“MORAL CHOICES: An Introductory Course in Ethics” By Sergio Tangari

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 It seems that today we’re bombarded with declarations of how we “should” or “should not live”.  The voices are loud and often belligerent.  Consider the latest headlines and moral pronouncements forcefully come through the page, screen, or I-phone.   These assertions come from a variety of sectors (e.g., universities, the media, politics, and friends and family) that operate under a particular worldview which guides how people think and live.

Moral demands and judgments are placed on us all, but how do we determine whether or not they are true and thus ought to be obeyed?   Populace opinions often lack substance yet the views of those that are loudest and strongest, too often mute the voices of those who are not.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be salt and light in the world, not retreat from it.  We have a rich tradition of knowledge in in ethics and moral reasoning, so cowering need not be our legacy.  Instead through a little bit of instruction and effort, we can confidently, courageously, compassionately and courteously engage the issues of our day.

Thus, this course is structured to equip believers: to understand worldviews and how they inform moral deliberation, to understand the systems of ethics that people practice, and to engage current issues that are dear to so many.  The goal here is to enrich our personal lives, inform our disciple making and embolden our evangelism so that we can more wisely and confidently navigate the shoals of the cultural landscape.  Click for the notes A2TQ 1_MORAL CHOICES_Considering the Alternatives

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Reflections From 1 Corinthians Chapter 4:6-21__ “WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF OUR PRIDE AND HOW DO WE REMEDY IT?”

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Paul continues his thought from verses 1-5 and explains the previous clause in verse 6:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

To what is Paul figuratively applying to himself and Apollos?  Not to make any judgements?  I think not since he’s calling out their arrogance and thus making a judgment.  Is it that Paul is ignorant of his own sin and doesn’t judge himself?  Again, I think not since partaking of the Lord’s Table requires self-examination and he exhorts believers to judge themselves in 1 Corinthians 11.

Could it be that the Corinthians judgment of Paul is insignificant to him or that of any human court concerning the value of his apostleship?  Perhaps but, why figuratively, why not speak plainly?  Could it be to confound their alleged “wisdom”?  More likely it’s that he’s a steward and servant of Christ.  But how can one possibly be the servant and steward of Christ and God’s mysteries since the deity is the source of all life and is self-existent?  He clues us in and says, “…stewards must be found trustworthy”.

I take that to mean that that if one is trustworthy, it’s based on Christ’s work on their behalf in election or being chosen by Him (see chapters 1:30-31; 3:6-10), rather than by any human autonomous ultimate choice.  I think that’s what Paul is driving home, the purpose here is to take the Corinthians back to God’s word which is foolishness to the world of men, but is actually God’s power and wisdom.

Paul is exhorting these believers to be God-centered in their thoughts by being Word-centered, the fruit of which is humility, not arrogance.  That is, when our standard of wisdom and knowledge is based on the creature, not the Creator’s revelation to us, arrogance will follow.  This arrogance is plain when we compare ourselves among ourselves and Paul says that that’s foolish, unbiblical and results from this fallen evil age.  It’s stupid thinking!

That was a problem then, and remains until today.  Which “superstar” pastor do you enjoy hearing friend?  And who do you disparage even if they are faithful to Christ’s word?  We have a human weakness that is ever present and raises it’s despicable head when we make much of the creature and little of the Creator because His word is not the ultimate source we turn to for wisdom and knowledge.

Paul is now going to first ask the Corinthians a question that concerns the source of their thought life and points out first that their gifts were not earned, but given, thus boasting here is immoral.  And secondly, Paul seems to ridicule their refrain and opinion of him:

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”   

Again here we essentially see the marks of true discipleship in Paul where according to this world’s wisdom the apostle’s life is ultimately unattractive, unsophisticated, and unbearable (v.9) “men condemned to death”, (v.10) “fools for Christ’s sake…we are weak…we are without honor”, (v.11) “we are both hungry and thirsty…poorly clothed…roughly treated…homeless;”, (v.13) “…we are slandered…the scum of the world…dregs of all things,

These descriptions of Paul the world loathes in its wisdom and the Corinthians have drunk deep from its’ well.  Thus, not only does Paul explain from where their gifts come, and ridicules their view of him, but thirdly he explains his motive for said descriptions and his argument from verse 1:

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”   

Paul does not want to shame but rather exhort them to follow his example as a father would to his children.  He can say this because he’s following Christ and by doing so, unlike the Corinthians, he’s living in light of the Gospel which is producing hardships that from a worldly perspective looks to be a wasted life.

