, act swiftly and let not man prevail against You.  As if we could.

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 9-10 “THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AND THE GLORIES OF GOD”

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          Looking at a picture of the Eastern Sierra Mountains with snow-capped tops is a delight to behold.  At times it seems as if the photographs taken of these majestic peaks have been tampered with in order to make them look better than they are in reality.  But then seeing, smelling, and walking the base of such mammoth rocks illuminates the reality that its pictures are a faint glimmer of the actual glories they possess.   And, the joy of both experiences can’t compare for the former is a taste in abstraction, whereas the latter is a plunge into actual elation.

The queen of Sheba had a similar experience when she heard of king Solomon’s fame.  After answering all of her questions with absolute clarity all that was in her heart, the text reads:

When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, she was breathless.(9:3-4)

Note that to “hear” or to “see” through the words eye picture is one thing, but to actually taste and see the reality is incomparable.  The text continues to unfold her experience:

“ Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard. How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the Lord your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.” (9:5-8)

There are many lessons here to note.  First, there’s a difference between hearing about, as opposed to seeing and tasting this wisdom.  Now while Solomon’s riches astounded her, it was the wisdom with which he answered and disclosed to her every question that threw her over the edge.  How about Jesus’ wisdom, do we ever consider him as a top tier thinker among the great thinkers in recorded history?  According to Mathew 12:42, not even Solomon can compare to Christ’s wisdom and knowledge:

“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” 

 This wisdom and knowledge that’s from another age came in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God where much confusion had to be corrected for the Jews regarding the Torah (Mt.11-12).  Unlike any Old Testament prophet, Jesus preached himself as the message; he was God incarnate and thus superseded the splendor of Solomon.

Second, when the queen says, “the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me”, reveals that there’s so much more that words could have described.  Solomon serves as a shadow example of the breath, width, height and depth of God’s wisdom and splendor that surpasses our ability to imagine or think.  It’s precisely this wisdom that culminates in the cross of Christ and its preaching that’s hidden from all of us until God the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see and taste the glories of God’s majesty revealed in Christ Jesus (1 Cor.2:1-16).

Third, to be continuously before said wisdom is cause for deep happiness in the soul.  “How blessed are your men…servants…”  Why, because it’s utterly rare and delightful.  That is, the knowledge and wisdom of God was given to Solomon by God because the king feared the LORD.  If the notion of God’s wisdom and knowledge conjures up a boring notion, then we haven’t tasted said knowledge or wisdom.

Jesus said that he was greater than Solomon (Mt.12); the Hebrews writer explains that Jesus upholds creation by the word of his power (Heb.1:1-3) and thus by virtue is better than the rest of creation combined.  And the reason the generation of Jesus will be judged more strictly than other generations is based strictly on the ontological status of the one speaking.

Fourth, the place of power belongs to God always, but Solomon is placed as God’s vice regent to do justice, and righteousness (v.8).  The qualities of love and delight, justice and righteousness are what moved God to make Solomon king over Israel.  God delighted in Solomon and thus set him up on the throne of power which ultimately belongs to God, not man.  Moreover, it was God’s love for Israel that moved Him to choose Solomon to be their king (v.8.c) for the purpose of doing ruling justly and righteously.

Since God by virtue of being the Creator, is the ground of what is just, right and true, when a nation departs from His ways and ignore the Designers understanding of reality, what ultimately awaits is misery, not bliss.

(SDG)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           

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

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

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

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

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

(SDG)

 

Reflections From ROMANS 13:1-2 “RULERS, SUBJECTS, & GOD’S PROVIDENCE”

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In this chapter Paul seems to be continuing his message to believers of their need to walk in love with believers and toward outsiders.  Now he addresses the issue of government rulers and how believers are to relate to them for loves sake.  Paul begins:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

 Paul grounds the duty of believers specifically in how they relate to authorities on God’s existence and seemingly on His wise decree.  The fact that any ruler exists is not a Darwinian phenomenon, but a reality grounded in the God who is there and who is not silent—the governing authorities being proof positive of that.

Since God exists, and all authority ultimately is grounded in Him, Paul seems to be saying that God gives authority to rule to whomever He wishes, according to the wise counsel of His will and according to His good pleasure which fuels all His deeds.  One might rightly object “not all rulers are created equal or worthy to be morally followed”.  The polytheistic Roman rulers were not particularly empathetic to believers, but often ruthlessly mistreated Christians for their faith.  Paul knew this well when penning this letter and I can’t see him being any clearer.  Let’s wind back the clock of history for a moment.

In redemptive history, we observe God implicitly or explicitly raising-up rulers and monarchs in order to accomplish His purposes.  These purposes are often hidden to us until after the fact.  Pharaoh, Saul, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Cesar, and more were never ultimate, God always was and is and ever will be (See The Book of Daniel).  That is, in the hidden wisdom of God He exalts a ruler for a time and purpose known only to God, so that His over-arching redemptive plan for humanity and the entire created order may come to fruition.

In this mix are a whole lot of human tragedy, pain and suffering (i.e., Problem of Evil) which call into question both God’s existence, power, wisdom and goodness.  And yet none of these realities mute God’s voice through Paul.

Since this letter is written to believers, I take “every person” to mean that specifically believers are to heed the command and because of God’s mercy and grace that has been poured out on them through Christ, this submission to authorities is a means to demonstrate the love previously mentioned.  Moreover, it’s a way to placard that the Creator is alive and well in the affairs of men.  Paul continues with:

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

He understands very well that many rulers are evil and the inclination to revolt against them is real and understandable…if God did not exist and He was not ultimately in charge.  But what is meant by “resist”?  The word that follows it is probably a good definition of it: “opposed”.  That is, to resist is to oppose, to be against the ruler and hate Gods ordinance.

