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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jon Stewart Rails Against the Old Media?

Late comer Jon Stewart is outraged that the non-starter old media is oblivious about ACORN. Watch until the very end, it's fantastic- had me convulsing with laughter. Perhaps he should call up Charlie Gibson and give him the scoop.

*caution to the sensitive- Jon Stewart can't help but be profane every two minutes

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Monday, December 08, 2008

The Reason For God, by Tim Keller

If you haven't picked up this book yet, you should.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Post About Music, the Gospel, and a Dave Matthews Band Concert

I thought it would be worthwhile to write a reflection on the Dave Matthews Band concert that my wife and I attended at the Staple's Center last night. While it was a fun experience for both of us (it was the first time either of us has seen them live), what made it remarkable was the fact that this concert was held only hours after the band learned that LeRoi Moore (sax, flute, oboe), who founded the band with Dave and Carter in 1991, had died. It was certainly an odd and extraordinary thing to see them under these circumstances.

See this article for the news blurb on the concert.

Just before the show started we overheard folks in the audience talking about getting the news of LeRoi's death on their Blackberries. I wasn't sure I believed it, since the show had not been cancelled and it was only minutes away from showtime (the opening band had already wrapped up). But then the band came on and it was obvious. The usually-cheery drummer, Carter, was somber-faced. And their opening number was "Bartender", a song where God is personified as a bartender:

If I go
Before I'm old
Oh, brother of mine
Please don't forget me if I go

Bartender, please
Fill my glass for me
With the wine you gave Jesus that set him free
After three days in the ground

You can find the complete lyrics here. DMB never open their shows with that song, and I knew the that there was a reason for the change on that day.

After the song ended, Dave Matthews briefly explained the bad news, and that he hoped that the concert would help lift the band's spirits a little.

Dave Matthews was raised in a Quaker family, and while he has (from what I can gather) never found spiritual moorings of any sort, he clearly has something of a Christian imprint on his mind leftover, that he keeps toying (or wrestling) with. Need more proof? You need look no further than other selections from last night's set list - The Maker and the "Water into Wine Jam".

Facing death (either in one's own body or in a loved one) forces people to go back and re-examine things of fundamental and eternal purpose. I hope that it works some good in Dave's heart and life, that he would be forced to deal with the claims that Christ made about Himself.

It seems that, too often, folks just get around death by gritting their teeth and weathering out the existential crisis that death presents during episodes like this, and then tuck away those questions of eternal importance and resume life as they once did. As a Christian, I just can't relate to this attitude. It is lunacy. But I know that that's what happens. For them, it is just a sad thing that they have to wait out to be healed by the passing of time, even if they can't make any sense out of it or put the matter into any greater perspective. But for a Christian death is the enforcement of God's law, and God's law is what drives us to Christ (as Paul argues in Galatians 3). So, for us, death reminds us of our sin and misery, that we may seek refuge in Christ. But the non-Christian has to either ignore it or belittle it, or else be terrified, puzzled, and paralyzed by its presence in this life.

Now, I didn't want to reflect only on the spiritual and theological significance of the night. I'm a musician as well as being a music-lover, so I would be remiss if I didn't say that the concert was the best concert I've ever attended in my life (yes, even better than the U2 concert). The band hit every song out of the ballpark, including a blistering rendition of "Two Step" and "Dancing Nancies". You wouldn't have guessed that they were having an off day by their performances. They seemed genuinely cheerful during the more upbeat songs, as though they had nearly forgotten, momentarily, the day's events. Carter got his trademark grin back and silenced the whole auditorium during his drum solo during "Two Step." Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones was substituting for LeRoi, and Jeff is himself a virtuoso on sax and flute. He didn't miss a beat, and delivered some jaw-dropping solos. Tim Reynolds was on electric guitar, not having toured with DMB in ten years or so. His solos were goosebump-inducing incredible. He stole a few songs right from under the rest of the band when they let his guitar take the reigns for a few minutes. He is so good, he makes me want to just give up playing guitar altogether (my mental dialogue goes something like "why bother when Tim can play so much better than I ever will and just makes me look silly in comparison if I were to try?"). And Boyd's violin solos were crisp and animated, as he shuffled back and forth across the whole stage as his bowing arm flailed wildly during songs like "Ants Marching" and "Dancing Nancies". After 20 songs and about 3 hours, my wife and I felt we had gotten 3X our money's worth in both quality and quantity.

