Monday, April 30, 2012

life begins

From C. Ward Kischer, Ph.D., "Every human embryologist and every major textbook of Human Embryology states that fertilization marks the beginning of the life of the new individual human being. The reason why this is true is the following:

From the moment when the sperm makes contact with the oocyte, under conditions we have come to understand and describe as normal, all subsequent development to birth of a living newborn is a fait accompli. That is to say, after that initial contact of spermatozoon and oocyte there is no subsequent moment or stage which is held in arbitration or abeyance by the mother, or the embryo or fetus. Nor is a second contribution, a signal or trigger, needed from the male in order to continue and complete development to birth. Human development is a continuum in which so-called stages overlap and blend one into another. Indeed, all of life is contained within a time continuum. Thus, the beginning of a new life is exacted by the beginning of fertilization, the reproductive event which is the essence of life.

Herein lies the importance of distinguishing between the science of developmental biology and the science of Human Embryology. Within the science of Human Embryology, the continuum of life is more fully appreciated. The fact that development and developmental principles do not cease with birth becomes more fully realized. So, the continuum of human development does not cease until death, whenever that may occur, in utero or at 100 years of age."

last supper reservations

This explains a lot ...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

total depravity

Occasionally one can find truth at the teampyro blog. Dan Phillips writes a to-the-point piece on total depravity found in the Old Testament.

One old canard is the notion that “total depravity” is (at worst) a uniquely Calvinistic doctrine, or (at best) a uniquely Pauline doctrine, unknown to OT writers, all of whom are supposed to have had an optimistic view of human nature.

One doesn’t get very far in Genesis before running into contrary evidence. Of course, there is simply chapter three, which details the death of the first parents, a narrative continued in Adam’s fathering of a son in his own (now fallen and depraved) image and likeness in 5:3, with its subsequent, somber refrain of “and he died … and he died … and he died.”

But a very clear statement comes in Gen. 6:5 — “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Neither Paul, Calvin nor Owen said anything more comprehensive, extensive or damning.

However, one might attempt the plea, “This is an especially bad generation, not a universal statement. It was why the flood was brought. You can’t extend that to everyone.”

So what happens next? Noah finds grace in God’s eyes (Gen. 6:8), and he and his family alone are preserved alive, while the rest of mankind is destroyed. They, then, are the exceptions. Right?

Wrong. Look at Gen. 8:21 — And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.”

This is just as universal and unconditional a condemnation as 6:5. But note that it comes (A) after the eradication of the entire evil generation of 6:5, (B) after an act of worship on Noah’s part, (C) while the chosen remnant is just beginning its new life in the new world, and (D) before any of them had committed any sin, as far as the narrative is concerned. Surely it is simpler to let the whole Bible say what it says, and understand that this is why Solomon could, without further qualification, assert that “there is no man who does not sin” (1 Ki. 8:46), and why Paul could say what he said. Even if it forces a revision (one could almost say reformation ) of our theological system.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones in The Assurance of Our Salvation:

But this is the amazing message, and this is what is meant by justification – that God tells us that, as the result of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, because of his life, his death and his resurrection, if we believe on him and trust ourselves solely and entirely to him, God pardons and forgives our sins. Not only that, he declares that we are free from guilt: more than that, justification includes this. He not only declares that we are pardoned and forgiven and that we are guiltless, he also declares that we are positively righteous. He imputes to us, that is, he puts to our account, the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who was entirely without sin, who never failed his Father in any way, and who never broke a Commandment or transgressed any law. God gives to us – puts upon us – the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and then looks upon us and pronounces that we are righteous in his holy sight. That is the biblical doctrine of justification.

Friday, April 27, 2012

note on judging

Joe Thorn in Note to Self:

The truth is you won’t stop judging others until you stop seeing yourself as a measure of righteousness.

The command to “judge not” is not a call to stop honest evaluations about others but to cease the hypercritical and condemning attitude that characterizes some of your thoughts, words, and actions. Jesus tells you not to judge this way because the world needs to see true judgment and real mercy. What it knows of judgment is severe and unrighteous. What it knows of mercy is a permissive, “it’s-all-good” attitude of tolerance or license.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

human muscle

From Jim Meredith [emphasis mine - oh, and picture of me ... not]:

Matthew 16:21-23; After Jesus foretold his upcoming death, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “No way Lord, this shall never happen to you.” How human, how natural, and how wrong! How of the flesh and not of the Spirit! So Jesus gave the most intriguing rebuke imaginable: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” And then in verse 24, He follows up with, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Then verse 25, “for whoever wants to save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

Let’s be clear. Peter, well intentioned and not meaning any harm, and actually desiring good as he understood it, was responding totally in the flesh. Yet the Gospel, the “Good News” and how it was to unfold, was quite elusive, a mystery as to the “what” and “how”. Was not the Messiah to rule and bring back the glory days of Israel? How could he die? … have you ever tried to save Jesus (or a brother) from making a huge mistake? Peter wanted to save Jesus; so he needed to control his actions. He knew without a doubt what Jesus was supposed to do and how it was to be accomplished. He was committed! Had he not walked away from his nets and given his all to follow Jesus? But Jesus had to do “it” a certain way, Peter’s way.

“Muscle” is a powerful thing, but a man thing, “the things of men”. We “build up” muscle through achievement, knowledge and natural giftedness. But muscle has limitations … flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit! The Spirit is mystery, originating always where man does not reside. (Read John 3 again… the Lord’s dialogue explains the dichotomy of flesh and Spirit.) “Who can know the things of God (the what and how) except the Spirit of God?” (I Corinthians 2:6-16 is equally insightful)

Today we work very hard for Jesus. We are in the battle. We do heroic things! We give money. We apply pressure. We use our influence. We think out of the box! We flail away (as Peter did a few days later, still not getting the message) and unsuspecting people often lose more than an ear! “Doing it my way” to save and serve Jesus is why Christ died … to save us from our fleshly desires, schemes and the need to “help” God. But God doesn’t need us. He chooses to use us.

Sadly, all this bluster is bottomless and led to Peter’s repeated denials. He had been prepped for denial, but didn’t have a clue till he flinched by the fire. Of course he could not follow Jesus; he didn’t first understand denial of self. He had forgotten so quickly the Lord’s challenge after the stern rebuke … “to deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”. [W]e must stop thinking about the right way to honor God with our influence and actions, and consciously accept the how and what he is doing in the lives of people for whom He died. As we die to self, we may and are more likely to simply marvel at what He is doing. Maybe we need to “show up” daily in honorable obedience, “shut up” about all our plans, and “stand up” at attention in respect and worship as the King comes passing by daily in our life and others. The mystery of the gospel (i.e. its success) is Christ in you (and in your neighbor), the hope of glory… not our muscle.

