Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Question #108: What is God's will for us in the seventh commandment?
Answer: God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives (Lev. 18:30; Eph. 5:3-5;Jude 22-23
^3 1 Cor. 7:1-9; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Heb. 13:4)
Question #109: Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
Answer: We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires (1 Cor. 15:33; Eph. 5:18; Matt. 5:27-29; 1 Cor. 6:18-20; Eph. 5:3-4)
Friday, May 27, 2011
Thankfully I've set aside the cynicism of my pre-college years and have recently begun to think a lot more about the 'how' and the 'why' of good education - both in the school and the church setting.
Now, older and a little wiser, if (when) my kids ask "why should we learn about _______________?" my simple answer is, "to make you a better worshiper of the true and living God." Certainly other byproducts of education are important also - like becoming a wise person who can make informed and godly decisions, becoming a person of virtue, becoming a contributing member of society (not just in terms of economy), etc. But in the end, I think these byproducts should be subsumed under the big goal of worship, or 'glorifying God'.
For years now, I've been praying with my kids each night and have included a sentence or two like "help them to sleep well tonight (with no bad dreams and no bad thoughts), so they can wake up rested and ready to go to school and learn all about the world you created."
I realized a couple nights ago that I'm fighting an uphill battle. I asked the boys why they go to school and learn to read and write and do math. Their first response, "to get a good job." The system is hell-bent on turning us into cogs in the wheel. I shouldn't be surprised, but I realized how much work I have to do to impress upon the Christ-centered, God glorifying nature of education, of knowledge. They won't learn it from their teachers, nor will they learn it by osmosis. Not even an short sentence every night before bed. It's going to take a concerted effort to point their minds to the God that stands behind the orderliness of geometry, the story of history, the beauty of art and music, and the wonder of science. I look forward to our summer and doing this work together!
Boys, it's not about the job, it's about God. And it's about the end for which God created us - to glorify him and enjoy him forever. Enjoying him includes enjoying his creation, his world, his good gifts. It requires you live rightly. All of these are the proper goals of education. A job you enjoy is too. But lets keep the first things first - learning about these things don't just make you useful, they make God bigger in your eyes (if you have eyes to see him).
I really enjoyed and would recommend the book by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective (Christian Worldview Integration).
PS. Boys, get good jobs so you can take care of mom and me when we're old and decrepit!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Question #105: What is God's will for you in the sixth commandment?
Answer: I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor— not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds— and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.
I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword (Gen. 9:6; Lev. 19:17-18; Matt. 5:21-22; 26:52; Prov. 25:21-22; Matt. 18:35; Rom. 12:19; Eph. 4:26; Matt. 4:7; 26:52; Rom. 13:11-14; Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:14; Rom. 13:4)
Question #106: Does this commandment refer only to killing?
Answer: By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness. In God's sight all such are murder (Prov. 14:30; Rom. 1:29; 12:19; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 2:9-11; 1 John 3:15)
Question #107: Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?
Answer: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies (Matt. 7:12; 22:39; Rom. 12:10; Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:36; Rom. 12:10, 18; Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:8; Ex. 23:4-5; Matt. 5:44-45; Rom. 12:20-21 (Prov. 25:21-22)).
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Answer: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me; and also that I be patient with their failings— for through them God chooses to rule us (Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18- 4:1; Prov. 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pet. 2:18; Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21).
This morning I was watching the news as I was getting ready and one of the programs had an interview with Harold Camping. "Oops," he says, "I was five months off. Judgment Day is still coming in 2011, but not till Oct. 21. Sorry."