A further lesson to learn - never underestimate the genuine value and power of God's common grace. Great rock 'n' roll wouldn't exist without it.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Posting from my own comment

Not that anyone really reads (or writes on) this blog anymore, so basically I'm just doing this for myself. But I was reading a comment I had written awhile back in response to a guest who had commented on my post regarding "Emergent Values" (no link, just scroll down), and I was impressed with myself (something that happens often, requiring continual repentance). Perhaps I plagiarized it, I don't know. Anyway here it is:

We find that throughout the history of the Church there have been periods when theological convictions have been tied more closely to cultural values as opposed to Biblical virtues. This is certainly the result of theology shaping itself to a particular zeitgeist. However, in the midst of that, there have always been those who have sought to protect true truth. American Christian culture and institutionalized church betray a weakening of conviction and a clinging to religiosity. If the ECM (emergent church movement) is to be seen as a backlash to that (which it is) I think it is one that has over shot its mark and made the same error on the opposite extreme. Both modernist and post-modernist Christian culture use the Bible to substantiate values that are not particularly Christian. Modernists used the Bible to create intolerance for all manner of "sins", speaking far beyond the Scriptures in many cases and advocating for the legislation of aesthetic morality(right wing politics). On the other side, post-modernists use the Bible to create tolerance for all manner of sin, speaking far beyond the Scriptures in many cases and advocating for the legislation of aesthetic morality(left wing politics). The error in both instances is the Christian faith being turned into mere religious expression.

I think if one commits to a deep understanding of the journey of the church through history, it is possible for any Christian to discern true Gospel truth. Read the early Church fathers, or the Reformers, or the Puritans, and one finds their observations and exposition of Scripture wholly relevant to life and Godliness regardless of cultural context. In addition, we must humble ourselves and believe God truly wants us to know his plan from the alpha to the omega of all time. We must believe that he has given it to us in his Word. We must believe that we are "transformed by the renewing of our mind", and that this comes first by knowing the Gospel as given in the Scripture; a Gospel that was initiated outside of our reality and is the relevant and transforming message for all generations. A robust theology in regards to the attributes of God, the nature of man, the incarnation of Christ, God's sovereign purposes in salvation and the mission and nature of the Church, are the strongest guard against the err of "time borne framework."

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't Miss This! RC and Ben Stein discuss Expelled

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Francis is my homeboy

I have had the pleasure of knowing Francis Chan casually over the last couple of years and have benefited immensely from his teaching and reformissional approach to church planting and building. He has a new book out called Crazy Love which Tim Challies reviewed. I've been anticipating it since I heard he was writing one and hope to read it as soon as I can get my hands on it. You should read it too. I expect it to share the trajectory of Don't Waste Your Life, with the added bonus of direct confrontation with the Southern California temporal dreamscape of stuccoed McMansion's and perpetual vacation that lulls hundreds of thousands of Christians into false security.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Remedy of the Gospel

I preached the sermon below as the second part of a series entitled Intervention @ Collide on April 6th.

The text I chose for this week is Ephesians 1:3-14- this passage to be the back drop for what we are going to be first talking about tonight, and the main text for what we talk about lastly.

Last week Scott taught the Doctrine of Human Depravity and Original Sin, how we aren’t sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners, and carry the curse of the fall of Adam in our flesh to the degree that, as fallen humans, it is impossible to generate even one righteous act out of our own ability. This week, we will be looking at the Remedy to our fallen-ness. We will recap the subject of sin, and see how that points us to the true Remedy, the Remedy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that heals us from our sin, reunites us to our Creator, and ultimately will result in a new nature where the effects of sin are dead in the past, absent from our memories, and eternally expunged from our flesh. We will therefore be examining what Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City calls, the “Moral Performance Narrative vs. Grace Narrative.” In that, I will show often times our sinfulness infiltrates our desires to do good and we accept a partial-Gospel or the Gospel plus something, and how then these errors lead us to frustration and away from Christ, rather than to him. What I want you to come away with tonight is that it is impossible in every sense and instance to please God out of your own effort, and that the Remedy for you is not found in a religious process or system, but the Remedy is one that is applied by God to you as a free gift, to the praise of his glory. So not only must we have an accurate picture of ourselves, and our inability to heal ourselves, but we must also have an accurate picture of God and his Gospel, the story of his Grace that invaded our world with the true Remedy.

Original Sin and Total Depravity
Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. How far do we fall short? Previously in Romans 3 Paul described it this way that “None is righteous no not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” See, the fallen-ness of man is complete, it is all encompassing and it is total.