I’ve learned again ... that my greatest need is to discern what it means to follow Jesus to the cross. What a mystery to die to self daily. All temptation is here; we don’t want to die. We want to live, make a contribution, have people follow us and think highly of us. Oh, we must be careful! Jesus, too, was tempted to take the way of power and do great things; “give them bread”, Satan said, and they will worship you. God’s way, first death and only then life, is truly revolutionary. Is not the “get behind me Satan” anything (no matter how supposedly innocent) which might detract us from the Jesus way?

[O]f course, there is a place for “muscle” in the Kingdom. But don’t be muscle bound! Muscle must not replace the heart or displace the Spirit! We must walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the flesh, our brother Paul says (Galatians 5:16). God doesn’t want first our management “know how” or our leadership ability, or our wisdom… He just wants us. He enjoys us. And I am learning to just enjoy Him, too, as I grow out of my sins. There is hope! Peter became a changed man… so can we!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I love this from Michael Gatlin in this issue of Cutting Edge ...
So I thought, "Which part of me is the secular part, and which part of me is sacred?" The truth is, I'm a fully redeemed child of God. Yet I'm living in a very secular world. So everything I do in that secular world then becomes an act of worship to the one true God. I want every part of me to be living that out.
But, sadly I have to say I do not share Rich Nathan's optimistic assessment of the Vineyard. The article states:
Bert "assumed the mantle of leadership at a time of significant crisis" when "many people predicted the death of the Vineyard." Ten years later, Rich believes that the Vineyard is "perceived to be theologically centrist, back on track with a full message of the Kingdom of God" and "poised to relevantly engage our world with the message and ministry of Jesus." In almost every way, the Vineyard movement is larger and healthier than it was ten years ago...

Monday, April 23, 2012

statistics of abortion

John Piper posts the sad statistics of abortion ...

Tucked away near the bottom, and easily out of sight, is one of the compounded tragedies of abortion. The profoundly disproportionate number of black babies being aborted.

Every child is created in God’s image and is knit together by him in the womb. Every child, of every race, is God’s design and gift (Psalm 139:13). None should be killed.

And when there are historic and contemporary evidences that certain minorities are targeted by the abortion industry, the loss is compounded by the lurking sin of racism.

Let these numbers (these persons, these babies) sink in. Then do the research for your own state or vicinity.

With thanks for the significant work of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, here are the statistics on abortion in Minnesota for 2010.

11,505 abortions were performed — an average of more than 33 every single day.

  • 34% of the abortions were paid for with taxpayer funds.

  • 35% of the abortions were performed by Planned Parenthood — more than any other provider.

  • 21% of the abortions used the dangerous and sometimes lethal RU486 abortion drug.
  • 4% of the abortions were performed on women under age 18.

  • 43% of the abortions were performed on women ages 18 to 24.
Abortion as birth control:
  • 42% of the women reported that they had at least one previous abortion.
  • 881 of the women reported that they had three or more previous abortions.
  • 16 of the women reported that they had nine or more previous abortions.
Abortion complications:
  • 22 complications were reported by women at the time of the abortion, including cervical laceration and hemorrhage.
  • 142 complications have been reported by women after leaving the abortion provider, including hemorrhage, infection requiring hospitalization and incomplete abortion.
Reasons given for abortions:
  • 32% of the women reported “Economic reasons.”

  • 63% of the women reported “Does not want children at this time.”

  • Less than 1% of the women reported that the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

See Piper's post for Minnesota abortions which shows racial disparity (2009 Data)

stark contrast

JC Ryle wrote in Perseverance:

There are two points in religion on which the teaching of the Bible is very plain and distinct. One of these points is the fearful danger of the ungodly; the other is the perfect safety of the righteous. One is the happiness of those who are converted; the other is the misery of those who are unconverted. One is the blessedness of being in the way to heaven; the other is the wretchedness of being in the way to hell.

I hold it to be of the utmost importance that these two points should be constantly impressed on the minds of professing Christians. I believe that the exceeding privileges of the children of God, and the deadly peril of the children of the world, should be continually set forth in the clearest colors before the Church of Christ. I believe that the difference between the person in Christ, and the person not in Christ, can never be stated too strongly and too fully. Reserve on this subject is a positive injury to the souls of people. Wherever such reserve is practiced, the careless will not be aroused, believers will not be established, and the cause of God will receive much damage.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

so what is the gospel

Michael Patton wrote this great post, Does the Roman Catholic Gospel Save? There's much wisdom in the post but his conclusion, "grace is incredibly mind blowing", stands out.

The internet as used by those with a sinful nature is part of the 'world system'. The internet as used by the redeemed who haven't thrown off the 'old man' is a trap to ensnare. Those who have overcome need to be wise.

If we write God-truth, evil will reject it. If we write God-grace, evil will reject it. And none of us write well enough to speak God-truth and God-grace to all people across all time. That's perhaps an exaggeration. Perhaps I should say that if any of us could write that well, we need to be prepared to interact with the enemy's hyenas (which are seemingly infinite) for all time. And this my friends is not our calling.

So, God-truth and God-grace are incredibly mind blowing. Patton does an excellent job striking a good balance in this post but as I read I thought how it is both good for the soul and yet pearls before swine ... and not because of the topic or any point he makes, but because that is simply the sad reality of the vehicle too many of us seem to be caught in and unwilling to step out of - as demonstrated by my writing here ...

Anyway - here's Patton's post.

It seems that just about every week a new book comes out on the subject of how we are getting the Gospel wrong. I am getting tired of it. Once I read a book and adjust my thinking to getting the Gospel right, I find out in the next book I read that I got it wrong again! Is the Gospel that difficult? Does every generation get the Gospel wrong, thus requiring the next enlightened generation to get them back on course?

Last week, I wrote a post about whether or not Roman Catholics are saved. I chose this topic because, within the past couple of weeks, I had been asked this question (or some variation of it) four times. It is an important question, which caused quite a conversation. I had to close the comments down on this blog topic within 24 hours of posting it! The reason for closing the comments was not so much the belligerence of Roman Catholics who did not agree with what I had written, but because of some very (ahem…) committed Protestants who were being less than gracious. James White did a thoughtful Dividing Line broadcast, where he strongly disagreed with me. Over the last week, the most common objection I received about what I had written was that I had been asking the wrong question. What is the right question? Well, the consensus seemed to be this: “Does the Roman Catholic Church have the right Gospel?”, not , “are Roman Catholics Saved?” There are myriad ways I could have phrased it:

“Are Roman Catholics saved?”

“Can Roman Catholics be saved?”

“Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save?”

“Does Roman Catholicism have the right Gospel?”

All of these require a slight variation in response. Most of my Protestant friends are more than willing to admit that Catholics could be saved, and that some are saved. However, they are quick to point out that “Rome’s Gospel does not save.” Of course, in order to make such a comment, the assumption is that we already have the “right” Gospel, which begs the question: “How much of the Gospel do we have to get right?” Another way to put it: “How much of the Gospel can we get wrong and still have the right Gospel?”

