Friday, April 18, 2014

It isn't a new idea

Creation as well as redemption flows from the Trinity as pure gift. God did not invent grace when sin entered the world. What happened then was that grace abounded all the more (Rom. 5:20). The goal of redemption as union with God was not thought up later on but is the outworking of God’s original purpose.— Flame of Love, page 23

Good Friday thought

Christianity is not primarily a set of ideas to which we give intellectual assent. Christianity is not primarily a moral code to which we agree. Christianity is not primarily a set of ethical standards to which we adhere. Christianity is a life that has been crucified with Christ and is continually resurrected by his resurrection power in us. — Called to be Holy, page 109

Thought for the day

Of what use would it be to have a thousand members added to the church, to be just such as are now in it? Would religion be any more honored by it, in the estimation of ungodly men? One holy church, that are really crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them, would do more to recommend Christianity, than all the churches in the country, living as they now do.—Charles Finney

Thursday, April 17, 2014

He pegs it

Spirit in Western traditions tends to be confined to the institutional church and to be seen as the power of salvation, not of creation also. We have placed emphasis on the sermon and the clergy at the expense of the Spirit. We have prized our versions of decency and order so highly that outpourings of the Spirit pose a threat. Many appear afraid of the Spirit, lest their worlds be shaken and they be swept up into God’s Sabbath play. So often we set up barriers to the Spirit and stifle the voices that speak to us of openness and celebration. “Forgetfulness” may be too kind a way to refer to the problem. We cannot even rule out the possibility of suppression at times.— Flame of Love, page 11

<idle musing>
He pegs it, doesn't he? I had heard a lot about this book over the years, but have only now gotten around to reading it. Excellent book; I always liked Pinnock's stuff—although I think his open view is wrong—totally wrong.
</idle musing>

More than forensic

So when we died with Christ, we died to sin. And when we rose from the dead with Christ we rose to a new life, a life that did not include sin. Why were we justified? So that we “may live a new life.” Nor is that merely figurative, because “our old self was crucified with him" so that the body of sin might be “rendered powerless.” Is that merely forensic? Is Paul merely saying that Christ died so that our record could be clean, while in fact we continued to sin? Not at all, for the rest of the sentence says, “that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” — Called to be Holy, pages 108-109

<idle musing>
Amen! Imputed, yes, but just as importantly—maybe even more importantly!—imparted righteousness. Of course, it is only through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit...but it is real and for now.

By the way, read Roger Olson's post from today. Here's a good excerpt to whet your appetite:

I feel exceedingly sorry for Christians who find the Christian life to be a struggle, drudgery, boring, mainly just a way of avoiding hell and eventually landing in heaven. What they need is an infilling of the Holy Spirit (not just “spiritual formation” although there’s nothing wrong with that).
</idle musing>

Get knowledge

Let ministers be educated as well as they can, the more the better, if they are only holy enough. But it is all a farce to suppose that a literary ministry can convert the world. Let the ministry have the spirit of prayer, let the baptism of the Holy Ghost be upon them, and they will spread the gospel. Only let Christians live as they ought, and the church would shake the world.

<idle musing>
Amen! Holiness combined with education.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thought for the day

A holy church, that would act on the principles of the gospel, would spread the gospel faster than all the money that ever was in New York, or that ever will be. Give me a holy church, that would live above the world, and the work of salvation would roll on faster than with all the money in Christendom.—Charles Finney

The response

The astronomical regularity—which Job understands as an example of God’s manipulation of mere objects—reflects the knowledge of astronomical phenomena as regular and predictable and thus useful for calendrical matters. God’s response to Job acknowledges this chronological reliability but asserts that this is not a reflection of God’s pitiless handling of soulless entities. The stars, though they function chronologically, are not simply some sort of cosmic clock. On the contrary, their calendrical reliability is a willful and compliant response to God’s guiding constraints. These astral agents are members of God’s court and are divinities in their own right (Job 38:7), who understand and respond favorably to God’s overall plan.—Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East, page 326


