[!] ... by which you are being saved (note)

No, I haven't forgotten about 1Cor 15. I am just distracted. I'll be back on it over the weekend, I am sure.

[*] A 20-year-old beef

You know you’re getting old when you read something and you realize that what you are reading – even though it was composed during the last TV season – makes you think about something you have been mulling over for 20 years.

The really-alert readers of this blog have noticed that recently I added The Banty Rooster (that’s Brian Mattson) to my blogroll (yes: “banty” is a word – it’s the diminutive of “bantam”, which is somewhat funny because “bantam” means “small and/or feisty”; a “bantam” rooster is a decorative fowl, so a “banty” rooster is like a really small decorative fowl), and I did so on an experimental basis. I’m not sure that he’s not going to get demoted to “crickets and locusts” yet, but I have enjoyed reading his blog for a lot of reasons.

One of the reasons is this 20-year beef – and I have enjoyed it only to the extent that it has been somewhat of a gut check regarding what I really believe about things, and whether I have changed any since I was an atheist in college. My 20-year beef is with U2. Mattson has a 2-part review of the last U2 CD on his blog under “best of”, and that review got me back on this bicycle. Keep in mind, as well, that my first blog entry ever was on Derek Webb’s defense of Bono as a Christian hero.

There was a time, in the high age of vinyl records, when I had all of U2’s records. I had “Boy” before it was cool to have “Boy”, though I admit that I didn’t actually own it until about 1983 when “War” broke out. I had them all through “Rattle and Hum”, and it appeared to me that they were much smarter than the average rock band. I might not have used the word “grounded” then, but that’s what I would have meant if I had that kind of understanding of things. However, I always treated their lyrics with rubber gloves – because they always seemed to be saying one thing but meaning another.

Then came “Achtung baby”, and I swore never to buy another U2 record again.

(For the belly-achers, if you count the years, “Achtung Baby” came out in 1991, so you might want your money back for this blog post if you think that the beef begins where my album-buying ended. Well, you’re wrong, and it’s my blog, so go listen to your trashy U2 CDs from the 90’s on afterward and let the saner readers read in peace.)

Now why did “Achtung Baby” mark the end of my fanaticism for U2? Well, for several reasons:

(1) It was bad. You cannot compare that CD to October or the Unforgettable Fire or (for pete’s sake!) The Joshua Tree and honestly say, “boy, that Album’s the top of their game”. For all intents and purposes, this was U2’s 8th CD and it was by a long shot the worst. And don’t tell me about “One”, OK? I will argue from here that “One” is the reason to call the rest of the CD a dud.

(2) It was bad for all the wrong reasons. See: you can forgive a band for going out on a limb and trying something experimental or arty and admire the way they failed. But “Achtung Baby” was the seed from which the tragic and useless “Zooropa” CD came. It was an appeal to Pop, and while many people may have gotten on-board the U2 bus because of “Achtung Baby” and/or “Zooropa”, I was getting off. The same thing that happened to Peter Gabriel – which is a whole other blog entry yet to be written, I guess – was happening to the fellows from Dublin, and it made me sick.

(3) It confirmed my worst suspicions about them. Let me make it clear that from about 1981 to about 1993 I was an atheist, so my problem wasn’t that I found out that U2 was “Christian” or “not Christian”, but that I found out that they were in it for the money.

They were in it for the money! I would feel like an episode of Seinfeld if I said, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”, because in U2’s case, there is actually something wrong with that. Whatever it was that they were singing about, it was really just about the money – because they had just come off of what I would call one of the classic Rock and Roll LPs of all time, and now, as a follow-up, they traded all the things that mattered about “Rattle and Hum” for something with no regard for what they themselves had accomplished to that point.

Everybody needs a day job, right? Bills gotta be paid. Baby needs a new pair of fuzzy dice and all that. There’s no shame in working for a living, even if you have to work for “The Man” (whatever that means) or what your day job turns out to be is Rocking the House. See: when a businessman is just “in it for the money”, shucks, he’s just an ignorant capitalist and who can blame him. But when an ARTIST trades his aesthetics for cash, he’s just a guy on the corner selling pictures of Jesus or Elvis or the Dogs Playing Poker on black velvet – that is to say, it is obvious that he doesn’t care what he is selling as long as it is actually selling. There’s nobody on the internet complaining about the time that Duran Duran or Flock of Seagulls or Scritti Politti or Brittany Spears sold out for an extra buck because it turns out that they were only ever about the buck – they were made to be pop stars, not to take popular music to some new and dangerous place. U2 was taking rock and roll to a new and dangerous place by being faithful to a couple of ideals (apparently, anyway) and a few tips-o-the-hate to the roots of Rock and Roll (again, apparently).

And then there was the whole Christian vocabulary they were (and perhaps still are) massaging. Lifting texts from the book of Psalms, trading on religious-sounding refrains, and mentioning Jesus and God often enough to be (obviously?) involved in a conversation about Him if not to Him or with Him. For the atheist (me), they were obviously trading on what Dr. Martini used to call modern (I am pretty confident he meant “postmodern”, but I am quoting from memory) man’s inherent willingness to believe in something greater than himself, but at the same time modern man’s problem of having nothing left to believe in. So as I listened – not a Christian – I wasn’t hearing Psalm 40 or revised Catholic antiphons: I was hearing the modern voice adapting classical religious language to express its own message of optimism in spite of its own despair at having nothing greater than itself to believe in.

But it turns out they weren’t doing any such a thing: they were in it for the money. So when they turned out “Achtung Baby”, and we find lyrics like this:
Give me one more chance
And you'll be satisfied
Give me two more chances
You won't be denied
Well my heart is where it's always been
My head is somewhere in between
Give me one more chance
Let me be your lover tonight
Or like this:
You're dangerous 'cause you're honest
You're dangerous, you don't know what you want
Well you left my heart empty as a vacant lot
For any spirit to haunt
Or like this:
Johnny take a dive with your sister in the rain
Let her talk about the things you can't explain
To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you want to kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel
On your knees boy

She's the wave
She'll turn the tide
She sees the man inside the child, yeah

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
She moves in mysterious ways, yeah
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright / Love, oh love
Lift my days, light up my nights, love
Very mystical-sounding language, right? Very curious and high-brow, as far as pop lyrics go. But what are these songs about? They’re about what every other song on the radio is about: feeling your urges without regard to anything but your satisfaction. So when Bono intones, “If you want to kiss the sky, you betta learn how to kneel – on your knees boy!” he’s not talking about submission to a higher ideal: he’s talking about submission to something a little more immediate and either sultry or sensual.