Head hurt? Mine too. But stay with me.

The Gospel is simply the “good news” of God. However, there is so much to it. We can boil the Gospel down to its basic essentials, or we can expand it to include all of its implications and benefits. If we take the former, then it is absolutely necessary to have the right Gospel. However, if we take the latter, how can we ever expect to have the “right” Gospel? I don’t have everything right. I don’t necessarily know what I have wrong, but I like to think that I am open to change, and am willing to nuance my views as I learn. In other words, ”Do we have the right Gospel?” is not as black and white an issue as we may be inclined to assume. There is so much of the Gospel in which all of us can improve our understanding. In other words, I think we could all have a “righter” Gospel today than we did yesterday.

Paul speaks of the Gospel in two ways. His letter to the Romans, the entire book , is the Gospel (Rom. 1:15-17 ). Romans 1:17 makes it clear that, in this context, the vindication of God’s righteousness (which is, I believe, the essence of chapters 1-11) is part of the Gospel message. Here, sin (Rom. 3:23 ), justification by faith alone (Rom. 3:21 ), imputation of sin (Rom. 5:18 ), imputation of righteousness (Rom. 4:1-5 ; Rom. 5:18 ), the vindication of creation (Rom. 8:16 ), the freedom from bondage (Rom. 7 ), the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8 ), the security of the believer in Christ (Rom. 8:28-39 ), and, I believe, the eternal elective decree of salvation which vindicates God’s faithfulness (Rom. 9-11 ) are all part of the Gospel message. However, in 1 Cor. 15:1-8 , Paul seems to suggest that there are issues within the Gospel that are of “first importance.” These issues surround Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Was Paul saying that these were the only issues which were of “first importance”? Here, he does not mention (much less emphasize) faith, grace, imputation, Christ’s humanity and deity, or Christ second coming. All of these, we would say, are integral parts of the “good news.” All of us would say that getting the Gospel “right” needs to include these things.

We could also do a study based on the sermons in Acts. I count thirteen evangelistic sermons in Acts (meaning they were speeches given to those who were unbelievers). Most likely, Luke summarized these sermons, frequently giving just the essence of what the Apostle taught (Acts 9:20 ; Acts 10:42 ; Acts 20:21 ). Therefore, it is difficult to make too many theological conclusions, or even draw out a definite kyrugma (essential preaching). Similarly, these sermons were highly contextualized, often being given exclusively to Jews, Gentiles, philosophers, or kings. For example, I can only identify one place where freedom from the law is explicitly mentioned (Acts 13:39 ). In a similar sense, I don’t find substitutionary atonement explicitly mentioned in any sermons recorded in Acts. In addition, it is interesting that the deity of Christ, in the strictest sense of the term, is mentioned on just one occasion (Acts 9:20 ). In all but two sermons, I find the subject of the death and resurrection of Christ addressed. In about half of the sermons, I find repentance and forgiveness being part of the focus. And in many messages (especially to the Jews), Christ’s messiahship (kingship) is mentioned. It is of further interest to note what aspects of the Gospel are included, but it is just as interesting to see which are left out.

What does all of this mean? How do we know when we have the right Gospel? Are we supposed to find the least common denominator and then focus exclusively on that? Or are we supposed to see letters, like Romans, as the most developed and comprehensive of all, and use them as models?

When we ask questions like, “Does Rome have the right Gospel?” , I am not sure what is being implied. “Do they have a right enough Gospel?” Right enough for what? Normally, we mean “right enough to save.” Which aspects of the Gospel are we questioning? Are we getting the essence of the Gospel from Acts? If so, then yes, Catholics seem to be OK. Are we getting it from Paul in Romans? If so, I would say comme si, comme ca. However, if that is the case, one could just as easily assert that Arminians receive the wrong Gospel, since they fail to see (generally speaking) the “good news” of security and/or the “good news” of sovereign election. Furthermore, is a Gospel that does not support the doctrine of the security of the believer really a Gospel at all? Well, yes and no. It could be “more right”. It could be “better news.” Finally, to those who deny these aspects of the Gospel (security and eternal election), using the standard above, one could call upon them to experience a “righter” Gospel.

When it comes to the Gospel, I believe Calvinist Evangelical Protestants have the “rightest” points of view, but I think there are certain aspects of the Gospel we can overemphasize to such a degree that we lose focus on more central components. Moreover, I think we can also lose sight of important (not central) components that other traditions are more faithful to preserve. For example, I believe that substitutionary atonement is the essence of the “for” in Christ, who gave himself up ”for me” (Gal. 2:20 ) as payment for sin. Protestants and Catholics do well to see this doctrine, while the Eastern Orthodox church outright deny this substitutionary aspect of the Gospel in particular. Do they have the wrong Gospel? In one sense, yes. However, in another sense, I think they have a ”righter” Gospel in that they call upon people to see the “recapitulation” aspect of Christ’s life. Protestant and Catholics, in my opinion, are very deficient in understanding how Christ qualified to be our substitute. Therefore, Eastern Orthodox traditionally have “better news” with regard to the humanity of Christ.

What is the solution? Well, I don’t like the least common denominator approach, since it suggests that having the entire Gospel is not that important, i.e., only those things to which we can boil it all down (i.e. sin, messiahship, death, burial, resurrection, faith). The entire message is the Gospel. Therefore, “getting the Gospel wrong” is not an option. Yet, it has to be. Catholics miss grace and, in this sense, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter”, and this causes serious concern. Preterists, who deny Christ’s future coming, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter” and their position should be considered serious. Universalists, who deny the reality of an eternal punishment, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter” and its ramifications are similarly serious. Arminians, who deny sovereign election, have a different Gospel. Their Gospel needs to be “righter”, and it is (Are you getting my point?) serious. From a charismatic perspective, cessationists, who do not believe in the continuation of certain gifts of the Spirit, have a different Gospel. Maybe our Gospel needs to be “righter.” Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox all have different Gospels in some respects. All of these traditions emphasize different aspects of the Gospel and need to be anathematized in some ways.

So, “Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save?” is such a loaded question for me. People can antagonistically ask everyone all of these questions: “Does the Calvinist Gospel save?” “Does the Arminian Gospel save?” “Does the fundamentalist Gospel save?” “Does the Church of Christ Gospel save?” “Does the Eastern Orthodox Gospel save?” “Does the Universalist Gospel save?” I don’t even know what the Roman Catholic Gospel is these days. It has quite a bit of dynamic progression throughout history. Is there one sentence you could write which would clearly articulate the essence of their Gospel? I doubt it. And if you did, the next Roman Catholic apologist would write it down differently. “Does Rome have the wrong Gospel?” Certain aspects of their doctrines are wrong, yes. However, in the real world, people are not asking these questions. They are asking something more specific. Concerning Calvinism, what one is really saying is, “Can one deny libertarian free will and be saved?” Concerning Arminianism, “Can one believe that salvation can be lost, yet still be saved?” Concerning fundamentalism, “Can one who is a separationist be saved?” Concerning the Church of Christ, “Can one believe in baptismal regeneration and still be saved?” Concerning Eastern Orthodoxy, “Can one believe in deification and be saved?” Concerning Universalism (of the Christian variety), “Can one deny hell and be saved?” And concerning Roman Catholics, “Can one who believes that works contribute to their justification be saved?” That is what people are really asking.