What do these two things have to do with one another. Calvin addresses both in a great paragraph regarding the 'use' of the doctrine of providence. Understanding the providence of God should deepen our faith and trust in him in the midst of storms, literal and figurative, and humble us enough not to speculate into the hidden things of God. Here's the paragraph:
We must use modesty, not as it were compelling God to render an account, but so revering his hidden judgements as to account his will the best of all reasons. When the sky is overcast with dense clouds, and a violent tempest arises, the darkness which is presented to our eye, and the thunder which strikes our ears, and stupefies all our senses with terror, make us imagine that every thing is thrown into confusion, though in the firmament itself all continues quiet and serene. In the same way, when the tumultuous aspect of human affairs unfits us for judging, we should still hold, that God, in the pure light of his justice and wisdom, keeps all these commotions in due subordination, and conducts them to their proper end. And certainly in this matter many display monstrous infatuation, presuming to subject the works of God to their calculation, and discuss his secret counsels, as well as to pass a precipitate judgement on things unknown, and that with greater license than on the doings of mortal men. What can be more preposterous than to show modesty toward our equals, and choose rather to suspend our judgement than incur the blame of rashness, while we petulantly insult the hidden judgements of God, judgements which it becomes us to look up to and revere.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Question #103: What is God's will for you in the fourth commandment?
Answer: First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God's people to learn what God's Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.
Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath (Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor. 9:13-14; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:13-17; Tit. 1:5; Deut. 12:5-12; Ps. 40:9-10; 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:23-25; Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Cor. 14:31-32; 1 Tim. 4:13; 1 Cor. 11:23-25; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:1; Ps. 50:14; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Isa. 66:23; Heb. 4:9-11).
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The main villain this season has been the sinister Darkseid. He's not a typical super villain - not a Lex or a ToyMaker or Mantis. He's darker, more evil, more supernatural. He isn't bent on money or power, but on corrupting humanity, destroying souls and eventually bringing Apokolips - his home planet that will destroy earth.
Interestingly, the finale was filled with biblical language and images - destroying the soul, Savior, Rapture (those who turned evil and followed Darkseid would be raptured away), light and darkness. There was even an unholy Trinity of Granny Goodness, Desaad, and Godfrey and a resurrection of Lionel Luther, now quickened by Darkseid - oh, and of Lex Luthor now powered by Lionel's exhumed heart. Good TV, but not that original. See the book of Revelation for a lot of the same stuff.
Satan mimics, counterfeits, God's work. The list of counterfeitting activities exposed in the book of Revelation is long (I'm indebted to Vern Poythress and his commentary
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation for putting this major theme on display for me). Here's a short list:
- Satan (the Dragon) creates/calls forth the Beast, which by John's description is an almost exactly replica of the Dragon (compare 12:3ff and 13:1ff). What's going on here? Satan is mimicking God, creating in his grotesque image.
- The Beast becomes a 'son' of the Dragon, a counterfeit Christ.
- Satan also counterfeits the person and work of the Spirit through the person and ministry (false, obviously) of the False Prophet (identified in 16:13) who performs miracles (13:13), promotes worship of the Beast and exercises all authority on behalf of the Beast (13:12). Again, poor counterfeits. Whereas the Holy Spirit guides us into the truth (John 16:13), the False Prophet deceives (Rev. 13:14).
- These three together form an unholy, counterfeit trinity.
- Poythress really does a good job explicating how the Beast mimics Christ:
The Beast has ten crowns on his horns (13:1). In Rev. 19:12 Christ has “many crowns” on his head. The Beast has “blasphemous names” (13:1). Christ has worthy names (19:12, 13, 16). The Beast has great power (13:2). Christ has divine power and authority (12:5, 10). The Beast experiences a counterfeit resurrection. It seemed to have “a fatal wound,” but the wound was healed (13:3). The counterfeit character of the Beast is clear in this feature. The Beast did not actually die and come to life again. He did not experience an actual resurrection. But he had a wound that one would think should have led to his death. His recovery was marvelous and astonishing, so astonishing that it was a big factor in leading people to follow him. Just as the resurrection of Christ is the chief event that astonishes people and draws them to follow Christ (John 12:32), so here this counterfeit miracle, a counterfeit resurrection, leads to following the Beast. The Beast receives worship (13:4); Christ receives worship (5:8-10). The worshipers offer a song of praise to the Beast, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” (13:4). This song blasphemously counterfeits the song offered to God at the exodus, “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exod. 15:11). The Beast has a seal that is put on his followers (13:16). In parallel fashion Christ seals his followers with the seal of his name on their foreheads (14:1). At the last day people from all nations will worship Christ (5:9), and he will exercise his authority over all. Meanwhile, the Beast “was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation” (13:7).- Lastly, at least for this post, Satan counterfeits God's people. In Revelation and elsewhere, the church is portrayed as Christ's bride, pure and holy. The counterfeit image of the bride is the prostitute of Rev. 17-18. Satan's whore is impure and unholy, corrupt and immoral, representing his false worshipers.