When you listen to that CD’s other 11 tracks, then come back to “One”, the context is what those other tracks have established. The most charitable thing to say about “one” is that it is a cynical tip of the hat to U2’s previous 7 records.
Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame

You say one love, one life
When it's one need in the night
One love, we get to share it
Leaves you baby if you don't care for it
So far so good, right? But the sentiment of this verse is irony: You say “one love, one life” [u]but[/u] it’s one need in the night. It would be interesting to see what that “one need” is, but clearly it’s not the “one love”. And what “love” leaves you if you don’t care for it? As an atheist, this can make sense, but it can make sense only in the context of love being itself a thing of impotence and limited scope, not a thing which is a greater purpose and a greater power.

That is undoubtedly underscored in the next verses:
Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

Well it's too late, tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We're one, but we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other
Very mournful stuff, this – and the conclusion that “we’re not the same / we get to carry each other” – there’s no love there, or even duty. It’s just the last thing left to do.

Now we can cover the rest of this song, verse for verse, and talk about how the writer uses the image of Christ without actually invoking the person of Christ in order to demean the object of the lyric; we can talk about how the writer equates the temple of love that the object idealizes with a place which is in fact a trap into slavery or worse. But when it all comes to a conclusion, even the high language of “sisters and brothers … carry each other” is only an echo of the emptiness of the first time the writer uses the phrase “carry each other”.

And in that, this song is really a much darker, forlorn version of “Africa” by Toto or “She’s out of My Life” by Michael Jackson. And some people would say that it’s art because of the more somber tones and shades it uses, and comparing it to “Africa” or “She’s out of my life” is frankly reductive – but to that I say “I doubt it”. You cannot put this song in the context of this album and say, “oh brother – at least they threw their ‘real’ fans a bone”.

For me, as a fan, I was pretty shocked. I gave up on them. It wasn’t so much that they were voicing things I didn’t personally believe – because I have to say that as an atheist I believed exactly what that song and that CD was saying. It was because all the times I thought they were trying to raise our eyes up from the daily mud to a higher ground of brotherhood – even as a kind of dream – they were doing no such thing. They were paying the bills.

When it turned out that this is how I saw their work, it was obviously ridiculous to listen to them anymore – especially when they (meaning: Bono) would drone on about how the rich take advantage of the poor on a collective level. Somehow it is America’s fault and Western Europe’s fault that the Third World is run by dictators and con men – when this selfsame person is a con man for pretending to have higher ideals about the ability or the duty of men to lift each other up, and the only reason he has a platform to say any of this is because he has fooled others into believing something he does not.

And 20 years later, I think it is much worse than that. After finding the love of God, and seeing the inability of man, and finding God’s grace not by being good but in spite of being good, I think Bono’s clever and nuanced uses of the Bible and the names and work of God are not just pop marketing: I think they are intended to deceive.

After I describe why I think that by example, I’m going to tell you what I think of the Banty Rooster’s review of the last U2 CD.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

[?] We are please to welcome HALOSCAN ...

... for comments and for trackback. Those of you reading for pleasure, or because you were my college roomie (hi Tim!) and just found this link, the shrill girlie screams you hear are all the geeks rejoicing over the ability to link to my post via trackback, thereby getting their own measely blog linked to a less-measely blog.

It's a very weird sociological thing in the blogosphere, but HALOSCAN is making the work a place where you can actually look down your nose at other bloggers.

[$] I'm offended

[#] Post-vacation corrections & apologies

(1) There's a fellow over at Challies' blog (jeffmikels) who said, "{centuri0n} posted some inaccurate information about the BGC, and though I'm not really a denominational kind of guy, I really took issue with what he said, but unless I signed up for a blog with blogger, I couldn't post a comment." To which I replied, "I'm not even sure what the "BGC" is, and I am certain I have never blogged on them. However, again, please e-mail me if you don't want to give Blogger a blood sample and I'm sure we can work out the rough spots."

Well, I actually did post indirectly about the BGC -- in my entry re: Piper & the FBFI. What I said there was
The second point underlined above is that Piper has never separated from the BGC in spite of its association with Open Theism. I would propose that the BGC cannot be reformed from its error unless men like John Piper stay in the body to refute errors and turn a brother away from sin. At the same time, I would also note that you cannot find open theism in Piper -- it is without any evidence. So to say, "well, he hasn't made his church find a new fellowship so he must be in cahoots with those Open Theists," is to make him guilty by association, not by example or evidence.
If the statement "The second point underlined above is that Piper has never separated from the BGC in spite of its association with Open Theism" offends, it is a reference to the FBFI position on the matter. I'll admit it was a glib summary of their position, and in that it does not scrutinize their position very closely -- nor does it scrutinize the truth claim thet the BGC embraces open theism.

The statement raised the hackles of jeffmickle, and to him and anyone else offended by the statement I apologize.

(2) I also apologize to my wife for blog-checking while on vacation. My body clock wakes me up no later than 6:45 AM and she and the kids will sleep, if unassailed, until 9 AM. Internet access was free at the hotel, and I capitalized.






Thank you.

[#] One of the dangers of Blogging …

… is that somebody is going to read your blog, or your comments on their blog. Case in point: rene the rugrat. I found her blog by mistake, and then I posted some comments. You might want to read the discussion up to that point before you read my responses here.

Rene said:
First, it was close to twenty years ago that I heard Campolo make that comment and I could scarcely tell you who the current Christian gurus are and it would probably be impossible for me to care less.
I wasn’t disputing that Campolo said what you say here – I think it’s a slogan of his, actually, because he makes this exact same point (if not statement) in his latest book. My point in criticizing your use of Campolo is that Dr. Campolo is not a great flashpoint of orthodoxy.
Second I was quoting from memory, so my numbers could be way off. But the point remains, regardless of what opinion a person may have of Mr. Campolo, an entire doctine has been built around a single statement of Jesus', at the expense of much, if not most, of the rest of his teaching.
Actually, it’s a doctrine with pretty significant NT support that takes its name from one verse of Scripture. Perhaps both you and Dr. Campolo should review the following texts to start and get back with us:

John 1:12-13
Rom 7:6
Eph 4:20-23
Third, if I stated anywhere that I believe in salvation through works rather than grace please tell me so I can repent. I do however believe that works are the evidence of faith. Trust me if I did not believe that I would be deeply concerned for a man I know who is probably the most miserable and angry Christian I have ever met.
My point to your statement was that word count is utterly irrelevant in determining the value or essential nature of a doctrine. Dr. Campolo’s point in saying what he said was that we have somehow extracted the Gospel from reality by stressing the spiritual truth (you must be born again) over the physical truth (faith without works is dead) – when, in fact, those whom he would accuse of this – most Southern Baptists, for example – are not guilty of any such thing.

It’s a clever bit of rhetoric from him, but it doesn’t actually make the point he is trying to make – which is true with so much of his work. The rest is just bluster.

[%] The Link -- THE Link

Here it is.

If you don't know who Vern Poythress and John Frame are, shame on you. Who let you in here?