The broader question is always: “Can one have bad doctrine and be saved?” All but the most ardent maximalists would say “yes.” But where do we cross the line? And I don’t really like the false dichotomy which says, “doctrine does not save … God does.” That misses the point of the conversation, as it discredits the necessity of faith in God altogether. If faith is necessary in any sense, that faith must have content. And it is that very content on which this discussion centers. In other words, if faith is important, then content is, as well.

There is definitely a line that can be crossed. I can’t always tell you where that line is, exactly . I know that the center of the Gospel is the person and work of Christ. In addition, I would contend that one must accept who Christ is (the God-man), and what he did (died for our sins and rose from the grave). Acceptance of these requires, I believe, the presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14 ). I believe that it is a “wronger” Gospel when works are added as a factor to justification. I believe that Protestant Evangelicals have the “rightest” Gospel. I think that Evangelical Protestants have a better answer for the history of the church, the development of doctrine, and the systematic nature of canonical truth. That said, I also know that we can all have a “righter” Gospel. Indeed, one day we will all stand before God and see this “righter” Gospel more clearly. Does the Roman Catholic Gospel save? To the degree that the individual Catholic is trusting in the God-man who takes away the sins of the world, it can . All of us (Protestant and Catholic) can and should trust Christ more, but Catholics need to get the Gospel “righter” by abandoning their denial of justification by faith alone. Their application of the Gospel is not very good news.

Grace is incredibly mind blowing.

earth day

Earth Day at The Big Picture ... in case you missed it ...

you matter

God exists and you matter ... wise words by Deborah Schaeffer Middlemann, regarding her father Francis Schaeffer, quoted in Francis Schaeffer; An Authentic Life.

“His view of death and his own death was having confidence that life matters and that the world matters. . . . Because of that you fight to live, and because of that you need to go out and carry on the good fight. You do matter, and God does exist. So you put your hand to the plow, you work and you struggle — you do what you can in all different areas, with passion. You don’t sit in a corner somewhere and wait to die. . . . What you look forward to is not death but the Second Coming. You are longing and working for that. Contrary to what people say — that you can’t take anything with you — yes, you do take your work with you. It’s a biblical teaching, that what you do matters and will continue on into eternity.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

the tragedy of trayvon

Shelby Steele writes on The Exploitation of Trayvon Martin in the WSJ:

Two tragedies are apparent in the Trayvon Martin case. The first is obvious: A teenager—unarmed and committing no crime—was shot dead. Dressed in a "hoodie," a costume of menace, he crossed paths with a man on the hunt for precisely such clich├ęs of menace. Added to this—and here is the rub—was the fact of his dark skin.

Maybe it was more the hood than the dark skin, but who could argue that the skin did not enhance the menace of the hood at night and in the eyes of someone watching for crime. (Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black though we are only 12% of the population.) Would Trayvon be alive today had he been walking home—Skittles and ice tea in hand—wearing a polo shirt with an alligator logo? Possibly. And does this make the ugly point that dark skin late at night needs to have its menace softened by some show of Waspy Americana? Possibly.

What is fundamentally tragic here is that these two young males first encountered each other as provocations. Males are males, and threat often evokes a narcissistic anger that skips right past reason and into a will to annihilate: "I will take you out!" There was a terrible fight. Trayvon apparently got the drop on George Zimmerman, but ultimately the man with the gun prevailed. Annihilation was achieved.

If this was all there was to it, the Trayvon/Zimmerman story would be no more than a cautionary tale, yet another admonition against the hair-trigger male ego. But this story brought reaction from the White House: "If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," said the president. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, ubiquitous icons of black protest, virtually battled each other to stand at the bereaved family's side—Mr. Jackson, in a moment of inadvertent honesty, saying, "There is power in blood . . . we must turn a moment into a movement." And then there was the spectacle of black Democrats in Congress holding hearings on racial profiling with Trayvon's parents featured as celebrities.

In fact Trayvon's sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America's civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the "poetic truth" that these establishments live by. Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth.

The civil rights community and the liberal media live by the poetic truth that America is still a reflexively racist society, and that this remains the great barrier to black equality. But this "truth" has a lot of lie in it. America has greatly evolved since the 1960s. There are no longer any respectable advocates of racial segregation. And blacks today are nine times more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites.

If Trayvon Martin was a victim of white racism (hard to conceive since the shooter is apparently Hispanic), his murder would be an anomaly, not a commonplace. It would be a bizarre exception to the way so many young black males are murdered today. If there must be a generalization in all this—a call "to turn the moment into a movement"—it would have to be a movement against blacks who kill other blacks. The absurdity of Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.

So the idea that Trayvon Martin is today's Emmett Till, as the Rev. Jackson has said, suggests nothing less than a stubborn nostalgia for America's racist past. In that bygone era civil rights leaders and white liberals stood on the highest moral ground. They literally knew themselves—given their genuine longing to see racism overcome—as historically transformative people. If the world resisted them, as it surely did, it only made them larger than life.

It was a time when standing on the side of the good required true selflessness and so it ennobled people. And this chance to ennoble oneself through a courageous moral stand is what so many blacks and white liberals miss today—now that white racism is such a defeated idea. There is a nostalgia for that time when posture alone ennobled. So today even the hint of old-fashioned raw racism excites with its potential for ennoblement.

For the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton, for the increasingly redundant civil rights establishment, for liberal blacks and the broader American left, the poetic truth that white racism is somehow the real culprit in this tragedy is redemption itself. The reason Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have become such disreputable figures on our cultural landscape is that they are such quick purveyors of poetic truth rather than literal truth.

The great trick of poetic truth is to pass itself off as the deep and essential truth so that hard facts that refute it must be dismissed in the name of truth. O.J. Simpson was innocent by the poetic truth that the justice system is stacked against blacks. Trayvon was a victim of racist stereotyping—though the shooter never mentioned his race until asked to do so.

There is now a long litany of racial dust-ups—from Tawana Brawley to the Duke University lacrosse players to the white Cambridge police officer who arrested Harvard professor Skip Gates a summer ago—in which the poetic truth of white racism and black victimization is invoked so that the actual truth becomes dismissible as yet more racism.