So Paul not only wants them to imitate his faithfulness to Christ, but fourthly he goes on to explain that his motive in sending Timothy was for them to see what a real disciple looks like:

17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

Note how Paul compares Timothy’s faithfulness to the Corinthians unfaithfulness by his disclosure of Timothy as “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord”.  Here we see Paul’s prior rebuke and necessary exhortation (vv. 17-18) to children in the Lord who are filled with pride and are losing their way because they heed worldly wisdom.

Timothy is a faithful man of God because he’s grounded in the apostolic teaching which issues from the Lord Himself (Mt.7:28-29).  Thus, a pattern of teaching obtains from Paul which Timothy replicates in every place he teaches.  He’s telling the Corinthians to heed Timothy’s teaching because it’s like Paul’s.

Finally, Paul addresses those who are arrogant and calls them out: “You can talk for sure, but can you walk it out?”  That’s what I see Paul doing by asking them to see their, “power” and not their “words” (vv.19-20).  What we know is that this power is from the Spirit which produces new birth in dead souls (1 Cor.2), not mere words, but as it were, “God breathed life giving powerful words”.

Paul is calling the Corinthians out on their ignorance to which their arrogance so swiftly blinds them.  We must remember that this pride still blinds people today from seeing and delighting in the Gospel of Christ, and is thus ready to damn the prideful into a Christ-less eternity where God’s just wrath awaits the ungodly.  That’s pride’s danger, but it’s remedy is a God-centered, Word-centered, Gospel oriented life.

(SDG)

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

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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)

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.

 

 

Summary of “The Church at the End of the 20th Century” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book The Church at the End of the 20th Century, Schaeffer considers where in history we have come.  He considers how to understand the then current student revolt of the 60’s and how we as the church can make an impact.  As he argued in; The God Who is There, the results that accompany denying God’s existence in space time history are inescapable.  If there’s no ultimate reference point of God, we have no absolute truth, what then follows is man, not God becoming the measure of all things, and as such sends us down a slippery oblivion of utter despair.

The core of the book concerns the absolute need to make the essential things of the Christian faith essential, and those that are not, not essential while still being important.  It’s an issue of degreed importance.  Hence, orthodoxy is essential to have true Christianity for God has communicated to us in propositional form.  But that’s not everything.  We must have orthodoxy in community.  If it does not work itself out practically in our relationships through love, we will be seen as ugly.  As we should be!  Overcoming the hurdles required to walk in loving community can only be done through the Holy Spirit’s power poured in and through humble servants.

In other words, we need to teach the Christianity that has content and purity of doctrine.  And in our ecclesiastical affairs we must practice that truth in our religious cooperation if both young and old are going to be attracted to us.  Where changes need to be made (e.g., Korean church going underground or the times we meet for worship, or where we meet) must be considered graciously rather than given some “divine authority” which the Scriptures do not support.  Cultural relevance necessitates a “hot orthodoxy” that is savvy, not belligerent.

Summary of “Two Contents, Two Realities” by Francis Schaeffer

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In Schaeffer’s Two Contents, Two Realities he holds to the view that for the church to encounter the mounting challenges of the culture and increasing pressures upon her four things are essential to be in place.  Without these, he doesn’t see how we can be truly light and salt.

First, we must have the content of sound doctrine.  There can’t be any compromise here, for where essential Christian doctrines are denied, true Christianity disappears.  And clarity of content to those making a profession of faith is indispensable.  Otherwise, what will result are many false conversions.  Moreover, relativism must be smashed with true truth, the cost of discipleship must be real and love must ground all the above.