The 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith puts this way, that “from this original corruption, by which we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, does proceed all actual transgressions”. More simply put, we sin because we are sinners, and by nature everything we do of ourselves (that is key) is blasphemous, even our best efforts. We are utterly without ability. It’s not the committing of sins that makes us sinners, rather we are sinners and all we do is sin, even those things we (subjectively) see as good deeds.

Continuing on the topic of human inability the Westminster Confession states that “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man (that is a person not born again by the power of God through the Gospel), being altogether averse from that good and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or prepare himself for it.” In other words, as Paul writes in Romans 3 “No one seeks God” because in our sin, we can’t and we won’t.

The doctrine of original sin and total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, and our inability to submit to God or change ourselves permeates every aspect of our being. We are spiritually dead, and there is no treatment we can undergo or ointment we can apply that will change that.
It is hard to exaggerate the importance of accepting the reality that our condition is this bad. How often do we overlook God’s righteousness when we accept the idea that people are basically good, or that some people are basically good (those who try), or that at least I am basically good? See, if we think of ourselves, or people in general, as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of who God is and the work of God in redemption will be defective and we end up believing in a false Gospel. But if we are humbled under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God. It is purposeful rejection original sin and total depravity, or the ignorance of it, is the starting point of the moral performance narrative that keeps us enslaved to sin.

The Moral Performance Narrative
A narrative is simply a sequence of events that construct what we call a story. In the case of a Moral Performance narrative we are talking about a type of story characterized by the theme of human goodness and moral performance. It takes on many different forms and characters, but at its core is the idea that one comes to God through moral effort and personal expense. In other words it is the idea that God is pleased with us when we try to be moral, follow laws, or attempt to be good.

When it comes down to it we see that the moral performance narrative is really the story of all religion. Religion is centered on humanity changing itself, performing- doing something- that moves it out of the category of damned, into the category of saved. Or, in some of the more optimistic religions, ties great rewards (like 70 virgins) to certain acts (like sacrificing oneself for jihad).

The foundation of religion is human ability in some form or another- and it becomes formulaic- insert good act for variable A, add to variable B, Holy water, and C= God’s favor. In the converse- insert bad act for variable A, add to variable B, beer, and C= God’s punishment. The Gospel stands in opposition to this.

It is my opinion that much of what calls itself “evangelical Christianity” in America today is not Christianity at all, but a folk religion, wherein beliefs, superstitions and rituals are codified and passed from generation to generation, creating a cultural religion. This folk Christianity is focused more on reforming the morality of the cultural then it is on preserving and teaching the theology of the Gospel. It treats the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as an entry point into a religion of law keeping and moral performance, rather than as the sum total of Christian religion. Unfortunately, because it has lost track of true Christian doctrine, it has put too much stock in the ability of human beings and weighs people down entrapping them in the moral performance narrative. If we would look around at our culture, we see that the effort to reform the morality of the culture has not worked, for it cannot and will not, and in fact has resulted in more cultural evil then it started with. The chasm between the secular culture and the Christian culture is widening, and on one side the secular is becoming more outlandish in their sin and on the other side it seems the Christians are becoming more judgmental, condemning and irrelevant. But the reality is that both are obeying the moral performance narrative, just at opposite ends of the spectrum. The secular person says that being judgmental is the worst of all evils and in an attempt to not be judgmental further poisons his own environment with wickedness. The folk Christian says that being a morally pure culture is the greatest of goods and further alienates him self from the culture he wishes to change, effectively accelerating its demise.

The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 7, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me and through it killed me.” It is this truth from Paul that underscores the Moral Performance Narrative. At the root of the Moral Performance Narrative is pride, the belief of personal ability, or self-righteousness. Paul says that sin seized an opportunity through the law-- it elevated Paul’s own sense of self-righteousness and led him deeper into condemnation, discovering that the law did not give him life, the freedom from sin, but rather brought only death, revealing the depth of his sinful nature.

Variations on the Moral Performance Narrative
The Moral Performance Narrative wants to cure the disease, but only treats the symptoms, leaving the sinner in bondage to sin, and leading him further into darkness. So I want to examine briefly a few specific variations of the moral performance narrative that masquerade as remedies to our condition, but in true effect are the equivalents to fixing a decapitated head with duct tape. And in every case these errors reflect on too high a view of our selves, and to low a view of Christ and the Gospel, by supplanting Christ’s work on the cross with our own works, or exchanging the purposes of God’s plan with our own purpose and plan.