When the Cambridge cop or the Duke lacrosse players or the men accused of raping Tawana Brawley tried to defend themselves, they were already so stained by poetic truth as to never be entirely redeemed. No matter the facts—whether Trayvon Martin was his victim or his assailant—George Zimmerman will also never be entirely redeemed.

And this points to the second tragedy that Trayvon's sad demise highlights. Before the 1960s the black American identity (though no one ever used the word) was based on our common humanity, on the idea that race was always an artificial and exploitive division between people. After the '60s—in a society guilty for its long abuse of us—we took our historical victimization as the central theme of our group identity. We could not have made a worse mistake.

It has given us a generation of ambulance-chasing leaders, and the illusion that our greatest power lies in the manipulation of white guilt. The tragedy surrounding Trayvon's death is not in the possibility that it might have something to do with white racism; the tragedy is in the lustfulness with which so many black leaders, in conjunction with the media, have leapt to exploit his demise for their own power.

the silence of god

The Silence of God by Andrew Peterson ...


nt wright on enlightenment

N.T. Wright's wise words in How God Became King:

The reason the Enlightenment has taught us to trash our own history, to say that Christianity is part of the problem, is that it has had a rival eschatology to promote. It couldn’t allow Christianity to claim that world history turned its great corner when Jesus of Nazareth died and rose again, because it wanted to claim that world history turned its great corner in Europe in the eighteenth century.

“All that went before,” it says, “is superstition and mumbo-jumbo. We have now seen the great light, and our modern science, technology, philosophy, and politics have ushered in the new order of the ages.” That was believed and expounded in America and France, and it has soaked into our popular culture and imagination. (George Washington contrasted the “gloomy age of ignorance and superstition” up to that point with the new epoch ushered in by the great revolutions of the late eighteenth century, when “the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined.”)

So of course Christianity is reduced from an eschatology (“This is where history was meant to be going, despite appearances!”) to a religion (“Here is a way of being spiritual”), because world history can’t have two great turning points. If the Enlightenment is the great, dramatic, all-important corner of world history, Jesus can’t have been. He is still wanted on board, of course, as a figure through whom people can try to approach the incomprehensible mystery of the “divine” and as a teacher of moral truths that might, if applied, actually strengthen the fabric of the brave new post-Enlightenment society.

But when Christianity is made “just a religion,” it first muzzles and then silences altogether the message the gospels were eager to get across. When that happens, the gospel message is substantially neutralized as a force in the world beyond the realm of private spirituality and an escapist heaven. That, indeed, was the intention. And the churches have, by and large, gone along for the ride.

prayer thoughts

I have to say this is one of the best, certainly most thought provoking, posts on prayer I've read in a long time. Thank you Nancy Guthrie.

It is one thing to be asked to pray for another person. I’m happy to do it. I want to do it. I must admit, though, I am not always faithful to do it. However, it is another thing to be told what to ask God for in the situation. I’ve noticed that often requests for prayer come with specific instructions on how to pray. I call it a “please pray for my predetermined positive outcome” request.

And while I’m questioning our accepted methods of requesting prayer, I’ve got to ask, why do we seem to make it our goal to get as many people as possible praying toward our predetermined positive outcome? Is it that we think God is resistant to doing what is good and right but can be pressured by a large number of people to relent and deliver? Do we think that the more people we recruit to pray for the same thing will prove our sincerity or improve our odds?

Praying for a Miracle?

I suppose I really began to think about these things during the season in which we were caring for our daughter, Hope, who was born with a fatal genetic disorder. I remember getting a call from the secretary at our church. “We’ve put you on the prayer list,” she said, “and we’re asking people to pray that God will do a miracle and heal Hope.” Honestly it was a little awkward to tell her that while that was fine, it wasn’t the way we were praying. Our reluctance to pray in this way had nothing to do with whether or not we thought God is powerful enough to do that kind of miracle. This is the God who spoke the world into being. No question he could do it.

So how were praying for Hope? I wish I could tell you that I was a great woman of prayer in those difficult days. Truth is, I wasn’t. I was really grateful that so many people were praying for us, no matter what they were praying, because I didn’t have many words, mostly just groans and tears. I was grateful to know that the Holy Spirit was interceding for us with “groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:36 ). When I was able to sputter out a prayer, it was shaped most profoundly by something a friend said to me on the phone a couple of days after Hope was born. She said that I could be confident that God would accomplish the purpose he had for Hope’s life in the number of days that he gave to her. So in my prayers I began to welcome him to accomplish that purpose. I prayed that my own sin and selfishness and small agendas would not hinder his purpose. I prayed that that his purpose for Hope’s life would be enough for me, even a joy to me.

Not Meaningless or Random

If we really believe that God is purposeful in suffering, that our suffering is not meaningless or random, shouldn’t that affect how we pray about the suffering in our lives and in the lives of others? As it is, we pretty much only know how to pray for suffering to be removed—for there to be healing, relief, restoration. Praying for anything less seems less than compassionate. But shouldn’t the purposes for suffering we find in Scripture guide our prayers more than our predetermined positive outcomes? We could make a very long list of purposes for which God intends to use suffering according to the Scripture. But here are just a few:

  • To put God’s glory on display (John 9:3 )
  • To make the life of Jesus evident (2 Cor. 4:10-11 )
  • To live out genuine faith (1 Peter 1:6-7 )
  • To cause us to depend on him more fully (2 Cor. 1:8-9 )
  • To reveal hidden sin or keep us from sin (2 Cor. 12:7 )
  • To experience that Christ is enough (2 Cor. 12:9 )
  • To discipline us for holiness (Hebrews 12:10-11 )
  • To equip us to comfort others (1 Cor. 1:3 )
  • To make us spiritually mature (James 1:2-5 )
  • To make us fruitful (John 15:2 )
  • To shape us into Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29 )
  • To share in the suffering of Christ (Philippians 3:10 )

What would happen if we allowed Scripture to provide the outcomes we prayed toward? What if we expanded our prayers from praying solely for healing and deliverance and success to praying that God would use the suffering and disappointment and dead ends in our lives to accomplish the purposes he has set forth in Scripture? Scripture provides us with a vocabulary for expanding our prayers for hurting people far beyond our predetermined positive outcomes. Instead of praying only for relief, we begin to pray that the glory of God’s character would be on display in our lives and the lives of those for whom we are praying. We pray for the joy of discovering that the faith we have given lip service to over a lifetime is the real deal. We ask God to use the difficulty to make us less self-reliant and more God-reliant. Rather than only begging him to remove the suffering in our loved ones’ lives, we ask him to make them spiritually fruitful in the midst of suffering he chooses not to remove.

What Is Prayer?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism for Young Children asks the question, what is prayer? The answer: “Prayer is asking God for things which he has promised to give.” Are we praying for things God has promised to give—like his presence with us, his Word guiding us, his power working in us, his purpose accomplished through us? Or are we limited to praying only for what he has not promised to give—complete physical healing and wholeness in the here and now?