I'll allow Poythress to bring it home with some good application:
The fact that Satan engages in counterfeiting helps us to understand and prepare for the spiritual war. Counterfeiting implies both danger and hope. The danger lies in the fact that Satan may fool people. The counterfeit is close enough to the truth to suck people into its grip.
But hope lies in the fact that Satan and his cohorts will surely be defeated. In fact, their defeat is implied in the facts about who they are. Satan aspires to be god. But he cannot succeed. He is not the creator or originator, but only an imitator. He is constantly dependent on God. Similarly, the Beast is bestial, subhuman, and his kingdom must submit to the kingdom of the Man, the last Adam.
Revelation also gives us a key for escaping Satan’s deceit. Though Satan continues to deceive the world, Revelation unmasks his devices in order to arm us to resist him. The world is in awe of the Beast and willingly worships him (13:3-4, 7). But when our eyes are enlightened by Revelation, we see how hideous he is. We may still be tempted to fear him because he looks so powerful. But, having seen him for what he is, can we honestly want to have him as our master?
Monday, May 16, 2011
[Genesis 1:26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”As I was preparing last week to lead this discussion, I was also reading a great book Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective (Christian Worldview Integration). I stumbled upon this quote from Peter Singer, a Princeton ethicist (quoted unapprovingly):
 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
The traditional view of the sanctity of human life will collapse under pressure from scientific, technological, and demographic developments. By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct. (from "The Sanctity of Human Life," Foreign Policy, September-October 2005, pg. 40)The sanctity of life, so important to a truly Christian view of the world and so deeply rooted in Scripture, is being challenged in multiple ways. There are those, like Singer, who denigrate human life directly - lowering mankind to nothing more than another animal species, denying humanity possesses any immaterial soul. Others, it seems to me, denigrate humanity indirectly, by elevating nature to the level of humanity - like the Bolivian government recently putting 'Mother Earth' on equal footing with humanity, granting her (it) human rights.
Christians should obviously be very concerned about these societal trends. But, beyond the broader societal implications, it would behoove us all, as believers, to ponder often whether our actions towards our neighbors reflects the dignity with which God has bestowed them. They too are image bearers, whether of a different gender, race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. All of us are image bearers, and in each and every one of us the image has been marred and twisted by sin. Still, as image bearers, we possess an inherent dignity that is uncommon - no other part of God's good creation shares it.
In Lewis' The Weight of Glory, he argues that while it may be possible to think to often of our own dignity and glory, it isn't possible to think to often of our neighbors dignity and glory. He continues, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit...Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to our senses."
Though we readily affirm humans are all image bearers, does our lack of civility brings our beliefs into question? Do we really believe it? Do we live as though each ?
Thursday, May 12, 2011
In the last few chapters Calvin has expressed a lack of certainty regarding some aspects of the Trinity (i.e. usefulness of analogies), of Creation (i.e. why God waited an eternity before creating), and of angels (when specifically they were created). He chastises those who are overly curious about such details and refuses to speculate where Scripture doesn't give us any insight.