So the New Testament exhibits the same pattern for relating to God as does the Old Testament: (1) we come into the relationship solely by receiving God’s grace; (2) to be in the relationship requires that we manifest Christ’s character; (3) but we cannot do this in our own strength; (4) therefore it is necessary for us to rely entirely upon the Holy Spirit who reproduces Christ’s character in us. — Called to be Holy, pages 104-105

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thought for the day

Who can wonder that the world is incredulous as to the reality of religion? If they do not look for themselves into the scriptures, and there learn what religion is, if they are governed by the rules of evidence from what they see in the lives of professing Christians, they ought to be incredulous. They ought to infer, so far as this evidence goes, that professors of religion do not themselves believe in it. It is the fact. I doubt, myself, whether the great mass of professors believe the Bible.—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
Indeed. Romans 2:24 comes to mind: As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (TNIV)...
</idle musing>

He's still at it

Nevertheless, by underlining that there are exceptional creatures in the sky (the sun and moon) and the sea (Leviathan and Rahab) and by simultaneously referring to them in deliberately oblique terms, the author is depotentizing them all to a large degree. Furthermore, the preexilic tradition of Canaanite-Israelite astral religion is so strong that it is hard to dismiss the idea that the author is making the point that, though the starry hosts are members of God’s court and are sovereign agents, they are nonetheless created beings like the birds and fish. Moreover, within Canaanite-Israelite astral religion, Yahweh was occasionally, it seems, identified with the sun, and the author is making it perfectly clear that no celestial agent is to be equated with God.—Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East, page 319


John the Baptist says that the difference between the Messiah and himself is that he baptizes with water while the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). What would the average Christian say was the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world? Almost certainly they would not say what John said. We would be much more likely to say that he came to die for our sins. To be sure, he did come for that purpose. The Gospel of John also has John the Baptist saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). But Jesus’ atoning death was an intermediate goal, not the ultimate one.— Called to be Holy, page 90

<idle musing>
The atonement only gospel strikes again! We're selling God short when we reduce the gospel to anything less than the total transformation and remaking of our entire life. Yet we do it all the time...may we rediscover the richness of what God wants to do in our lives—and through our transformed and renewed lives!
</idle musing>

Monday, April 14, 2014

A stumbling block

What do sinners think, when they see professing Christians acting with them in their political measures, which they themselves know to be dishonest and corrupt? They say, "We understand what we are about, we are after office, we are determined to carry our party into power, we are pursuing our own interest; but these Christians profess to live for another and a higher end, and yet here they come, and join with us, as eager for the loaves and fishes as the rest of us." What greater stumbling-block can they have?

<idle musing>
Haven't learned much in 150+ years, have we...
</idle musing>

We're missing the point

But this [the creation of the sun and moon in Genesis 1] is not simply about counting the days and nights; the invention of the sun and moon neither creates nor allows for the passage of time, per se. After all, several days have already passed and been counted without them. Clearly, mere chronological tallying is not the issue here. What is created is the actual calendrical framework that gives the passage of time significance and allows one to separate between sacred and nonsacred times. Indeed, the term used to refer to the light in the sky, ‏מְּאֹרֹת, is used in the Pentateuch to refer exclusively to the lamps in the sanctuary.—Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East, page 313-314

<idle musing>
Interesting, isn't it? And this whole argument of 6 days totally misses the point, doesn't it? We're looking at the weeds in the garden and missing the flowers that are there...
</idle musing>

So what's the difference, then?