To go deeper than praying only for deliverance means that we approach prayer not as a tool to manipulate God to get what we want, but as a way to submit to what he wants. Through prayer we draw close to him in our need. We tell him that we will not insist on our predetermined positive outcome but want to welcome him to have his way, accomplish his purpose.

Friday, April 20, 2012

zion & babylon

Are you listening to Josh Garrels? No? You should be.

saturday in hell

I realize the percentage of time that I agree with John Piper's perspective qualifies me as a fanboy. I don't want to be but mathematically, it's just the way it works out. So rather than fight it, here's another point which I agree with his take - Did Jesus Spend Saturday in Hell?

The Apostles’ Creed says, “[He] was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.” There are many meanings given to this phrase. I simply want to ponder the traditional interpretation that Christ went to the place of the dead to preach the gospel to Old Testament saints that he might set them free for the full experience of heaven. This is the view of the Catholic Catechism and many Protestants as well. I don’t think this is what the New Testament teaches.

The view is based mainly on two passages in 1 Peter.
Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (19) in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, (20) because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; (5) but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (6) For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1 Peter 4:4-6)
With regard to 1 Peter 3:19, I take these words to mean that Christ, through the voice of Noah, went and preached to that generation, whose spirits are now “in prison,” that is, in hell. In other words, Peter does not say that Christ preached to them while they were in prison. He says he preached to them once, during the days of Noah, and now they are in prison.

I think this is suggested as the more natural understanding of the passage in view of what Peter said earlier about the spirit of Christ speaking through the prophets of old.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (1 Peter 1:10-11)
With regard to 1 Peter 4:6, I take “preached to the dead” to refer to those who, after being preached to, have since died. He is not referring to preaching to them after they have died. The context suggests this kind of understanding, as J. N. D. Kelly explains:
They [the Christians] may well have been exposed to scoffing questions from pagan neighbors, and anxious ones from one another, “What is the gain of your having become Christians, since you apparently die like other men?” The writer’s answer is that, so far from being useless, the preaching of Christ and his gospel to those who have since died had precisely this end in view, that although according to human calculation they might seem to be condemned, they might in fact enjoy life eternal.” (A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, 175)
I would say, therefore, that there is no textual basis in the New Testament for claiming that between Good Friday and Easter Christ was preaching to souls imprisoned in hell or Hades. There is textual basis for saying that he would be with the repentant thief in Paradise “today” (Luke 23:43), and one does not get the impression that he means a defective place from which the thief must then be delivered by more preaching.

For these and other reasons, it seems best to me to omit from the Apostles Creed the clause, “he descended into hell,” rather than giving it other meanings that are more defensible, the way Calvin does.

every day life

Have I mentioned The Big Picture before?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

gandhi v. jesus

I agree with Tim Challies, Gandhi didn't like us and he didn't like Jesus.

How many times have you come across this quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi? “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I must have read it a hundred times in books, magazines, articles, tweets. It is used by believers and unbelievers to point to the hypocrisy of Christians and to call us to more and to better. Our inability to live what we preach is driving the multitudes away. Or so we are told. After all, that’s what Gandhi said.

We need to stop using this quote and I’m going to give you two good reasons to do so. In the first place, Gandhi was hardly an authority on Jesus. When he says, “I like your Christ” he is referring to a Jesus of his own making, a Jesus plucked haphazardly from the pages of Scripture, a Jeffersonian kind of Jesus, picked and chosen from the accounts of his life. He certainly was not referring to the Jesus—the true and complete Jesus—revealed from the first page of Scripture to the last. He did not refer to the Jesus who stands reading with a sword of judgment, the Jesus who made unwavering claims of his own deity and eternality, who declared that he was and is the only way to be made right with God. Jesus the good man, Jesus the teacher, Jesus the moralist, perhaps, but never Jesus who was and is and is to come.

Whatever Jesus Gandhi liked was certainly not the Jesus of the Bible. Why then should we care if we do not attain to this falsified version of Jesus? I would be ashamed to have any appearance to the kind of Jesus that Gandhi would deem good and acceptable and worthy of emulation. That Jesus would, of course, have to look an awful lot like Gandhi. So there is one good reason to stop using this quote: because Gandhi fabricated a Jesus of his own making and declared his affection only for this fictional character. He never liked the real thing.

Here’s a second reason. Gandhi had a fundamental misunderstanding of himself and of the rest of humanity.

Gandhi no doubt loved the way that Jesus related to the downtrodden and disadvantages and assumed that he himself was a leper or Samaritan, when really he was a Pharisee. He assumed that he was the woman with the never-ending discharge of blood who had spent all of her money on every crazy and painful medical treatment or the blind man who followed behind Jesus crying out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Perhaps he might even have deigned to put himself in the place of the Prodigal Son, a man who had gone astray but then found hope and redemption. Whatever the case, the Jesus he liked must have been a Jesus who would love and accept him just as he was and not a Jesus who declared that even a man as good as he was an enemy of God.

Jesus spoke kind words and did great deeds; he comforted and healed and gave hope and a future. But not to everyone. Jesus reserved the harshest of words for the religious elite, those who declared that they were holy, that they understood the nature of God, that they had achieved some kind of enlightenment. Jesus had no love for such people. It was such people who received the sharpest of his rebukes and the most brutal of his “Woes!” They were the whitewashed tombs, the broods of vipers, the blind guides.

Such men did not love Jesus. They may have loved Gandhi’s fabricated Christ but they hated the real one. This Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, would have rebuked Gandhi as he rebuked the Jewish leaders of his day, the people who led people walking behind them on the road to hell. Like them, he was convinced of his own goodness, his own worthiness.

There are two good reasons to stop using this quote: Gandhi liked only the Christ of his own making and he believed that he was worthy of the favor of this Christ. On both accounts he was wrong; dead wrong.

god math

JC Ryle in Having the Spirit makes it clear no Holy Spirit = no Christ = no Heaven ...

Let it be distinctly understood that the person who does not have the Spirit, does not have Christ. They who do not have Christ have no pardon of their sins—no peace with God—no title to heaven—no well-grounded hope of being saved. Their religion is like the house built on the sand. It may look well in fine weather. It may satisfy them in the time of health and prosperity. But when the flood rises, and the wind blows—when sickness and trouble come up against them, it will fall and bury them under its ruins. They live without a good hope, and without a good hope they die. They will rise again only to be miserable. They will stand in the judgment only to be condemned; they will see saints and angels looking on, and remember they might have been among them—but too late; they will see lost myriads around them, and find they cannot comfort them—but too late. This will be the end of the person who thinks that they can reach heaven without the Spirit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

penal substitution or not

The reason of penal substitution deniers escapes me. Not only do I think they are wrong but they are wrong on a matter of salvific importance - or at least very close to it. I get that there is more to the Cross than penal substitution - I love Christus Victor - and this is good to remind ourselves of. But I think it sinful to do so at the exclusion of penal substitution.