His humility is genuine. He doesn't fail to speak where Scripture does. He doesn't call everything we know into question (not a Bell-like false humility that questions if we can know what God has made plain through revelation). He simply refuses to speak about things that are too lofty, too mysterious, or on things that God hasn't chosen to speak. Here is a great quote from Book 1, Chapter 14 (about angels):
Not to dwell on this, let us here remember that on the whole subject of religion one rule of modesty and soberness is to be observed, and it is this, in obscure matters not to speak or think, or even long to know, more than the Word of God has delivered. A second rule is, that in reading the Scriptures we should constantly direct our inquiries and meditations to those things which tend to edification, not indulge in curiosity, or in studying things of no use. And since the Lord has been pleased to instruct us, not in frivolous questions, but in solid piety, in the fear of his name, in true faith, and the duties of holiness, let us rest satisfied with such knowledge...The duty of a Theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful...Bidding adieu, therefore, to that nugatory [of little of no consequence] wisdom, let us endeavour to ascertain from the simple doctrine of Scripture what it is the Lord's pleasure that we should know concerning angels.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Question #101: But may we swear an oath in God's name if we do it reverently?
Answer: Yes, when the government demands it, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God's glory and our neighbor's good.
Such oaths are approved in God's Word and were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers (Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Jer. 4:1-2; Heb. 6:16; Gen. 21:24; Josh. 9:15; 1 Kings 1:29-30; Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23).
Question #102: May we swear by saints or other creatures?
Answer: No. A legitimate oath means calling upon God as the one who knows my heart to witness to my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear falsely. No creature is worthy of such honor (Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:23; Matt. 5:34-37; 23:16-22; James 5:12).
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
"The fact of the matter is that Jesus is simply no longer present with his people in the physical and local way that he once was; but rather, in this period of overlap between Christ's ascension and second coming, the way his presence is mediated to his people is by the Holy Spirit through the church, an outpost of grace."Really focus is on that phrase "they way his presence is mediated to his people is by the Holy Spirit" and ask, "What does that mean?"
Obviously, we don't encounter Jesus in the a "local" way - he isn't geographically, physically present with us, not even when we're in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. Christ ascended into heaven and is seated at the Father's right hand in heaven (Acts 1:6-11; Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 10:11-13). After his ascension, Christ is really, in his flesh and blood, absent from his people. Christ, ever the God-man, is not omnipresent in his flesh and blood. He is, in his humanity, finite.
But, at the same time, Christ promised his presence with us till the end of the age (Matt. 28:20), and that he would be present wherever two or more are gathered in his name (Matt. 28:20). How is this possible? Two common responses leave us a little confused.
First, some might say argue that Christ is present with us in his divine nature, but not with us in his human nature. I think, however, that misses something important. Christ promises his personal presence with us, not simply the presence of his divine nature. Orthodox Christology maintains that in the person of Christ two natures exist "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us" (Definition of Chalcedon). If Christ is with us personally, he must be with us in the fullness of his personhood, which, from the time of his incarnation means both his human and divine natures.
Others might wish to answer that Christ is with us is the Spirit. Yes, but I think we have to be careful and clear here. We often treat the Spirit as a substitute or surrogate for Jesus, as though the Spirit indwelling us is what Christ was promising when he said he would be with us. I think that's a mistake, a confusion of the persons of the Trinity. The Son is not the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Son.
So, "[our communion with Christ] is not simply with Christ in his divine nature separately taken, or with the Holy Ghost as the representative of his presence in the world..." (John Williamson Nevin, The Mystical Presence).
How then is Christ personally present with us? He is present through the Spirit. The key is the preposition through (or by in that original quote by Jason Stellman). The Spirit bridges the gap between us here on earth and Christ in heaven, making Christ in his person present with us. Horton writes, "The Spirit is the mediator of, not the surrogate for, Christ's person and work" (The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way). Robert Reymond, speaking more specifically of our union with Christ, speaks of the Spirit acting almost like an umbilical cord, connecting saints on earth to the Son in heaven (A New Systematic Theology Of The Christian Faith 2nd Edition - Revised And Updated). I think there is something to that. Christ is with us, especially made present in the sacraments and the word. At the same time, we are with Christ (Eph 2:4-6; see also Col 3:1-4). How can I, as a finite man be here and in heaven with Christ? How can Christ, also finite in his humanity, be here and in heaven? Through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Miraculous, mysterious, glorious.