To suggest, as too many do today, that the New Covenant differs from the Old by offering forgiveness in place of demanding obedience is a sad travesty. The New Covenant demands obedience every bit as strongly as does the Old one...So what is the difference between the two covenants? The difference is precisely where Jeremiah and Ezekiel place it. The Old Covenant was external. It stood over against the worshipper and, as such, it showed him or her in no uncertain terms who God was, and who he or she was...The New Covenant differs from the Old in this one respect. It is internal. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, the temple of our heart and spirit can be cleansed from the sins of the past and the Spirit can take up residence within us. Now God’s will can function from within us; now his nature can flow out of us. Now what was once an unattainable goal becomes a living reality. — Called to be Holy, pages 86-87

<idle musing>
Indeed! The difference is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." With Christ in us, there is no command of God we are unable to obey—but only through the power of the indwelling Christ via the Holy Spirit. That's quite a promise, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The centrality of the cross

In the current field of Pauline studies, it is often difficult to find a sane voice when discussing Paul's views on women. Either Paul is the greatest villain that women have ever encountered, or he is seen as a far-seeing champion of women's rights. I was reading recently (in conjunction with an editing job) and came across the following:
When trying to navigate the seeming contradiction between the hierarchical and egalitarian streams in Paul’s thought, it is important to remember that Paul views power, like everything else, through the lens of the cross. The cross is power, but it is power expressed through weakness, through humility, and through love. The power of the cross is power exerted for the benefit of others, not the benefit of oneself.—JenniferHouston McNeel, Paul as Infant and Nursing Mother: Metaphor, Rhetoric, and Identity in 1 Thessalonians 2:5–8 (dissertation)
<idle musing>
Indeed! And it is not just in matters of Paul's view of women. Paul sees everything through the eyes of the cross.
Would that we did too! Make it so, Lord Jesus!
</idle musing>

Friday, April 11, 2014

Who or whom?

I'm in the midst of editing a book—as usual!—and ran into a nice little phrase that made me stop and actually mentally diagram the sentence. It contains a few things that make you stop to think. Here's the phrase:
“...remind them of who they are…”
What's the problem, you ask? Shouldn't it just be "whom"? After all, it's the object of the preposition "of," right?

Well, yes and no. The whole phrase "who they are" is the object of the preposition "of" not just "who."

OK, you say, but it still should be "whom" because it is the object of "are," right?

Nope. "Are" is a copulative (linking) verb and takes a subjective case predicate (for those of you with Greek or Latin, a predicate nominative). So, it should be "who" as the subjective complement of "are."

Let's create a different clause with the same construction.

It comes down the to the problem of who is Santa Claus.
So you see, Virginia, there really can be an objective Santa Clause...

I know, it's terrible...

A different view on Genesis 1

The Sabbath Calendar, I have argued, is a deliberate rejection of the historical luni-solar calendar of the Canaanite-Israelite traditions and, perhaps more importantly, a rejection of the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar. In this light, Genesis 1 provides a narrative charter, a mythic justification for a novel calendar based not solely on the lunar cycle but on septenary cycles that the author maintains are linked to observable solar, lunar, and astral phenomena.—Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East, page 314

The cure

A second important feature of the phenomena surrounding Saul’s spirit-filling is his receiving of “a new heart...” Here we have a clear connection between Spirit-filling and moral renovation. We also have the connection between the “heart” and the Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives us the ability to live wholly for God, an ability that we lack otherwise. Our hearts are terribly divided, and the imagination by which our thoughts (“the thoughts of our hearts”) are shaped is deeply and utterly corrupted. God expects us to share his character; that is his goal for us. Yet, as the Hebrew people learned to their dismay, there is that in us which seems to prevent us from reaching that goal, sincere though our efforts may be. What is to be done? Here it is: the Spirit of God must fill us, communicating the character and will of God to us, and giving us a heart which belong wholly to God. — Called to be Holy, page 74

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Because the politics of the world are perfectly dishonest. Who does not know this? Who does not know that it is the proposed policy of every party to cover up the defects of their own candidate, and the good qualities of the opposing candidate? And is not this dishonest? Every party holds up its candidate as a piece of perfection, and then aims to ride him into office by any means, fair or foul. No man can be an honest man, that is committed to a party, to go with them, let them do what they may. And can a Christian do it, and keep a conscience void of offense?—Charles Finney