Second, we must with content give honest answers to honest questionsBecause Christianity is true truth from God, the Scriptures have an answer to our deepest fundamental questions as human beings.  For Christ is Lord over all creation, and as its master, He has the solutions for our deepest concerns.  This will mean that Christians like Paul must love the culture enough to understand its functional gods/idols and show their inadequacy when compared to the Gospel.  Whether rich or poor, educated or working class the same questions concern us all.

Third, the reality of true spirituality demonstrates what it means to love God and neighbor as ourselves, however imperfectly.  We may have orthodox doctrine and know how to provide the answers our generation is asking or not asking, but if among believers there’s no true (though imperfect) love, than we have utterly failed!  The way we treat others is a massive indication of our understanding of what it means for them to be image bearers.  Without minimizing the first and second contents, if this third reality is not in place, the gig is up.

Fourth, the beauty of human relationships in Christian community is costly and smashes every racial and class barrier.  The rich and poor, rulers and servants are to understand that they are brothers and sisters in Christ. The church cannot just be a place where preaching and activities occur, where no community is really being experienced.  In the church of Antioch, the race issue was not an issue for the early Christians and while they had their problems the Gospel was able to destroy these barriers in a way that in America it hasn’t been a reality in too many of our churches.  If we are going to touch our generation with the Gospel, this must be remedied by Christ’s power in our lives.

It is when we begin to see these two contents, and two realities that a profound impact will be experienced by our generation.

Summary of “Genesis in Space and Time” Francis Schaeffer

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In “Genesis in Space and Time” Schaeffer focuses on the first eleven chapters of Genesis and in step with its title, he argues for the monumental events as actual historic happenings that make sense of life and man’s past as we know it today, unlike any other account of origins we possess.

Schaeffer argues for the historic space-time ex-nihilo creation, God creating man in His own image, an actual historical moral Fall of man, the subsequent abnormality that exists between the Creator and the creature, and Gods promise of rectifying said abnormality are set forth.

A God-less worldview can only observe the effects of said abnormality (i.e., sin), but is incapable of knowing why these things occurred.  Moreover, moderns don’t know how these abnormalities are to be remedied.  Our problem is a moral rebellion against God. Christ alone is the solution.

Summary of “He Is There and He is Not Silent” FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

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 “He Is There and He is Not Silent” is Francis Schaeffer’s third book of the first volume “A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture.”  In it, he considers the three main areas of philosophy: Metaphysics, Ethics, and Epistemology.  Schaeffer uses the pre-suppositional method as a means to consider how Being, Oughtness, and Knowing make the most sense from that which is Impersonal or from the Personal. 

He skillfully argues for the Personal over against the Impersonal as the most rational option.  This conclusion is based on what he terms as the “mannish-ness” of man (i.e., because human beings are created in God’s image, they always mirror this reality in the way they think and live).  The world is such that in these 3 categories (metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics), God is there and He is not silent.  God has spoken and as such He is the “Hub” of Being, of Ought-ness, and of Knowing, not the creature.

Hence, to deny God as the Absolute, Personal, Uncreated, Infinite Creator is to embrace madness.  This is seen in the philosophical systems that aren’t Judeo-Christian.  Man is an image bearer.  To look into the mirror and not know and live in that reality is tragic indeed!

Summary of “Escape From Reason” FRANCIS SCHAEFFER

IMG_20170722_102913Escape from Reason  is the second book of the first volume “A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture,” by Francis Schaeffer.  In this volume, Schaeffer goes into more detail in how man, by denying Absolute Truth, and becoming the measure of all things, has been swallowed up into the “river of despair” seen in its philosophy, music, art, general culture and the new theology.

Schaeffer argues that the Christian view of man not only gives man meaning, but it also has a rational justification which is grounded in being created in the image of God.

Hence, the need remains for believers to diligently understand the present “Thought-forms” in order to preach Christ effectively.  For, to “Escape from Reason” is the most tragic madness—for it (in many ways) keeps us on the road that leads to destruction.

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.