Here are some thoughts by Martin Downes on the topic.

I really enjoyed reading Justin Taylor’s interview with Michael Wittmer author of Don’t Stop Believing: Why living like Jesus is not enough [one of the best books I've read by the way]. There is a review of the book by Tim Challies here. The diagram above fascinated me, and I will look forward to reading the book.

This part of the interview caught my eye:
JT: You write that “The history of theology is a story of pendulum swings. The church pursues one line of thought until it reaches an extreme, and then, like the pendulum on a grandfather clock, swiftly swings to the other side.” Can you give a few examples?
MW: This pendulum swing shows up in nearly every chapter of Don’t Stop Believing…We emphasized penal substitution at the exclusion of the other atonement theories (e.g., I don’t remember hearing much about “Christus Victor”). Now some are over-reacting and accepting every theory of the atonement except penal substitution.
When I read this my mind was drawn to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism (italics added):
What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil ; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
The Catechism holds together what Wittmer notes evangelicals have sometimes separated. Why is this?

1. In is to be expected that when a doctrine is under attack not only will there be an appearance of new books and articles defending it, but there is also a mood that one senses at conferences and that you hear in preaching of lines being drawn and sides taken.

  • There is the didactic desire to articulate the doctrine under attack clearly, so as to rescue it from misrepresentation.
  • There is also the pastoral desire to make sure that our listeners are themselves personally clear about their own understanding and embracing of the doctrine.
  • Then there is the polemic and apologetic desire to engage with errors and to win over the wayward and those holding to contrary views.

The net result of this is that there is a perceived emphasis on a particular doctrine that looks very much like an imbalance. This does not mean that there is a real imbalance in the way that one’s overall theology is constructed and practiced, but for a time the contested doctrine takes the central place. And the greater the perceived threat the more we should expect this to be the case.

2. A lack of historical awareness is a significant issue. If our main diet of reading is dominated by the most recent books on particular doctrines we will deprive ourselves of access to the centuries of thinking that has preceded those works.

Of course good contemporary books that also deal with important thinkers and controversies in church history can become a significant entry point into the literature of the past. John Stott’s The Cross of Christ is a good example of this. Reading this book as an undergraduate introduced me to Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo and the aberrant views of Mcleod Campbell, as well as several other figures.

A lack of familiarity with what our forefathers believed and what they rejected is detrimental to the church today. One wonders whether we are better innovators than inheritors.

3. Sinclair Ferguson made the perceptive comment that most listeners to expository preaching would benefit more from it if they had a framework in place, a theological frame of reference, that would help them to understand and better assimilate and retain what they hear.

It should not be lost on us that the Protestant Reformation which unheld the authority, clarity and sufficiency of the Word, also saw a significant emphasis on the need for churches to confess the faith and to catechise members in doctrine, piety and ethics.

The very comprehensiveness and thoroughness of these confessions and catechisms are themselves a safeguard against swinging pendulums. However, a minimalist approach to doctrine arguably builds up the kinetic energy of the pendulum.

How is this related to Penal Substitution and Christus Victor?

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism views the atoning work of Christ as dealing with the satisfaction made for all our sins (penal substitution) and his redeeming us from all the power of the devil (Christus Victor). When Scripture explicates how Christ conquers the devil, the reality of which is anticipated in the proto-evangelium (Gen. 3:15), it views the power of the devil as the power of deception and accusation. Our legal position before God, in view of Adam’s breaking of the covenant of works (Gen. 2:15-17), and our own sins, has rendered us guilty, cursed, and under the sentence of death (Rom. 6:23).

How does Christ redeem us from the power of the devil? By dying for us (1 Peter 3:18). By taking our curse and punishment (Gal. 3:13). By enduring the wrath of God (Rom. 3:25-26). By taking the full penalty of the law (Gal. 3:10).

The legal accusations of Satan are silenced by the blood of the Lamb that has brought us forgiveness for all our sins (Col. 2:13-15; Eph. 1:7; Rev. 12:10-11; Rom. 8:1, 33-34!). How has Christ conquered Satan? By his active and passive obedience, by making atonement and justification. And now without God’s law to condemn us, Satan has no power to accuse us. What truth then will he seek to overthrow with all his might? The truth that the blood of the Lamb saves, the doctrine of penal substitution.

The Lamb slain saves us. The Lamb slain silences Satan’s accusations. It is seeing this connection that will stop the pendulum from swinging from penal substitution to Christus Victor. As Henri Blocher argued, in a much neglected essay, these doctrines are seen in the biblical proportions and glory together. It is really Agnus Victor, not what is commonly understood as Christus Victor, that best explains the conquering of Satan.


Amazing photos of Napal and its people at The Big Picture.

religious wars

I love the Church. And while I will not deny that much has been done in the name of Christ that was not at all in His Name, it irks me that many professing Christians seem eager to find problems in the Church. The internet has raised this point in my consciousness. Too many of my friends are quick to defend murder at Planned Parenthood and take exception when homosexuality called out as the sin that it is. Yet these same friends seem to post with glee when a pastor fails, read stupid slogans on church signs (without bothering to find out were made on Church Sign Maker), etc... Our just as bad, blaming problems on the Church when those problems are the same or worse outside of the Church.

Do not get me wrong - I'm all for introspection and realizing that we too often fail ... but one doesn't have to be especially astute to see that there is poison in the hearts of far too many of those I speak of. And one doesn't have to be brilliant to see that the world has been positively affected by the Church.

With that said, I appreciate this post by Rob Petrini regarding the myth of religion being the cause of most wars. For those of you tempted to argue, I have no interest in proving each of Petrini's points. The message here is the overall spirit of those that fail to look at the world through redeemed eyes and with integrity.

It irks me that it is so easy to believe a lie or half truth than it is to believe an actual truth. The media, in particular, makes things sound so truthful, yet they can be so far from it. So, I thought I would spend a few blogs busting some myths…

The first one: Religion is the Cause of Most Wars.

I am tired of hearing people continually pull out the “Religion is the cause of most wars” card (just heard this one the other day). Some take it a step further and make the insinuation that more people have died because of religion than any other cause. Nothing could be more further away from the truth (well, maybe there is something more further away from the truth, just can’t think of it right now!).

So let’s do a quick run down of world history:

The Assyrians - One the longest and most brutal empires in world history. Motivated by meglomania!

The Greeks - Motivated by megolmania.

The Romans - Motivated by politics and megolmania.

4th to the 18th Century - Apart from two major religious catastrophies, (the Crusades and the Inquisition), the motivation for most (if not all) conflicts was political (primarily land grabbing and greed).