[*] FBFI and Piper

I ran into this at the Sharper Iron forums:
FBFI Resolution 05-02: On the Ministry of John Piper
While recognizing much that is commendable in the ministry of John Piper, including his emphasis on a passionately God-centered life and his identity as a theological conservative, the FBFI has some genuine concerns about his doctrine and practice. John Piper teaches in his local ministry that miraculous sign gifts are continuing. Piper has also failed to separate from the Baptist General Conference which has deliberately chosen to tolerate the heresy known as open theism in its membership. He also enthusiastically endorses Daniel Fuller, who has championed the attack on the inerrancy of scripture in our generation. The great popularity of Piper’s writings, especially among younger fundamentalists, requires that FBFI warn its members concerning Piper’s non-separatist position and, for those who read his works, to do so with careful discernment.
OK -- the resolution says 3 things about Piper that are supposed to raise concerns. (I underlined them)

The first one seems to be classic Baptist nit-picking. You mean Piper has the audacity to preach that miraculous signs are still being manifetsed in the Church? If you look here, you can find this summary at the end of Piper's long discussion of this topic, from 1991:
I have come to the point of seeing that the risk lies in the other direction. It would be a risk not to seek spiritual gifts for myself and my church. It would be a risk not to pray with the early church, "Grant your servants to speak your word with boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through your holy servant Jesus." Disobedience is always a greater risk than obedience.

Much of my experience disinclines me to "earnestly desire spiritual gifts" especially the gift of prophecy. However, I do not base my prayer for such spiritual empowering on experience, but on the Bible. The Scripture is sufficient for all circumstances by teaching us the means of grace to be used in all circumstances. And I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that one of the means of grace needed in our day is the extraordinary demonstration of power by signs and wonders.
I would encourage anybody who wants to criticize this position (and I would be one of them) to go and read all of what Piper writes in this particular essay, because he is not proposing any kind of heresy or errancy in putting forth his view. We may not like it, and we may refrain from exhorting this view of Scriptural and practical reasons, but that doesn't make Piper a theological persona non grata.

The second point underlined above is that Piper has never separated from the BGC in spite of its association with Open Theism. I would propose that the BGC cannot be reformed from its error unless men like John Piper stay in the body to refute errors and turn a brother away from sin. At the same time, I would also note that you cannot find open theism in Piper -- it is without any evidence. So to say, "well, he hasn't made his church find a new fellowship so he must be in cahoots with those Open Theists," is to make him guilty by association, not by example or evidence.

However, the last point is somewhat distressing. There is no doubt that Piper was a student of Fuller and openly calls him a "hero". But it is hard to say that Fuller "championed the attack" on inerrancy in this or any generation as Fuller was pretty strict to demand that the Bible is, in fact, "inerrant". The question is whether Fuller's definition of "inerrant" is actually "full" enough. To put a fine point on it, Fuller is often quoted as saying, "A communication can be in error only if it fails to live up to the intention of its author...if they fulfill this intention we regard them as inerrant. (The purpose of biblical writers was) to report the happenings and meanings of the redemptive acts of God in history so that men might be made wise unto salvation." As Geisler points out, this view of inerrancy makes almost any text an inerrant one, but does that mean that Fuller was himself opposed to reading the Bible as if it were without any errors?

There is a great essay on this by Dr. Greg Bahnsen, in which the discussion of this issue between Fuller and Clark pinnock is reviewed and examined. In the end, Bahnsen (as you can imagine) states that the inductive method proposed by both men in regard to Scripture is inadequate for the task that they are undertaking. He says in summary:
After a sober consideration ... it ought to be quite clear that neutral and presuppositionless reasoning does not and cannot have full control in Fuller's or Pinnock's inductivism. The very use of that epistemology commits one to a great deal of unargued philosophical baggage. By its use one wittingly or unwittingly endorses certain crucial assumptions. And in connection with a commitment to inductivism, one inescapably must face difficult philosophical questions pertaining to epistemology and ontology, questions that can be left unanswered only at the price of theoretical arbitrariness and disrespect for the very justifying considerations that inductivism demands for our every commitment -- from beginning to end.
Lastly, Bahnsen wrote this about the Fuller-Pinnock debate:
The classic inter-school encounter between Pinnock and Fuller points beyond itself to the basic and inescapable need for a presuppositional apologetic, rather than the allegedly pure inductivism espoused by Pinnock and Fuller. {Emph Added}
Bahnsen's point was that (at this point in time) neither Pinnock nor Fuller were assailing the inerrancy of Scripture but were employing an apologetic system to establish the inerrancy of Scripture. Fuller may have been, in retrospect, an advocate of what the limits of inerrancy were, but (within the limits of my own scope of reading) I am not aware that he ever advocated that the Bible was not inerrant. I am also unaware in any case that Piper ever advocates for errancy -- or that he advocates for the merely-limited inerrancy Fuller advocated.

In all of this, I wonder what the the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International is trying to warn us about? Maybe I'm missing something here ...


I found this blog entry by Paleoevangelical, and it offers a very important link for the discussion, above.

One important addendum/correction to my blog entry would be: apparently, Fuller has abandoned inerrancy. I was unaware of this, and my ignorance is my own fault. I'm pleased to stand corrected, but sad that it is a correction which demonstrates how one influential man has compromised his view of Scripture.

Other than that, I'm going to follow this discussion with interest.

[$] I'm boycotting "expanding posts"

I was just reading through Blogger's hacks, and I found the "expanding post" hack -- you know the one. You're reading Blog, you think that Blog-author has said something pithy in a few words and since you have the attention span of a puppy full of Coke you rejoice that it is a short Blog. Then your eyes reach the end of the last sentence and it says, "Read More!" or "Continue reading!" or "More ..."

Hey: Blogger. I would read more if it was right there. I was, in fact, reading, but I was interrupted by your gratuitous link which truncated your pithy scribing mid-sentence. Now I don't care. Now I'm going to comics.com or (well, let's not get stupid) back to work because you have frustrated my reading shwerve.

Boycott expanding posts. Read more, not less; click less, not more.

[#] This is relevant today ...

... Because James White is giving Lavender the what-for over the same kind of stuff. Let the record show I gave him the what-for more than a year ago over this same issue.

Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 14:03:46 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Syntax Hidden or Denied (reviewed)
To: "Malcolm L. Lavender"

Dear Dr. Lavender,

I have just gotten through the first 5 pages of the essay you sent me today, and it appears to me that you are intent on doing what you are accusing James White of doing -- that is, denying or overlooking the syntax of John 3:16 and John 6:44. You make a lot of repetitive references to the generic use of the subjunctive in Greek but fail to account for both the use of subjunctive+hina and the case of third-class condition.

Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek plainly says that hina+subjunctive indicates purpose -- either in an affirmative sense of purpose or in a prohibitive sense of purpose. I refer you to the examples on pg 287.

Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says this:
The single most common category of the subjunctive in the NT is after "hina", comprising about one-third of all subjunctive instances. There are seven basic uses included in this construction: purpose, result, purpose-result, substantival, epexegetical, complimentary, and command.
Specifically, Wallace refers to John 3:16 as an example of "purpose-result" hina clause. Wallace states that this usage "indicates both the intention and its sure result". The other passage Wallace uses as an example of this is Phil 2:9-11, and you are welcome to draw your own conclusion about that.You may refer to pp. 471-477 in Wallace if you have questions about this issue.

Regarding John 6:44, you are right to say that the subjunctive used is a third-class condition -- but the condition is not the raising but the drawing! The raising -- which is the basis for White's exegetical assertion on John 6:44 -- is not subjunctive but future indicative. No man can come, says the verse, unless something happens: unless (ean me) God draws him. The subjunctive condition is that God's drawing is the only thing which allows a man to come. Wallace calls this the condition of "logical connection" (pg 696) in which B can only happen if condition A if fulfilled. Jn 6:44a says exactly this: Man can come if and only if God draws him. The balance of the verse -- "and I will raise him up at the last day" -- is not conditional: it is strictly affirmative, strictly what will be done by Christ. The question is only "to whom?" The "him" in 6:44b is the man whom God draws. Man can come if and only if God draws, and this man Christ will raise up at the last day. The raising, as future indicative, is certain, and it is based only on the drawing of the Father.

Your approach to John 3:16, John 6:44 and these issue indicates you are either not aware or are unwilling to admit that the two most common introductory texts to NT Greek both contradict you. In the worst case, if you are right and they are wrong, White is making an error taught to almost every English-speaking student of Greek through these two texts. But how likely is it, really, that the two most common texts for teaching introductory NT Greek are both wrong and you are right?

My suggestion to you, sir, is that you abandon your quest to prove that any Calvinist (let alone James White) is practicing grammatical voodoo with the NT. Even if the rest of your paper has any valid points, the type of bias demonstrated in the first argument you provide poisons the well.



[*] Kevin, the coffee expert

This is lifted entirely from another blog.

There are two sides to every story…

Phil Johnson writes:
    Cappuccino, you may know, is so named because its color matches the trademark hooded garment of a Capuchin monk.
Not everyone agrees:This is important, not because we are overly concerned about Cappucino but because there are a great many people who view history in only one way (particularly ecclesiastical history) and only in consideration of certain “facts”.

It is an apt illustration that a limited perspective yields limiting results.

But hey…what do I know about coffee anyway?!?

This entry was posted on Monday, June 20th, 2005 at 4:12 pm and is filed under History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
No Responses to “There are two sides to every story…”

1. centuri0n Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
June 21st, 2005 at 7:11 am

At last a topic upon which you are an expert.

    Main Entry: cap·puc·ci·no Pronunciation Guide
    Variant(s): or cap·uc·cino
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): -s
    Etymology: Italian, literally, Capuchin; from the likeness of its color to that of a Capuchin’s habit — more at CAPUCHIN
    : espresso coffee topped with frothed hot milk or cream and often flavored with cinnamon ; also : a cup of cappuccino
Always 2 “C”s, sometimes 2 “P”s. You have, however, omitted Wiki’s actual “Origin” of the word:
The origin of the name is made clear by the fact that in France at the beginning of the 18th century a new fashion arose in Paris (though not at Versailles) for carved wall-panelling boiseries that were left in their natural color (almost invariably oak) rather than being painted and gilded as in the previous century. The new mode, which coincided with the height of the controversy over Jansenisme that was dividing the tout Paris in stylish religious pamphleteering, was wittily termed à la capucine in reference to the brown color of the robes worn by the Capuchin order of Franciscan friars. This color-coded etymology is followed by the Oxford English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary. The order of Capuchins was, in turn, named for the capucize (cappuccio), or long pointed cowl, worn by the friars. Similarly, the cream on a well-made cappuccino covers the beverage as a sort of cappuccio.
[Emph added]

As for limited perspective, citing a source properly (which is to say, substancially in order to represent it adequately) helps one to have a balanced perspective.

I'll add here that Kevin Johnson did, in fact, link to Wilipedia in his citation, so perhaps I am being too hard on him. However, I think that to cite what he cites as a right-minded alternative to Pastor Johnson's correct assessment of the etymology of cappuccino is, in the best case, optimistic.

[$] Yes, I know this is old ...

... but it doesn't stop me laughing at it.

Do I have to say, "separated at birth"? Or does that actually spoil the gag?

[$] A day in the life at CARM ...

Oh man, that kills me.

[?] AHA! an INDEX!

Given that Blogger doesn't really want you to be able to FIND my posts after about a week, I have gone through a good deal of trouble to make an index of posts for 2005 so far. It's called the "cumulative archive" at the right, so click your fingers raw.

Of course, you can see the limits of that system as this post doesn't actually appear on that index.

... I don't have anything nice to say about that ...

[#] tsunami: natural disaster or alien invader?

OK -- let's start this post by pointing out that I'm a pointy-headed neophite when it comes to evolution and the philosophy of eco-system naturalists. My own position on the matter is "macro-evolution: not possible; micro-evolution: demonstrated and factual", and it is best not to say more than that.

However, who can shut me up on Friday, right? I was reading this article about some of the long-term effects of the tsunami 6 months ago, and as I read the article, I was pretty much stumped.

Read this:
"In some areas, including important national parks, the wave has encouraged the spread of alien invasive species, such as prickly pears and salt-tolerant mesquite," the agency said in a statement. ...

"Now they can pose a threat to our ecosystem," {Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne} said. "Our local plants and animals have not co-evolved with these alien plants so when alien plants dominate in the ecosystem they will reduce the diversity of the local fauna and flora."
'k. Let me ask those reading this blog something.

If you are an "evolutionist" or a "naturalist", can you define the meaning of the word "threat" in the above quote? Sure: it looks like prickly pears and mesquite (I read that and I start thinking: what a great natural resource to export to those of us with gas grills and smokers) might start to overwhelm the previously-existing vegetation, but in what way is that a "threat"? It might put the future existence of other competing vegetation in doubt, but that's how nature is supposed to work, right? It's not like some fat, greasy capitalist was spitting mesquite pods and prickly pear seeds in the forests causing them to be corrupted by man's wicked interference. A tsunami (big wall of ocean water generated by natural causes) spread the seeds. It seems to me that just because nature was in some state when you first observed it, that doesn't mean that it is the state that it is "supposed to be" in. It got that way, in your view, by events exactly like this one causing perpetual changes. I thought that was the way things worked, not a "threat".

The rest of you can just go about your business.

[!] ... by which you are being saved [3]

    1Cor 15: 1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[1] died for our[2a] sins[2b] in accordance with the Scriptures[3], 4that he was buried[4], that he was raised on the third day[5] in accordance with the Scriptures[6](ESV, emph. Added)
I roughly apologize for posting twice on Friday last week, but I was on a roll (I felt) and wanted to get through the whole tamale of [2a] and [2b] so that I could get on to [3] -- because there's a very keen thing to think about in this part of Paul's short definition of the Gospel.