Legalism (law following as the way to God)
Legalism in one way or another puts a person in the drivers seat of salvation, by requiring strict adherence to moral code for the completion of salvation. Legalism is always the product and producer of human pride. It stems from prideful self pity, producing despair, or prideful self-exaltation of ability, resulting in self-righteousness and judgment. It is a blasphemy that erodes the need for the Gospel and denies the sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross for our salvation. If our Christian life is characterized by striving to keep laws, believing it will gain us anything, we turn our back to the truth that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law on our behalf, a glorious fact that we can add nothing to.

Debtors Ethic (paying back God)
This is the mindset that adds to the Gospel an incredible weight of obligation that paints the picture of the Christian life as the ongoing effort to pay back God for salvation. It asks the question, “God has done so much for you, what are you going to do for him?” The problem with such a mentality is it rejects entirely what God has done for you and strips the free gift that is Grace of the “free” part, making the offer of the Gospel more like the offer of a home mortgage loan. John Piper wrote in his outstanding book Future Grace that “Good deeds do not pay back grace; they borrow more grace.” Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand that we should walk in them.” Did you catch that? The reality is, if we have been made new in Christ, we walk in good works that flow from grace, not as a response too grace.

Moral Therapy (changing your lifestyle to receive God’s favor)
A therapeutic effect is defined as “a consequence of a medical treatment, of any kind, the results of which are judged to be desirable and beneficial.” Moral therapy is when we attempt to “clean up” our lifestyle, behavior or whatever with the addition of good works and/or the suppression of sinful actions, hoping to bring about a result that is desirable or beneficial.
Maybe our life falls on tough times or maybe we discover something we really want and we think- I need to pray more, read my Bible more, quit partying and God will make things easier on me or give me want I want. It can appear incredibly self-centered or completely altruistic (self-sacrificing), but no matter what, it in essence, is bargaining with God. What it does is it takes things other then God- financial prosperity, health, relationships, family, escape from hell, self-esteem, successful church, esteem from others, freedom from guilt and places this thing as the object of our desire, and displaces God from the center of our affections (if he was ever there) and makes something else the object of our desire. It is the dark exchange written of Romans 1:25 when the truth of the God is exchanged for lie and the creature is served rather than the creator. Moral therapy sees God as a means to an end, rather than as the end- and that is blasphemy in opposition to the Gospel.

Believing that moral performance can undo wickedness, improve your life, pay back God, or satisfy God’s requirements is to not believe the Gospel, but to perpetuate folk religion. God is not (just) the means to our happiness, he is the end of our happiness. All of these errors are subtle and they’ve manipulated all of our consciences at one time or another. But, if we are truly to honor God, and find our true Remedy in him, we must root them out, and we do so with the Gospel plus nothing, minus nothing.

The Grace Narrative
As the real solution to Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Paul writes Romans 3:24-25, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

The Grace narrative is the story in which God brings a people to himself by his effort and at his expense. The Grace Narrative is the true Remedy, the Remedy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that heals us from our sin, reunites us to our Creator, and ultimately will result in a new nature where the effects of sin are dead in the past, absent from our memories, and eternally expunged from our flesh. The Grace Narrative is not about us and what we must do, but about Jesus and what he has done.

Let’s read again Ephesians 1:3-14.

This passage of scripture is a death blow to the moral performance narrative. This is the Apostle Paul’s declaration of grace, wherein, all the effort and expenses paid are clearly carried out by God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and sinners such as our selves are only recipients.

You know what a preposition is? It’s a part of speech that shows position or location, either in space or in time- for example, over, under, above, in, out, before, after, through, beneath etc. In this passage of Scripture, every thing is described as the believer, the recipient of Grace, being in Christ, as the way one receives anything. This is the very core of the Grace Narrative.

v. 3 “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”

v. 4 “chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world”

v. 5 “he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ”

v. 6 “he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Jesus)”

v. 7 “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood”

v. 9 “according to his (the Father) purpose, which he set forth in Christ”

v. 10 “to unite all things in him (Jesus)”

v.11 “In him we have obtained an inheritance”

v. 13 “In him you also… were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

The Gospel is the working out of God’s plan in real events by which Jesus Christ accomplished something specific. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (v.7) God doesn’t look to us to satisfy his requirements, he looks to his son, who stood in our place. Jesus Christ stood in the place of sinners and bore God’s punishment for sin. Redeem means to get something back by exchanging something as a ransom. The basis of the Grace Narrative is that Christ’s redeeming ransom has accomplished something. It has purchased something. And it didn’t just purchase an opportunity, but purchased a people. Our redemption is by his blood and it is effective to secure the salvation of all God sent Him to save. Jesus’ sacrifice is over, finished, unrepeatable and successful, having accomplished His mission without human assistance. No one else can or needs to pay for sin; all attempts to do so are a rejection of Christ and His sacrifice.