The 19th Century - Most all that happened in this century which saw the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and the great rape of Africa was motivated by political greed and racial discrimination (fueled by the Victorian, and later Darwinian, ideals that set some humans on a higher evolutionary scale than others, thus giving some nations an excuse to enslave and exploit other “inferior” nations, especially African nations. By the way, many have used the social Victorian ideal and the so-called scientific Darwinian ideal, to commit unspeakable crimes against humanity. I don’t hear anyone speaking out against either ideals).

World War 1 - Politically motivated.

World War 2 - Politically/racially/meglomania motivated.

The Soviet Purge - Politically/racially/meglomania/paranoia motivated. The number of deaths in this purge are staggering. Some say that more people died in this purge than all the people who died in all conflicts from 1950 to 2000.

Korean War - Politcally motivated.

Vietnam War - Politically motivated.

Gulf War #1 - Politcally motivated.

Gulf War #2 - Politically motivated. Not matter what you want to say, the “war on terror” is nothing more than a politically motivated machine used to protect the interests of particular countries that have become addicted to certain economical needs. No one will go to war with Somalia or Zimbabwe or Myanmar or Venezuela. It seems that international sanctions are sufficient for them even though they have caused more damage worldwide than Iraq ever did!

South Africa/Rwanda/Sudan/Zimbabwe/Burma - Racially motivated.

Should I go on? Religion, regardless of it’s origin (whether it is Islam, Hinduism, Christianity etc), is not the cause of most of the world’s wars or problems for that matter. Politics is. People in power who abuse it and use it to minimize, marginalise, and exploit. Some may argue that this is just human nature and that history will go on repeating itself. I believe it is human nature, but I hold a hope in Christ that, through Jesus, humanity can change. Some may call it me being naive, I call it a truth to live by.

mom and dad

Dear HuffPo - non-traditional is not always better and not always worthy of celebration ...

Amy Hall posts the following in STR:

The Huffington Post celebrates the idea that non-traditional families are breaking down our understanding of gender differences: “We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents.”
Gay and lesbian couples and single moms and dads by chance or choice embody changing ideas about sex and sex roles, they are also transforming the gender based definitions of parenting. They are challenging us all to reevaluate the terms of marriage. Along with single parents raising children, they are also transforming the nature of parenting — and showing how Americans have transcended the gender-based definitions of parenting. We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents….

Yes, the terms “mother” and “father” do still usually convey a biological distinction between who inseminates and who gives birth, but the rise of donor insemination and surrogate pregnancies open debate even on that.

Whether we acknowledge it willingly or not, the differing social roles the mother-father nouns once designated are rapidly converging. Certainly, there are still things that fathers undertake more than mothers, such as teaching a child to ride a bike. Some things often seem to fall more to mothers, such as arranging childcare. But each parent can, and does, tend to everything.
The differences between the sexes are more than just biological. And they certainly go beyond preferences for particular tasks. All you have to do is reflect on your own experience to see that this is so.

Did your father tend to enforce standards? Did your mother encourage emotional intimacy?

Did your father push you to mature? Did your mother tend to nurture?

The list could go on and on because the differences between the sexes are as deep as who they are, what they value, and how they relate to people. These differences show themselves not merely in the tasks each sex chooses, but in how each approaches any particular task. Of course either parent can do any task, but what they teach their children in and through the completing of each task will be different.

Men and women are complementary. The lessons learned from both parents are valuable and unique to the strengths of each sex, and children are in desperate need of both. The obscuring of this is not something to celebrate. But it’s exactly what must be done in order to promote same-sex marriage, so you can expect to see more of it.

eternal security

I find it interesting, that while not universal, many who claim Phil 1.6 do not apply it to salvation.

Nathan Bingham posts another excellent excerpt from Steve Lawson's The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon.

Charles Spurgeon affirmed the doctrine of the preserving grace of God, sometimes known as the perseverance of the saints. This biblical truth teaches that no believers in Christ will ever fall from grace, for God upholds their faith. Spurgeon affirmed, “I think few doctrines more vital than that of the perseverance of the saints, for if ever one child of God did perish, or if I knew it were possible that one could, I should conclude at once that I must, and I suppose each of you would do the same.” Spurgeon saw the preserving grace of God as a primary component of the gospel.

The truth of preserving grace, Spurgeon testified, was the enticing bait that drew him to Christ. Before he was saved, Spurgeon observed others who appeared to fall away from their profession. These apparent examples of apostasy made him hesitant to commit his life to Christ. He said: “Whatever good resolutions I might make, the possibilities were that they would be good for nothing when temptation assailed me. I might be like those of whom it has been said, ‘They see the devil’s hook and yet cannot help nibbling at his bait.’ But, that I should morally disgrace myself, as some had done whom I had known and heard of, was a hazard from the very thought of which I shrunk with horror.” The thought that he might start the journey to heaven but fail to complete it terrified Spurgeon. As a result, he remained paralyzed in unbelief. 
I knew that I could not keep myself, but if Christ promised to keep me, then I should be safe for ever. —Spurgeon
But then Spurgeon heard the marvelous truth that all who truly start the Christian life surely complete it. At that point, he could not resist entrusting his life to Christ: “When I heard and read with wondering eyes that whosoever believed in Christ Jesus should be saved, the truth came to my heart with a welcome I cannot describe to you. The doctrine that He would keep the feet of His saints had a charm indeed for me.” He testified elsewhere:

I must confess that the doctrine of the final preservation of the saints was a bait that my soul could not resist. I thought it was a sort of life insurance—an insurance of my character, an insurance of my soul, an insurance of my eternal destiny. I knew that I could not keep myself, but if Christ promised to keep me, then I should be safe for ever; and I longed and prayed to find Christ, because I knew that, if I found Him, He would not give me a temporary and trumpery salvation, such as some preach, but eternal life which could never be lost.

This important doctrine became a key component of Spurgeon’s gospel focus. Without it, he claimed, he would not be able to preach: “If anybody could possibly convince me that final perseverance is not a truth of the Bible, I should never preach again, for I feel I should have nothing worth preaching.” Simply put, the perseverance of the saints was a necessary link in the unbreakable golden chain of salvation that he preached.
If there is anything taught in Scripture for certain, it is the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints.
Spurgeon saw this doctrine as inseparably bound with justification by faith: “That doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is, I believe, as thoroughly bound up with the standing or falling of the gospel as is the article of justification by faith. Give that up, and I see no gospel left.” Spurgeon was so convinced of this that he stated elsewhere: “The doctrine of the final perseverance of believers seems to me to be written as with a beam of sunlight throughout the whole of Scripture. If that is not true, there is nothing at all in the Bible that is true. It is impossible to understand the Bible at all if it is not so.” He added: “If there is anything taught in Scripture for certain, it is the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints. I am as sure that doctrine is as plainly taught as the doctrine of the deity of Christ.”

This is not a secondary doctrine, sitting on the periphery of Scripture, but a primary truth, embedded in the core of the Bible and found throughout its pages. Thus, found it impossible not to preach it.