All that preaching about dying for sin is swell, isn't it? For the believer, gosh it's like having a Coke and a pack of skittles -- it can get you fired up in a minute and keep you going all day. For the non-believer or the "seeker" (which is the nice way some people say "unbeliever"), it may be somewhat old-hat from the perspective that here's another fundie doing his Billy Graham impression. And if that non-believer doesn't feel guilty or somehow impuned, who can blame him, really? It's a lecture from a somewhat-annoying maven who is telling this person not only is he so stupid that he doesn't know he's bad but that he is also too stupid to understand how good he can really have it.

There's also the case of the nominal Christian who is reading this stuff and is getting offended because there's all this judging going on (we get letters …) -- and who is centuri0n, really, to judge anybody? First of all, this is between God and the individual (they say) so to wag a finger at someone about whether they think Christ died for their sin -- or whether they have any sins -- is intrusive and hateful. Second of all, centuri0n is just a jerk with a guilty conscience because he admits he's sinful and he just wants to think that everyone is just as bad (or worse, since they don't recognize their sins) as he is. And last, centuri0n said "bullshit", so he was sinning in trying to accuse other people of sinning because of his foul mouth.

Now how and why would I bring these things up in trying to underscore the value and meaning of Paul's proclamation that an intrinsic part of the Gospel is the phrase "in accordance with the Scriptures"? It is because these objections are exactly the same kinds of objections that Paul himself faced while preaching the Gospel. Paul is just a zealous Jew who is preaching a new philosophy (Acts 17:18); Paul is no longer a Jew because he has abandoned the Jewish law (Rom 3:5-8); Paul is exalting himself by trodding on others, and making himself feel better by running others down (2Cor 10); Paul's got an ill temper (Acts 15:38-39), he's a lawbreaker (Acts 16:19-24) and has a foul mouth (OK – I can’t find where they said that about Paul, so I’ll take that one under advisement; chalk that one up to a university education as an atheist).

But the answer that Paul says which quiets all these objections is this: Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures. Today this rebuttal has been watered down by some of the more loud voices in "evangelidom" to "that's not my opinion: this is what the Bible teaches!" This summary version seems always to miss two important facts about what Paul was teaching:

(1) Paul never preached sin without preaching the clear redemption of sinners -- that is, Paul never presented sin as unanswered and hopeless except for those who would never repent. Even in the most bleak moments in Paul's letters where he says some men are handed over to sin, it is only to underscore that they are rightly condemned as we all would be if not for the work of Christ. Even in describing the unrepentant, Paul points back to the work of Christ as the only hope in this world.

(2) Paul did not hide behind Scripture but stood on its high ground to bring people to God; when Paul says something is "in accordance with the Scripture", he is talking about the supremacy of God in these things which is revealed by God's ability to tell us ahead of time what His plan was through promises and prophecies and then in seeing them come to pass.

This second point calls out for some unpacking, I think, because there are some things there we might overlook. If what Christ has done is "in accordance with the Scripture", there is some definition of Scripture which must be a necessary part of the Gospel – in the same way that the definition of “Christ” is a necessary part of the Gospel. I think a very vivid place where this is demonstrated is here:
    13That same day {This is the day of Christ's resurrection} two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. 14They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. 15In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. 16But they were not able to recognize who he was.

    17He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"

    They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. 18Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

    19He said, "What has happened?"

    They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. 20Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. 21And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. 22But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb 23and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

    25Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? 26Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" 27Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.
    (MSG, Lk 24:13-27, note added)
Now before anyone takes me apart for using the Message for my example, we don't need any hair-splitting exegetical nuance to see what happened on the road to Emmaus -- and this passage reads good. What happens here is that Jesus tells these fellows that the Gospel is laid out by Moses and the prophets already. The KJV renders v. 26-27 "'Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?' And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

What is significant here is that Jesus, on the day of the resurrection, is saying that the Good News was there in the Jewish Scriptures, waiting for Him to come and fulfill it. God laid out the plan ahead of time -- not just as a plan, but as a revelation of His plan. God was talking about this for thousands of years in human time to actual humans in order to prepare the way for this event.

For those of you with a skeptical bent, this speaks to the heart of skepticism. What happens on the day of the resurrection is this: not only does a man who has been dead for 3 days walk out of the tomb healthy enough to walk out of the tomb and 7 miles down the road to Emmaus, but He appears as a completely healthy person. And in that fact -- that is, that the resurrection was a real act of miraculous scope -- is also the matter that this completely healthy person understands and can demonstrate from ancient writings that this is what was supposed to happen beginning with what God said as told to Moses.

There is simply no other religion on Earth which makes this claim. Sure: there are plenty of religious writings that boast an ancient heritage -- no question about that. But there is no set of religious writings which took thousands of years to compile that tell a single story hung on the hope of a future event in which the future event in question comes to pass, thus demonstrating the reliability of the text.

And when Paul says that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, Paul is saying exactly this. Scripture was written to reveal this truth, to spell it out propositionally; Christ is Himself the Word, the true revelation which Scripture was pointing to.

Christ died for our sins in accordance with Scripture. Think about that a little while you're enjoying your weekend.
Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

[@] Yet another reason ...

... why orthodoxy matters:
'Child sacrifices in London'

[#] "Don't suffer fools"

There's a character in the apologetics blogosphere named "Xenophon", and apparently this person has also gone by the handle "CT". He has, unfortunately, found my blog and has begun trolling.

Since it is my blog, I'll ask the rest of you who suffer through reading my blog to simply ignore Xeno if you cannot offer Xeno friendly advice on self-improvement. Let me demonstrate why this is important.

Here's what I said in a response to him:
I would also caution you about how you handle criticizing a pastor in God's church. Just because some of what Pastor Wilson says is in cahoots with a view of the NT and the Gospel which -- though it may be wrong -- offers a broader definition of "Christian" than you and I may be comfortable with, that doesn't make him worthy of careless scorn. I think I demonstrated what "having a care" is in this post -- and a large part of it is addressing the mistakes and not the man.
And I also offered him this bit of Scriptural advice:
1Pet 5:5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
And all that in reference to how he offers criticism to a person like Doug Wilson -- who I admit I had criticized in the previous post.

To which Xenophon replied:
He's not my elder. I wouldn't be so foolish to be in his church.

In fact, in these end times the devil controls the visible churches. My church is the Church of which Christ is King. It becomes visible whenever two or more believers come together.

Don't suffer fools.
See: I didn't think anyone actually listened to Harold Camping anymore, but apparently some still do. Anyone who is willing to say what this fellow says here requires spiritual help. If you cannot offer him that help, I'm asking you to simply ignore him or pray for him rather than post to see how high you can escalate his blood pressure and rhetoric.

Do not suffer fools -- but anyone who calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire.

-- EDIT --
BTW -- this is a GREAT lead in to my next update to the "by which you are being saved" series, and I can't wait to finish writing it so you all can read it.

