Friday, October 30, 2009

In Preparation for Reformation Day

I hope to post some of my favorite Luther quotes tomorrow, in honor of the 492 'Reformation Day' - the anniversary of Luther's posting of the 95 Theses (if you've never read them before, please do!).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lewis on Miracles

From God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics:

"...modern people have an almost aesthetic dislike of miracles. Admitting that God can, they doubt if He would. To violate the laws He Himself has imposed on His creation seems to them arbitrary, clumsy, a theatrical device only fit to impress savages..."

Lewis pushes against this caricature of miracles and argues that Christ does here in miracles what God the Father does all the time. He quotes Jesus "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do."

He continues, "There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity let us say which men refuse to recognized. The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, perform the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speed and on a smaller scale...some of the miracles do locally what God has already done universally: others do locally what He has not yet done, but will do."

Here's a few examples of what Lewis means.

"God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah's time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see...But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana."

Or, "The miracles of healing fall into the same pattern. This is sometimes obscured for us by the somewhat magical view we tend to take of ordinary medicine. The doctors themselves do not take this view. The magic is not in the medicine but int he patient's body. What the doctor does is to stimulate Nature's functions in the body, or the remove hindrances. IN a sense, though we speak for convenience of healing a cut, every cut heals itself; no dressing will make skin grow over a cut on a corpse...All who are cured are cured by Him, the healer within. But once He did it visibly, a Man meeting a man. Where He does not not work within in this mode, the organism dies. Hence Christ's one miracle of destruction is also in harmony with God's wholesale activity. His bodily hand held out in symbolic wrath blasted a single fig tree, but no tree died that year in Palestine, or any year, or in any land, or even ever will, save because He has done something, or (more likely) ceased to do something."

Lewis argues the same pattern is evident in the Virgin birth. God's normal way of making a man is through a man fertilizing a woman. "What he did once without a human father, He does always even when He uses a human father as His instrument."

This leads Lewis to conclude, rightly, that the miracles of the Bible aren't clumsy or arbitrary. They are not like the silly miracles in mythology. Instead, "the true miracles express not simply a god, but God: that which is outside Nature, not as a foreigner, but as her sovereign. They announce not merely that a King has visited our town, but that it is the King, our King."

I love Lewis.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

God tempts David?

For the past nine months or so I've been reading through the Bible chronologically. I'm far behind my in my reading plan, so a week or two ago I was reading in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. I love this reading plan because you often read the exact same story in two different places. It opens your eyes to nuances and perspectives you might miss if you read the stories separately months apart. Here's a great example.

2 Samuel 24:1 read, "Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah." (ESV)

When I read that, a big 'red flag' went up. How do I reconcile this with James 1:13 which says, "Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one."?

Notice a few things though. Here, David's census taking is a punishment. God is angry at David and Israel and he 'incited' David to take a census which would result in judgment (pestilence) on the land. Why was God angry? That is one of the details we wish we knew, but we don't get the answer - at least not in this text. This is a narrative example of what Paul teaches in Romans one - that God 'gives people over' to sin as punishment (Romans 1:24, 26). So God was angry with David and Israel and incites them to greater sin (taking a census was a display of trusting in their military might, not God) and judging them for their sin. Ultimately, this episode leads to the purchase of the land on which Solomon would build the temple. But that still doesn't resolve the issue of God tempting David to take the census!?

Read next the same story in 1 Chronicles 21:1, "Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel." (ESV). Ah. The Chronicler has a more immediate perspective - Satan tempted David. His perspective is like the servants in the book of Job that came with the report "the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword...The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword...a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead" (Job 1:15, 17, 19).

This immediate perspective is balanced by a more 'cosmic' perspective which recognized God's absolute sovereignty, even over evil and evil moral agents. You see it in Job's words, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21). I think this is the perspective you get looking at the 2 Samuel passage. The Chronicler looks to the immediate circumstance - Satan tempted David. The author of Samuel looks to God's sovereignty as the ultimate explanation. Satan does it, but does it according to God's plan. God does it, but using Satan as him intermediate tool.