Somehow Paul is saying that even if a ruler is evil, God is ultimate, not chance, luck, or human desire.  And thus, instead of revolting or being against the ruler, the believer is to submit understanding that God is ultimately ruling through the ruler. Some may object, but this is what seems logical to me according to the text.  The command given to “not resist” comes with a warning of God’s condemnation on the transgressor.

What is this condemnation?  We already know that believers are no longer under God’s condemnation because they have been justified by faith once for all according to chapter 8.  Could it be that those who resist are walking according to the flesh (for all sin is that) and not according to the Spirit?  Perhaps, and if that’s the case does it show that the one in rebellion is actually not regenerate, maybe?

The core of what I see being taught is not to have unquestioned loyalty and submission to a monarch by a believer (the following verses seem to argue against such a view) rather we are to understand that all authority comes from God who will hold to account every ruler for their actions whether good or evil and knowing this is what stays the believer from revolt.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 1: THE STUDY OF POLITICS (PGS.41-57)

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Beckwith starts the chapter by pointing out that political execution concerning its powers comes from worldviews that are never neutral.  He then asks, “is the Bible a reliable means to make public policy: some Christians would affirm its use, while others would deny it for such activity.

Another issue raised is the Church/State tension and how Christian values are to be established when one is a democrat and the other is a republican.  To answer these questions, Beckwith accentuates the need for us to know what politics is and why Christians should actively study and shape political discourse.

Almost every university, notes Beckwith, has a political science studies of sorts that studies the nuances of politics in areas of philosophy, history, theology, medicine, etc., within its’ sub-fields (Pgs.42-43).  Thus, this book is a mere introduction to the subject.

Beckwith points out that Political Theory encompasses many philosophical questions about the nature of government, the individual, rights, democracy, liberty, equality, and the good.  According to Locke, not only do natural rights exist, but the best form of government to protect these rights is the ‘the separation of powers’ as we have in the U.S (e.g., executive, legislative, and judicial) because unaccountable people with too much power lean toward despotism and rampant injustice.  This form of government at least makes it possible to curb said abuse of power.

Moreover, assuming that Locke is correct about natural rights, then the purpose of liberty is to secure the public good for its’ citizens so that those who  defraud, murder or steal from their neighbor are held accountable for such violations.

Beckwith explains that the fact that different forms of government exist, naturally leads to the study of Comparative Politics.  This is where one nation’s policy is considered to whether or not it would be good for another nation to adopt (E.g., Denmark the first nation to legalize same sex marriage.  How will this play out in the USA?).  Here, philosophy, worldview analysis and statistics are used to arrive at some kind of resolution.

Beckwith astutely points out that the theories these sub-fields obtain never operate alone, but rather necessarily intersect each other because of the contribution each field affords to the other and thus our political understanding.  Thus, for the responsible Christian citizen who wants to advance the good, the true and the beautiful, Beckwith insists that theology along with other disciplines must be studied in order to have a more robust political theory and application.       

Summaries of POLITICS FOR CHRISTIANS: Statecraft as Soulcraft

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PERSONAL NOTE

This is an election year and the candidates for both the Democrats and the Republican parties are less than stellar according to many.  Moreover many people while having opinions on their preferred candidates have no grid from which they clearly decide on a particular person for office.  As Christians, we divide on many things and our preferred political party is certainly one of them.  Whatever party lines believers find themselves coming under, a fundamental question needs to be answered: “what policies come closest to our worldview as ambassadors for Christ?”

Answering that question takes careful thought and humility.  It’s my hope that the summaries of this book will help the Christian in particular be salt and light as they engage to the glory of God, the political process.  Moreover, it’s my desire to see the citizens of heaven consider their temporary earthly citizenship as a means to rule and reign that honors Christ and their fellow man, rather than shaming his name.

 SERIES PREFACE (Pgs.9-27)

            This book is written for the busy student or parent in mind.  The goal of integration is both conceptual and personal.  The former blends its’ theological beliefs with one’s profession of faith into a coherent Christian worldview, where  the latter seeks to publically and privately live out the implications of what it means to be “Christ’s disciple”.  Moreland/Beckwith (series editors) argue that the reason integration is vital (among other things) is because the Bible is true in its teachings and our vocations and discipleship demand it.

One of the ways we love God is with our minds, thus to neglect it fosters a secular/sacred divide which works against the spiritual warfare in which believers are already engaged.  Our battle as Christians involves ideas that oppose Christ’s Lordship.  Grappling with epistemological ideas (i.e., ideas of what we know and how we know them) are part of that battle.

Moreland therefore emphasizes the need to bring back into culture Christian truth claims as part of the plausibility structure.  If they are not part of it, then our ideas won’t even be considered.  These are ideas, or set off ideas a person either is or is not willing to entertain as true.  To accomplish the aforesaid, Moreland explains that it is therefore necessary to employ the three integrative tasks.

First, is direct defense; here the goal is to show that the Christian worldview is rationally justified.  Second, is polemics; which involves criticizing rival worldviews to Christianity, and third, are theistic explanations; which are used to explain phenomenon in one’s profession.

The approach Moreland and Beckwith take of integration has its critics (Pgs.24-26), but one thing however is certain, for Christians not to engage in discipline (x) with their worldview, has actually aided in the secularization of our western culture.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (Pgs.29-31)

Beckwith starts off by stating that to learn this “state craft” as “soul craft” one must take many years to hone these skills and contemplate these truths.  For me these years have become increasingly lessened because of my age (53).  Yet, there’s no time like the present to learn any subject and consider how it relates to my personal discipleship to Christ.  A grown man with grown children I thought it appropriate to gather as much knowledge as I possibly can from this source.  And thus I commend it to you for your careful scrutiny.