[%] There’s a reason he’s down there

I was reading Doug Wilson’s blog this week, and on the one hand, I find his on-going battle with his local intoleristas instructive and (look: we all hate this part of ourselves, but it’s there – which is the reason Reality TV shows flourish) entertaining. I do find myself praying for Christ Church in Moscow, ID, as a result of those entries.

I also find myself praying for them because of other entries, too, but for a different reason. If you check out this link, you’ll find a post in which Pastor Wilson finds himself agreeing with Phil Johnson regarding J. Gresham Machen and the dividing line that exists between Christianity and Liberalism. However, because Pastor Wilson is a very skilled writer, he also adds this:
I would be interested to know how many of Phil's readers, who were able to say amen to that quote from Christianity and Liberalism, would be able to say amen to this one as well.

"Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today! . . . The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all" (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 52).

Common heritage? Was Machen wobbley?
You can actually find the complete text of Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism here, (all my quotes from Machen will come from there, so forgive my lack of page citations) and the quote Pastor Wilson cites is found at the end of Chapter 1. Here is the paragraph that the quote is taken from:
Far more serious still is the division between the Church of Rome and evangelical Protestantism in all its forms. Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today! We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all. {Emphasis Added}
The greater context of that statement is this thesis:
In maintaining the doctrinal basis of Christianity, we are particularly anxious not to be misunderstood. There are certain things that we do not mean.

In the first place, we do not mean that if doctrine is sound it makes no difference about life. On the contrary, it makes all the difference in the world. …

In the second place, we do not mean, in insisting upon the doctrinal basis of Christianity, that all points of doctrine are equally important. It is perfectly possible for Christian fellowship to be maintained despite differences of opinion.
Thus Machen’s point is that we have far more in common with the “Church of Rome" than we do with “liberals" inside our own denominations – his crux being that even Rome does not have the audacity to deny the earliest creeds.

So was Machen “wobbley"? In his chapter in this same book, Machen says this about “the Church":
… the Church of today has been unfaithful to her Lord by admitting great companies of non-Christian persons, not only into her membership, but into her teaching agencies. It is indeed inevitable that some persons who are not truly Christian shall find their way into the visible Church; fallible men cannot discern the heart, and many a profession of faith which seems to be genuine may really be false. But it is not this kind of error to which we now refer. What is now meant is not the admission of individuals whose confessions of faith may not be sincere, but the admission of great companies of persons who have never made any really adequate confession of faith at all and whose entire attitude toward the gospel is the very reverse of the Christian attitude. Such persons, moreover, have been admitted not merely to the membership, but to the ministry of the Church, and to an increasing extent have been allowed to dominate its councils and determine its teaching. The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core.

… the narrow man is the man who rejects the other man's convictions without first endeavoring to understand them, the man who makes no effort to look at things from the other man's point of view. For example, it is not narrow to reject the Roman Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church. It is not narrow to try to convince Roman Catholics that that doctrine is wrong. But it would be very narrow to say to a Roman Catholic: "You may go on holding your doctrine about the Church and I shall hold mine, but let us unite in our Christian work, since despite such trifling differences we are agreed about the matters that concern the welfare of the soul." For of course such an utterance would simply beg the question; the Roman Catholic could not possibly both hold his doctrine of the Church and at the same time reject it, as would be required by the program of Church unity just suggested. A Protestant who would speak in that way would be narrow, because quite independent of the question whether he or the Roman Catholic is right about the Church he would show plainly that he had not made the slightest effort to understand the Roman Catholic point of view. {Emph added}
So I don’t think Machen went “wobbley", nor that he was underscoring a point necessary for (as Wilson’s heading under “Auburn Avenue Stuff") a broader, inclusive view of all Roman Catholics as unquestionably inside the church.

[*] So I'm reading this blog entry ...

... which, for the sake of saving fireworks for the 4th of July, shall remain nameless. And I'm reading it in the context that I have just listened to 3 hours worth of lectures on the pluriformed body of work known as the "New Perspective on Paul" from D. A. Carson -- who, you might not be surprised to find out, thinks the NPP has value only to the extent that it challenges reformed thinkers and believers to actually think about and to actually believe what we say we think and believe.

Carson was charitable and critical, and in those three hours he cited at least a dozen sources in the current theological literature which underscored and supported his criticism of NPP.

OK -- so I'm reading this blog after Carson has just placed me in the position to have both a basic understanding of NPP and a basic understanding of its critics (of whom he is one), and I find this person on about how N.T. Wright is so misunderstood because Wright's view of justification is not either/or (which is a modernist epistemological trap) but both-also. Well, here's what was said:
Take, for example, the question of whether justification is forensic or participatory, whether it is transformative or declaratory, whether it is about soteriology or ecclesiology, whether it has regard to the inner or outer life, the status or the being of the sinner. Many of us feel that such questions are quite the wrong ones. If you start with the questions that modernity brings to the debate, you will end up with misleading answers.
And then this:
Unfortunately many of Wright’s Reformed critics are a bit naïve here and fail to appreciate the manner in which the questions in terms of which the debate is being approached have changed. Consequently Wright is treated as if he were a Roman Catholic, even though he unequivocally rejects the position held by the RC opponents of the Reformers.
Whatever one thinks about Wright's critics (and let's be honest: everyone who has an opinion has a critic; the question is whether the critic{s} offer meaningful criticism and whether the opiner ever bothers to listen to said critic{s}), it seems a little weird to, on the one hand, say that the grounds of the discussion have changed from Modernistic categoricalism to something else (God forbid we call it "post modern") and then to go on and establish the categories by which the critics of one's heroes are apparently dismissed.

But the worse problem for the opiner here is that Wright does in fact establish categories, expanded from his foundational presuppositions found in Sanders and Dunn. Wright is not creating any kind of pomo (oh shoot: I said it) narrative but is in fact arguing in favor of new categories of meaning in the texts of Paul based on the assumption that he is speaking from or to (or both) second temple Judaism. Wright’s reasoning is Modernist reasoning. How he allows himself to be seen in public we shall never know.

[?] I forgot to mention ...

... that some time last night ...and His ministers a Flame of Fire crossed over 3000 hits. I know that's small potatoes, but that a lot of hits for me who has never had a web site generate 1500 hits before.

Hats off to the loyal readers of the blog for making me feel loved today.

[%] Unhappy Campi

I read this this morning from Steve Camp, and it's a very hard look at something we might call "evangeconomics".

Very sobering for the Christian bookstore owner in all of us. Well, in me anyway.

Briefly, the other side of the coin is that there are mediums today that did not exist even 500 years ago, let alone 2000 years ago. For example, should we be worried about actually selling books about the faith rather than just giving them away? Or is Steve here worried that we are more concerned with unit sales than with God's truth? I think it is the latter, and I stand with him.