But not only did Christ stand in our place, but we now stand in Jesus’ place. Having been made holy and blameless, the believer receives the blessings of God lavished upon us as God the Father lavishes them upon his own son- for we are in Jesus Christ. We are adopted children, and we receive full inheritance of every spiritual blessing. And the Holy Spirit is the guarantee to that inheritance- it is the proof of that the eternal glory we hope for is there, waiting for us. The believer’s entire life is by the Spirit. God the Spirit breathes life into sinners dead in their sins, opens the eyes, the ears and the mind to hear the beauty of the Gospel, and renews our mind to understand the mystery of the Son of God. By grace it gives us the gift of faith so that we might believe and the love of God so that we might seek God and love him. And finally in the day of future glory we will acquire full possession of our inheritance- we will inherit the fullness of our glorious wealth in Christ, imperishable bodies complete without a trace of sin or its effect.

Colosians 1:13 tells us that Christ “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” What the Gospel does, by the power of God, is literally removes us from the narrative of moral performance and it’s dire consequences, and places us in a totally different story, the grace narrative, wherein, independent from our abilities, self-generated faith, supposed goodness, efforts and religious schemes we are transferred into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, based entirely on the wisdom, love, grace and manifold perfections of all that God is for us in Jesus Christ, for the praise of his glory. This reality is implicit in Ephesians 2:8,9 where it says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing (your faith); not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Which is why Paul says, “let he who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Our salvation rests not in our own hands, but in the Sovereign plan of the Lord, purposed in him so that Jesus Christ would be magnified and glorified in the laying down of his life for sinners.

Now, there is unbelief rooted in our hearts that challenges this- it seems to easy. Truthfully it is too supernatural- “can we really trust it to work like this” we wonder. We distrust the simple-ness of the Gospel and its humble nature because it requires complete reliance on a fiat miracle in our hearts; in doubt, we concoct complex works oriented schemes that revolve around our human effort- they make us feel good because we are trying so hard, they make us prideful if we believe we have succeeded as opposed to others. And in pursuit of experiential spirituality we leave the supernatural mystery of the Gospel behind. We must cling to the simple truth of the Gospel of Grace.

The Gospel of Grace, that Jesus Christ, God’s only son and the exact representation of his nature, left his estate in heaven, was born of the Virgin Mary, became flesh and dwelt among us. He knew what it was to feel pain and sorrow, joy and pleasure; he was tempted to sin and did not, he performed incredible miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water; and he was delivered by his friend to his death. Jesus Christ the righteous one was crucified and died for sinners, and he rose again eternally triumphant over all of his enemies so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy. That is the Gospel. I invite you tonight, if you have never believed in this Gospel, to do so.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Shack = heresy

I agree.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

philosophy matters

This is part of Francis Schaeffer's "How Then Shall We Live" video series entitled "The Idol of Peace and Affluence" and is undoubtedly prophetic. Considering the varying shades of what he calls "The New Left" slated to apprehend the Presidency, his words are even fuller with relevance today. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

girls who do

1 in 4 American teenage girls have an STD.

This is the legacy of the sixties progressive politics and libertine moral philosophy. It's the legacy of a President who obfuscated the meaning of th word "is" and deconstructed the word sex. It's the legacy of an American evangelical church that has marginalized true doctrine for self-help entertainment.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ICON series: Jesus, the true and better Joshua

From my sermon Sunday, February 25th @ COLLIDE

There is something to this word and idea of Icon, and it’s implications by extension, that I have been processing through and really seeking to understand over the last several years. It’s an exciting topic to me- one that has magnified the glory of God and superiority of Christ in my life in how it unifies so many ideas and categories of our existence and understanding that we tend to compartmentalize, if we even explore them at all. I’m just starting to be able to understand this myself, but I hope that maybe the perspective I have developed will in some way help you to increase your love and worship of God in spirit and in truth.

