Archive for April, 2011

My Response to a Critique of God

In the Scriptures, God as a “character” cannot be understood apart from the entirety of the Scriptural witness, which is to say, the witness that includes His attributes as omnipotent omniscient Creator of all things ex nihilo. That authority in God is clearly in the text of Scripture, and therefore, literarily speaking, He must be understood as what the text portrays, the LORD God Almighty (LORD=YHWH). This sort of literary analysis of the text is quite important and oft neglected in the Bible-believing world (which I myself inhabit) but a serious literary understanding of the text is charitable to Near-Eastern terminology and the value of what is essentially “unfolding revelation” finding its climax in God the Son taking on Flesh.

 

That said, there is disagreement within Christendom about how the narrative flow of Scripture actually works. I have a position, others have their positions, but everyone with a hint of orthodoxy left in their bones (Dante among them!) has, since at least St. Ignatius, understood that the flow of revelation points to a crucified and raised Messiah Who bears the sins of the world on a Roman cross in the backwoods of the world. Somehow, this crazy thing is true, and Dante believed it, though you know how Dante tries to make it sound more reasonable (Christ is Roman in the Rome above!). My issue with both your initial comment and your follow up to Ted’s comment is that you aren’t taking the text seriously at all.

 

Dante, of all people, makes Hell a place where the true bondage that comes with being a slave of sin is shown, not by God torturing the souls, but by the souls being sinners and hating God. None of these souls (even Virgil!) understands God, and it is their lack of knowledge (intellect??) that makes them less God-like, that is to say, they refused to be conformed to the image of God that they bore already. They refused for the sake of sin. In Dante, God is the “Love that moves the sun and the other stars” and Hell is a place that souls that hate God can go to be in their sins away from Him. In other words, Hell is the love of a God who is secure in His holiness, and does not force the creatures there to love Him, thus it looks really gross. Sin is gross to Dante, the Bible, and God, but He has enough respect for the free human beings who sin to not force them to stop being sinners.

 

I am not going to argue with you reading the text however it is you please, ignoring authorial intent completely and proceeding as if the character called “God” were not the “God” which is believed in by the author and all Jews and Christians for thousands of years. But I will take issue with saying that God is a “bully” and “selfish” when, according to the Christian doctrine held by Dante and all orthodox believers everywhere: no matter how terrible and painful Hell is for the damned soul who refuses to love as he was made to love, the hell that Christ endured on the Cross of Calvary is infinitely more painful, humiliating and terrible, because the wrath of God was poured out on Him for the sake of poor sinners like the damned souls in Hell. Put another way, I am not going to fault God for Justice, because He took the brunt of it Himself.

A Thought on Romans 3

“For by works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, for through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction…” Romans 3:20-22 in the ESV

This is my thought. I am not going to favor one translation over another, just point out that this question is quite important for the passage. Three things will I change: law=Law as in Torah, faith in Christ=faith of Christ (based on the genitive case christou in the Greek), human being=flesh (which is the actual word used… think about circumcision, grr!!!)

“For by works of the Torah, no flesh will be justified in his sight, for through the Torah comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Torah, although the Torah and Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction…” Romans 3:20-22 Alternate translation with legitimate (though still controversial) changes!

Gives a different flavor and in some cases a different meaning! Talk about throwing me off! Then throw in a completely New Perspective translation and you get:

“For by the works of the Torah, no flesh will be members of the sin-forgiven Covenant people in his sight, for through the Torah comes knowledge of sin. But now the covenant faithfulness of God has been manifested apart from the Torah, although the Torah and Prophets bear witness to it–the covenant faithfulness of God though the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe/are faithful (depends on the NPness of the person). For there is no distinction…” Romans 3:20-22 NPP style..

My distress is complete.

George VI, the Eulogy by Winston Churchill

When the death of the King was announced to us yesterday morning there struck a deep and solemn note in our lives which, as it resounded far and wide, stilled the clatter and traffic of twentieth-century life in many lands, and made countless millions of human beings pause and look around them. A new sense of values took, for the time being, possession of human minds, and mortal existence presented itself to so many at the same moment in its serenity and in its sorrow, in its splendour and in its pain, in its fortitude and in its suffering.

The King was greatly loved by all his peoples. He was respected as a man and as a prince far beyond the many realms over which he reigned. The simple dignity of his life, his manly virtues, his sense of duty – alike as a ruler and a servant of the vast spheres and communities for which he bore responsibility – his gay charm and happy nature, his example as a husband and a father in his own family circle, his courage in peace or war – all these were aspects of his character which won the glint of admiration, now here, now there, from the innumerable eyes whose gaze falls upon the Throne.

We thought of him as a young naval lieutenant in the great Battle of Jutland. We thought of him when calmly, without ambition, or want of self-confidence, he assumed the heavy burden of the Crown and succeeded his brother whom he loved and to whom he had rendered perfect loyalty. We thought of him, so faithful in his study and discharge of State affairs; so strong in his devotion to the enduring honour of our country; so self-restrained in his judgments of men and affairs; so uplifted above the clash of party politics, yet so attentive to them; so wise and shrewd in judging between what matters and what does not.

All this we saw and admired. His conduct on the Throne may well be a model and a guide to constitutional sovereigns throughout the world today and also in future generations. The last few months of King George’s life, with all the pain and physical stresses that he endured – his life hanging by a thread from day to day, and he all the time cheerful and undaunted, stricken in body but quite undisturbed and even unaffected in spirit – these have made a profound and an enduring impression and should be a help to all.