[!] ... by which you are being saved [2b]

    1Cor 15: 1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[1] died for our[2a] sins[2b] in accordance with the Scriptures[3], 4that he was buried[4], that he was raised on the third day[5] in accordance with the Scriptures[6](ESV, emph. Added)
As a reader, you must be either a fanatic about these 4 verse of Scripture or a glutton for punishment if you are still with me, but I thank you for still coming back for a bit more once again.

So far, we have made quite a big deal out of 3 words: “Christ”, “died” and “our” (or, as I have used in the last post, “us”). But this next word is the second-most critical in the passage as for as the matter of Paul’s exclamation that this is the part of the Gospel which is “of first importance”: sin.

For those of you reading who are not Christians, or who attend a church where this word is never used, let’s think about something for a minute: if what we have read from Paul so far is correct, what the Gospel is saying is that God planned to kill Christ (Christ who was the Son of God, in Paul’s view, in a way which made him exactly like God in every way, which is to say, of equal value as God the Father) for men – in some way, for their benefit. As I recall history up to the point of Christ’s life, I don’t see men demanding from God that He pony up something valuable – that is, something of the highest value on the metaphysical level and not just on the physical level or in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – because it’s what they want from Him and what He actually owes them. Even the pagans saw that what ought to be right is that men pay to the Divine something to get what they (the mortals, the created ones) want, whatever that happened to be.

The Gospel says that this view – that God owes man nothing – is exactly right, but that it is also exactly why this is good news. It is because Christ died for our sin that man can look at the Gospel and at last see the kind of being God is, and the extent that God is willing to go to in order to make sure that what He has planned – and the intention for what He has planned – comes to pass.

It turns out that the question is not only “Does God owe me anything?” but “Am I square with God?” And the answer is simply no: I am not square with God. At this point, we could go through hundreds of verses that indicate that man does not live up to God’s standards and does not satisfy God by what he does for God. We could start in Genesis, and talk about Adam who disobeyed God not because he was deceived but because he wanted to; we could talk about Noah who, though God had just spared only his family from the utter annihilation of the race, got drunk and passed out naked the first chance he got; we could talk about Abraham the liar who whored out his wife, or Jacob the trickster who stole from his brother, or Moses the murderer, or David the adulterer, or Solomon the idolater, or Peter the coward, or Paul the racist zealot who could not keep peace with his friend and helper Barnabas.

We could cite Scripture on this point literally hundreds and hundreds of ways – but instead I will propose something else to you: I want you to consider me personally. If, for example, God is a holy God who is righteous perfectly and whose name is Holy, I didn’t make it out of bed this morning without failing to live up to that standard. I didn’t make it to the shower today before I was sinful and offensive to God. I certainly haven’t been any great shakes here at work today, either.

When I stand in front of this Holy God – and I stand before Him all the time, whether I think of it that way or not – I stand before Him as someone who owes him the same debt that a criminal owes to the judge when all the evidence is presented. The problem (for me) is that the penalty of any of these sins is death – so in order to pay for all of my sins, it will take more than my own life to pay off the criminal debt to the one who is the right judge of me. That is to say, I could be sentenced to death and the payment would still be insufficient.

It is in this way that what Paul is proclaiming that Christ has done is so extraordinary: Christ died for our sins. Christ didn’t die for our entertainment; Christ didn’t die because God lost at poker with us or the Devil and now has to pay up; Christ didn’t die for our education or to be a billboard for all of history. Let me also say that Christ didn't die to make me important or to give my life purpose: the purpose evident in Christ's death and in the paying of my sin debt and the releif and removal of God;s wrath against me was not to build me up but exclusively for God's purpose, and God's plan and God's glory. Christ died for our sins – as a certain payment for the debt we certainly owe which we cannot repay because we cannot stop accumulating the debt.

Christ died for our sins – and let me say it particularly that Christ died for my sins. Christ died because I can’t live 5 minutes without violating some part of God’s law. Now some of you are saying, “well, cent, that’s because you’re an ass. For the most part, I live every day in pretty good standing – I don’t do saintly works of love and charity every day, but most days I don’t really do anything wrong at all.”

I call bullshit on that – and we don’t need the whole Law of Moses to ferret out the self-deception of that statement. Let’s instead look at Christ teaching about the holy standard of God and see what he says about sin:
    You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.(ESV, Mt 5:21-26)
So when you are muttering under your breath about that person in the office who is intolerable, or when you don’t make peace with them when they do wrong by you, you are guilty of the same law which convicts man of murder. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with that law, it’s not the one in the 10 Commandments. It’s this one from Genesis:
    Whoever sheds the blood of man,by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (ESV, Gen 9:6)
Jesus also taught:
    You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.(ESV, Mt 5:27-30)
Those are not soft-soaked words, or some weird kind of legalism: it says that if your intention – you motive and your desire – is for something that is wrong, you are guilty as certainly as if you had done it. Moreover, Jesus here says that it would be better for you to cut off your hand or poke out your own eye than it is to think these evil thoughts and be guilty of them.

You are not an innocent person by God’s standard. If you think you are, you don’t know yourself very well. But God’s intention in revealing this to you – and it hardly has to be “revealed” because you know who you are; you know what you hide from other people – is not to grind you into the dust, or even for you to poke out your own eye or cut off your own hand: God’s intention in revealing this is to show you that Christ died for your sins.

Christ died for your sins. Jesus was the eternal Son of God, but He chose, rather than to let you be the victim of your own desires and willingness to disobey, to die – that is to say, to be put to death by men not qualified to judge Him, for crimes He did not commit, by a means that was public and humiliating even though what He deserved was honor and worship – for our sins.

What He paid was greater than what I owed – but when He paid, He was paying for me. He was thinking of me who spit on anything associated with God, and who would have spit on Him if I had met Him in the street. He was thinking of me who has broken the law not just by intention but by doing and living for those desires. He was thinking of me who should have been nailed on a cross and been left to die, and should have suffered there for all eternity because even as I suffered I would have sinned more to curse the one who would have punished me.

Christ died for our sins. And believe it or not, that’s not the whole Gospel – it’s just the first clause of the Gospel.

If you are going to Promise Keepers this weekend in Fayetteville, AR, God be with you. I hope the Gospel is preached there and it is not merely an event or a spectator sport, but that the lives of men are changed by and for the sake of this Gospel by which you are saved.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

[!] ... by which you are being saved [2a]

    1Cor 15: 1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[1] died for our[2a] sins[2b] in accordance with the Scriptures[3], 4that he was buried[4], that he was raised on the third day[5] in accordance with the Scriptures[6](ESV, emph. Added)
So after almost 3 weeks of staring at this passage, we find ourselves at the place where the Gospel says Christ died -- and last time's installment outlined that Christ died for a reason which He chose, and which God Himself chose for a specific purpose, and that this death happened not symbolically or as a story from once upon a time but as witnessed by many men. Well, so what?