Nothing falls outside the scope of God's sovereignty, so I can say with utter confidence (and gratefulness) , that "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, ESV). God's toolbox is huge as he works for his glory and our eternal good!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The answer I should've given...

The debate on Monday night was a blessing in a lot of ways for me. Chiefly, it was incredibly for me to see the love and support of my church family and to feel their prayers. I couldn't have done this without the help Matt and Doug and Bob and Scott and David and Tim and my dad as well as those encouraging me and praying for me.

I spent most of Monday night rehashing the debate in my mind - what I wish I had said, what I wish I hadn't said, etc. One point I wanted to clarify because I made a mistake that really misrepresents who God is and has practical implications also (I expect this to be the only post-debate clarification. I could spend months restating and clarifying, but this is the only blunder I feel I really need to clarify).

Me: "God designed us male and female for the purpose of highlighting the Trinity, the difference that exists in unity. So male and female coming together as husband and wife highlights that in a way that homosexual union does not."
Dan Barker: "God is male and Jesus is male. What is the Holy Spirit?"
Me: "He is also I believe male"

From there is was me stammering for a little while. I was lost, not sure how clear that was to everyone, but it was to me. Why? Because I admitted to something I should never have admitted to. I think I even surprised Dan Barker with this admission! Oops. We do speak of the Spirit in masculine pronouns and that's what I was thinking when I answered. However, I don't think you can say God is male or the Holy Spirit is male. You obviously must say Jesus was male, but I don't think 'maleness' applies to the eternal, pre-incarnate Son. Speaking of God in male pronouns is a form of anthropomorphism - attributing to God human characteristics - like having hands, etc. There are good reasons we refer to God using male pronouns and predominately male titles, but that's a different post for a a different time (I think I've posted on it before, actually, in response to 'gender neutral' bible translations).

Despite that, I think it is important to not that God is not completely or even adequately pictured solely in male terms. Hence, Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." I believe there is something about male and female together that more adequately conveys the image than does maleness or femaleness in isolation. It follows, from that then, the heterosexual marriage communicates something that a homosexual union does not. That is how I should've responded. Do I understand all the in's and out's of how heterosexual marriage more adequately reflects the Trinity? Of course not. Should that surprise us - that we don't understand all the inner workings and mystery of the Trinity? We do take some things simply at God's word without fully comprehending them. But I believe that Scripture is clear, both in the NT and the Old that God has designed marriage to reflect his nature and his relationship with his people. I have an understanding of how that works and look forward to when I understand more fully!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Blog on Break

I am sure many of you have notice that I haven't been posting much of substance on this blog for a while. I have been incredibly busy with church work, family life and preparing for an upcoming debate with Dan Barker (October 19th @ 7pm, Woodburn Hall, Room 100) . I'm looking forward to regaining a little leisure time when the debate is over and writing more frequent and substantial posts. I'm sure I'll be posting more thoughts on 'Can you Be Good without God', the topic of the debate (hopefully no retractions or clarifications). I'd also like to post, as was requested, on pro-life laws. To do this I'll need to read up, something I've been meaning to do for some time now. Church history is something I've been finding a lot of pleasure reading and thinking about recently, so I'd like to write more on some of those great characters in history (hero's and villains of the faith). Thanks for being patient and still following the blog.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Baseball Jeopardy

Victor Martinez, Rafael Betancourt, Ben Francisco, Cliff Lee, Mark DeRosa, CC Sabathia, Paul Byrd all have these two things in common.

What is they are all playing in the playoffs this year and played for the Cleveland Indians in the last two years!

Oh, and don't forget about Ryan Ludwig, Casey Blake, and Manny Ramirez who are also playing in the playoffs and used to play for the Indians.