Monday, May 09, 2011
Foo Fighters, "Arlandria" (performed live on The Late Show)
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Question #99: What is God's will for us in the third commandment?
Answer: That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.
In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess him, pray to him, and praise him in everything we do and say (Lev. 24:10-17; Lev. 19:12; Matt. 5:37; James 5:12; Lev. 5:1; Prov. 29:24; Ps. 99:1-5; Jer. 4:2; Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10; Ps. 50:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:8; Col. 3:17).
Question #100: Is blasphemy of God's name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent it and forbid it?
Answer: Yes, indeed. No sin is greater, no sin makes God more angry than blaspheming his name. That is why he commanded the death penalty for it (Lev. 5:1; Lev. 24:10-17).
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
I didn't think too much about how I should react - till this morning at least (this post was started on 5/2). My Google Reader was filled with thoughts about Bin Ladens death, my Facebook page was equally loaded with peoples comments - some expressing jubilation, others chastising those who would rejoice in the death of a man, evil though he was.
How should we respond? By rejecting either-or ways of thinking (or feeling). I am confident we should be both rejoicing and mourning.
As many have pointed out, God himself does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. God, through the prophet Ezekiel asks, "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23). Likewise, Peter reminds us "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
So, God does not delight in the death of the wicked...Or does he?
I am entirely convinced that nothing happens apart from God's sovereignty. The casting of the lot, the flashing of lightning, the growing of the grass, the feeding of young animals, the affairs of nations, the decisions of a king, and all aspects of our life are in God's sovereign control. Nothing happens apart from God's will - not even the death of his Son, a heinously wicked act.
Moreover, the psalmist declares that God does what pleases him.
Psalm 115:3 - "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases."
Psalm 135:6 - "Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps."
So, did the death of Bin Laden please God? Should it please us? Or is God grieved? Should we grieve?
Yes, and yes. Yes and yes.
God does delight in justice. He does not want the wicked to go unpunished. In fact, He commands that judgment be executed and the wicked punished (see Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16; Deut. 25:2; Ezra 7:25-26; Prov. 17:15). God himself executes justice (Ps. 9:16, and many more), and God does place the responsibility of executing judgment into the hands of men to whom he has granted this authority (Jer. 21:12; Ezra 7:26; Rom. 13:1-4). Moreover, we are given examples of rejoicing when God executes judgment (Deut. 32:39-43; Ps. 58:10-11; Rev. 18:20; Rev 19:1-5).
[Sidebar: I am in no way meaning to say that enemies of the US are God's enemies. We are not God's chosen nation, not even a Christian nation. The point is, God executes judgment against evil and God's people do celebrate that].
Let me say it bluntly. It is good Bin Laden has been killed. Justice has been served by those whom are charged with executing it - not private individuals, but agents of the government in whom God has placed the sword to execute judgment. We should celebrate that justice long delayed has finally been meted out. We should celebrate, and grieve.
I have seen many comparisons between celebrations here in the US after the news of Bin Laden's death and celebrations in other parts of the world when the Twin Towers fell. Stop it. It is an awful comparison. Those who celebrated the death of the more than 3000 on 9/11 were celebrating the death of noncombatant men, women and children. Those who celebrate the death of Bin Laden celebrate justice being served in the death of an wicked man who murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children. I honestly wish there was more sobriety in our celebrations, more gravitas, but I won't begrudge those who take a deep sigh of relief and let out a whoop.
I know this post is weighted towards the 'rejoice' side over against the 'weep' side. I want us to feel both profoundly, but the buzz I have been reading from Christians seemed to almost wholly neglect this side of it. So, in typical fashion, I'm sure I've over-corrected.