The primary "what" is that part of the purpose includes "us" -- the noun of which "our" is the possessive. The reason Christ died, the reason (in part) which God chose Christ's death, was for "us".

Now that brings up the question "who is 'us'?" Well, some of "us" is Paul
himself, right? The speaker, the writer of this passage must be included in the "us". But at the very end of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says this:
    The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brothers send you greetings. (ESV, 1Cor 16:19-20a)
So more of "us" is the people with whom Paul is living while he writes -- Aquila, Pricilla, the churches in Asia, and "all the brethren". That's a mighty big "us" -- but there's more still.

Part of the "us" is those to whom Paul is writing -- those whom he calls "the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1Cor 1:2, NASB). The scope of the word "us" in 1Cor 15 seems to include a lot of people -- so when Paul writes "Christ die for (us)", it seems like a pretty good deal -- that there are all kinds of people for whom Christ died and it's a pretty wide circle.

But in this very same letter, we find Paul writing this:
    For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

    "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (ESV,1Cor 1:17-24)
So it is in fact all kinds of people who are "us" -- but they are a specific people called out from among both the Jews and the Greeks. They are a people who "belong to Christ" (1Cor 3:23), who are "bought with a price" (1Cor 6:20), who are "known by Him" (1Cor 8:3). And in each of these instances, Paul compares these who are "us" to another kind of person who cannot, by implication, be "us". Those who "belong to Christ" are contrasted to those whom "God will destroy" (1Cor 3:17); those bought for a price are contrasted to those who are immoral, defiling their own bodies (1Cor 6:18); those who are known by Him are contrasted with those who defile their own consciences (1Cor 8:7). Paul draws a clear line in this letter between who "us" is and who is not "us".

But why? Why divide people up? Why come to the place where, if we take Paul at his meaning, we should see the body of human kind as two camps -- pretty literally "us" and "them"? It is because of the intention that the Gospel -- this Gospel which Paul says is the first thing you should know -- actually does something. There is a result of this matter that Christ died for us – an outcome which is the intentional result of God’s plan in Christ’s death.

Let me be clear about what I am saying. If I put the keys under the doormat of my house, it is possible for anyone to come into my house when I am not there. If I leave the front door open, it is possible that anyone might, in fact, come in and look around. And even if I stand on my porch and call out to passers by, "Hey! Free Lemonade and really great finger food right now! C'mon in!" it is possible (and perhaps more likely) that someone will come in. And if my intent is only that some might come in, (that is, to offer an invitation only and not to actively bring people into my house) that's fine.

But what if I stand on the porch and watch the people who come by and walk up to some with a glass in one hand and a plate in the other? What if I intend that some definite work happens to these people -- what if I have, as we have discussed already, a definite purpose in doing what I am doing and not merely a general hope or a friendly optimism?

It seems to me that Paul, in saying "Christ died for (us)", is talking about Christ doing definite work for a specific people that He intends to see come to completion.

But is that all we can know? Hey -- Christ died for us. In a very real way, the men and women we honored at Memorial Day "died for us", so why should we think any more of Christ than we think of them?

The answer is in the next word in Paul's statement, which we will get to in the near future.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

[%] You're waiting for the next one, aren't you?

I am in the middle of doing things for all 2500+ WAL*MART stores right this split second. That is not to say that WAL*MART is more important than the Gospel, but that my job is more important than this blog.

If you're worried about getting your fix regarding the Gospel, or about my willingness to share it this week, I'm going to send you here:

A brief word from Desiring God Ministries

You can read my stupid ramblings later.

[$] I said this someplace else, but ...

Pro wrestling is not fake.

Let me put it this way: all of time and space is not fake just because God has determined the outcome already. So just because the outcome of any particular WWE match is scripted and the outcome is predetermined by the foreknowledge and plan of somebody at the WWE world headquarters -- that doesn't make it fake.

If WWE wrestling was really 3-D animation like Shrek or the Incredibles, then it would be fake.

[$] The Shame! I am RUINED!

I don't even know what this means.

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

[!] ... by which you are being saved [1a]

    1Cor 15: 1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[1] died for our[2a] sins[2b] in accordance with the Scriptures[3], 4that he was buried[4], that he was raised on the third day[5] in accordance with the Scriptures[6](ESV, emph. Added)
Turns out, as I have been trying to get back to this passage and complete my train of thought here, that there is actually a [1a] component to the thesis I am advancing, and that is that Christ – we discussed Him briefly last time under this heading – died.

Jesus Himself says this about His death:
    No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. (John 10:18, ESV)
That is to say, Jesus died because he chose to die. The death He experienced – which Paul attests to – was a death which Jesus chose. And consider it: Jesus says this in the context of calling Himself the Good Shepherd, the one who is not a “hired hand” but the one who does what He does for a purpose greater than merely having a job to do.

Now what has Paul compacted into this simple statement – that Christ “died” - his fellow apostle Peter expressed this way:
    Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.(Acts 2:22-23, ESV)
So in what way did Jesus “die”? Peter here says that Christ died “according to the definite plan of God”. So Christ didn’t fall off a cliff (as most people know, I am sure), or catch a bad case of leprosy, or eat a bad piece of fish. Christ died because God intended for Him to die.

If you think about that for about 4 seconds you realize that this defines the purpose of Jesus’ death in a way which places it above all other deaths in human history. It defines Jesus’ death in terms of something God Himself was working out, and something in which Jesus was a willing player.

What is even more interesting in Peter’s testimony, I think, is the fact of the matter – the reality of this act. Christ didn’t just die as they heard reported on the Caesarian News Network, or read about in the Judea Tribune: Jesus died at the hands of the men to whom he was speaking, and because of their intentional action. Peter makes it clear that Jesus experienced a shameful death, an unjust death, and that the men who listened to him preach where responsible for His death – but also witnesses to His death. They knew Jesus died – there was no question that they had first-hand knowledge of the fact.

Christ died. As Paul defines the most important thing about the Gospel, he begins with the fact that Christ died – a fact which the other NT writers expand to note that He died willingly, and in gruesome reality, and for a plan which God has definitely set out.

But so what? And why did it take me 7 days to write this blog entry? Come back and visit, and at least one of these questions will be answered.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

[%] Dr. Svendsen steals my thunder

You can read his machinations here, but I don't hold it against him. At the rate I was going on this 1Cor 15 thing, I was never going to get there.

I will still finish my series out of Christian determination and Baptist spite.

[%] It's Phil Johnson's fault ...

... that the blog is stalled. I have been reading his blog (linked at the right) and the comments, and writing responses to the usual suspects.

And I have also run into a MT/TR advocate at CARM, which is distracting me from the next part of the series on 1Cor 15.

So I blame Phil Johnson and Tallen for not blogging. And I blame you, the reader, for thinking poorly of me while the blog has been stalled. It's like the girl who wears a short skirt to church and then blames your "dirty mind" for staring at her.

I'm not lazy: you have a dirty mind.