He was sustained not only by his natural buoyancy, but by the sincerity of his Christian faith. During these last months the King walked with death as if death were a companion, an acquaintance whom he recognized and did not fear. In the end death came as a friend, and after a happy day of sunshine and sport, and after “good night” to those who loved him best, he fell asleep as every man or woman who strives to fear God and nothing else in the world may hope to do.

The nearer one stood to him the more these facts were apparent. But the newspapers and photographs of modern times have made vast numbers of his subjects able to watch with emotion the last months of his pilgrimage. We all saw him approach his journey’s end. In this period of mourning and meditation, amid our cares and toils, every home in all the realms joined together under the Crown may draw comfort for tonight and strength for the future from his bearing and his fortitude.

There was another tie between King George and his people. It was not only sorrow and affliction that they shared. Dear to the hearts and the homes of the people is the joy and pride of a united family. With this all the troubles of the world can be borne and all its ordeals at least confronted. No family in these tumultuous years was happier or loved one another more than the Royal Family around the King.

No Minister saw so much of the King during the war as I did. I made certain he was kept informed of every secret matter, and the care and thoroughness with which he mastered the immense daily flow of State papers made a deep mark on my mind.

Let me tell you another fact. On one of the days when Buckingham Palace was bombed the King had just returned from Windsor. One side of the courtyard was struck, and if the windows opposite out of which he and the Queen were looking had not been, by the mercy of God, open, they would both have been blinded by the broken glass instead of being only hurled back by the explosion. Amid all that was then going on, although I saw the King so often, I never heard of this episode till a long time after. Their Majesties never mentioned it or thought it of more significance than a soldier in their armies would of a shell bursting near him. This seems to me to be a revealing trait in the royal character.

There is no doubt that of all the institutions which have grown up among us over the centuries, or sprung into being in our lifetime, the constitutional monarchy is the most deeply founded and dearly cherished by the whole association of our peoples. In the present generation it has acquired a meaning incomparably more powerful than anyone had dreamed possible in former times. The Crown has become the mysterious link, indeed I may say the magic link, which unites our loosely bound, but strongly interwoven Commonwealth of nations, states, and races….

For fifteen years George VI was King. Never at any moment in all the perplexities at home and abroad, in public or in private, did he fail in his duties. Well does he deserve the farewell salute of all his governments and peoples.

It is at this time that our compassion and sympathy go out to his consort and widow. Their marriage was a love match with no idea of regal pomp or splendour. Indeed, there seemed to be before them only the arduous life of royal personages, denied so many of the activities of ordinary folk and having to give so much in ceremonial public service. May I say – speaking with all freedom – that our hearts go out tonight to that valiant woman, with famous blood of Scotland in her veins, who sustained King George through all his toils and problems, and brought up with their charm and beauty the two daughters who mourn their father today. May she be granted strength to bear her sorrow.

To Queen Mary, his mother, another of whose sons is dead – the Duke of Kent having been killed on active service – there belongs the consolation of seeing how well he did his duty and fulfilled her hopes, and of knowing how much he cared for her.

Now I must leave the treasures of the past and turn to the future. Famous have been the reigns of our queens. Some of the greatest periods in our history have unfolded under their sceptre. Now that we have the second Queen Elizabeth, also ascending the Throne in her twenty-sixth year, our thoughts are carried back nearly four hundred years to the magnificent figure who presided over and, in many ways, embodied and inspired the grandeur and genius of the Elizabethan age.

Queen Elizabeth II, like her predecessor, did not pass her childhood in any certain expectation of the Crown. But already we know her well, and we understand why her gifts, and those of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, have stirred the only part of the Commonwealth she has yet been able to visit. She has already been acclaimed as Queen of Canada.

We make our claim too, and others will come forward also, and tomorrow the proclamation of her sovereignty will command the loyalty of her native land and of all other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire. I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian era, may well feel a thrill in invoking once more the prayer and the anthem, “God save the Queen!”

I want to have an earthly king.

HT: Robert Llizo at Scriptorium Daily

The Church’s One Foundation

Another great hymn sung last Sunday at Branch of Hope OPC:

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!

[source]

 

The Temple or David?

Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ Now the LORD has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

(1 Kings 8:12-21 ESV)

God is the God of the Covenant, not a God of the Land. He delivers a people, and sets them apart and matures them through various struggles and fiery tests. He did not choose to have a Temple in all that time. He rather chose David and made his house, because “from him would come to one who would build the Temple”. Pretty awesome where God’s priorities are. Us, not our stuff. His promises, not our the “works of our hands”. Not the blood of bulls and goats, but of sacrificial love.

Update on the Reading of the KJV

I am horribly behind where I had hoped to be in my read through of the KJV in honor of its 400th anniversary this year. I will hopefully have the next in my “Phrases from the KJV” series (see here and here) soon. In the meantime, I was struck by the tragic beauty of Exodus 32 in the KJV, so here it is:

1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.

3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.

16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.

18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

21 And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.

32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.

35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

[source]

The Teleological Suspension of the Ethical in the Cross

A. God commands the sacrifice of Abraham’s only begotten son whom he loved.

How is that ethical? Quick answer, it isn’t (Exodus 20:13). But God is God, and He can suspend the ethical on behalf of the teleological.

A’. God punishes the just for the justification of the unjust.

How is that ethical? Quick answer, it isn’t (Proverbs 17:15). But God is God, and He can suspend the ethical on behalf of the teleological.

That is to say, that the “ethical” is God’s will. In other words, the Divine Command Ethic is Biblical.

Appreciating Kierkegaard quite a bit presently.