I’m going to start in what is perhaps an odd and unfamiliar place for many of you and that is from the 17th Century Westminster Confession of Faith, specifically Chapter Five, which defines God’s Providence. The word providence refers primarily to God’s work of governing and sustaining all of his creation. It says that:

“God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”

Now that is a lot of really heavy theological stuff, but what I want you to come away with is that God is in perfect control of all things, and nothing has transpired in history or is set to transpire in the future that is of an accidental or coincidental nature. More so, it has been purposefully and carefully directed by God in such a way that his name receives the fullest realization of praise and glory. I think, because of this truth we can see God as an infinitely brilliant artist, a writer perhaps, or poet, or painter, and having declared the end from the beginning, he has crafted a story that is infused with deep and joyous meaning. From the very least to the very greatest of objects, circumstances and people, his story flourishes not on the pages of a book, or the moving frames of a film, but in and through the lives of real people, real places, and real events that shape the course of all existence. When we can step back and began to get a picture of what this means, the Bible and it’s interaction with all of life should stagger us with the complexity and sheer beauty with which God has created us and the lives we live out every day. Understanding the extent of God’s providential governance pulls back the veneer of mundane life, it exposes life’s trials as momentary and purposeful, it reveals life’s pleasures to be but shadows compared to the intended future joys, and we see that something magical, something supernatural, is transpiring right in our midst. It is the unfolding of God’s story of redemption.

Which brings us back to this subject of Icon; we get this term Icon from Colossians 1:15 were Paul writes that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” He is the icon of God himself. Our English word Icon comes from the Greek eikōn and means simply "image" which is how it is used here and in 21 other places in the New Testament.

An icon is an image, picture, or representation; it is a sign or likeness that stands for an object by signifying or representing it, or by analogy. By extension, icon is also used, particularly in modern popular culture, in the general sense of symbol, such as a name, a face, a picture, a statue or even a person readily recognized as having some well-known significance or embodying certain qualities. It is when one thing, image or depiction, represents something else of greater significance through literal or figurative meaning.

So tonight we are going to be discussing Joshua as an icon, as an iconic figure or archetype. We will see how the man Joshua is an image and a depiction that represents something else of greater significance both literally and figuratively. Joshua and the things he did point us to Jesus Christ and who he was and what he has done for us. Therefore, my main thesis is this, that Jesus is the true and better Joshua.

The Hero’s Journey
First thing we are going to look at is the universal cycle of a hero so we can see how Joshua both fits into that cycle and represents something of greater significance than just the circumstances of his own existence.

In 1949, anthropologist Joseph Campbell published the book The Hero of a Thousand Faces in which he detailed the phenomena of the monomyth, or the hero cycle, with which most, if not all, heroic stories, or narratives, share their structure. The similarities of mythical structures and the common characteristics of religious stories are explained by the term “collective universal subconscious”, teaching that humanity produces, in its subconscious mind, a universal origin common to the human experience that is shared among all religions as demonstrated by the similarities of their heroes, gods, shaman, prophets and priests.

Campbell said that the cycle of the hero, or the hero’s journey, is fairly simple, falling into minimally three stages:

First is the separation, where the hero departs from one’s roots, from the normal life and into the call of adventure. Often the hero has been born under supernatural or special circumstances.

Second is the initiation, where the hero undergoes a dark period, often entering into a supernatural or unfamiliar setting, and must complete various tasks, and may endure trials or temptations.

Finally is the return, marked by the completion of a task or tasks, where the hero may be brought back to normal life, but is now able to bestow gifts on his or her people, sometimes in the form of a physical object, or an abstract gift like wisdom or freedom.

For example, we see the hero’s journey narrated in the life of Moses. It begins with the separation where Moses was born under the special circumstance of the Egyptians killing all the first born Hebrew males. His mother puts him into a river and he is taken to live in the house of the Pharoah’s daughter. The initiation transpires when Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to Midian where he encounters God in the wilderness at the burning bush. There God calls Moses to return to Egypt to deliver his people and reveals his secret name “I AM”. Moses’ return is marked by the plagues on Egypt and the delivery of the people from their oppressor. It completes all aspects of the cycle. And if we look we see the same hero’s journey repeated again and again through every single religion and pagan mythology in the history of the world, from the most primitive Native American myths to the most complex of polytheistic Hinduism; and clearly and obviously in the characters of the Old Testament and ultimately in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now what of it? Campbell and those who have absorbed his teaching would say that the fact that this hero’s journey is present shows that there is a collective universal subconscious. They would extend this idea to the degree that the commonality of the hero’s journey proves that Christianity is just like every other religion- it is merely the retelling of the hero journey for a specific people at a specific time. They would say that each generation must create its own hero’s journey and that to believe in the hero as literally important or even existing is to miss the point. The fact that the lives of Moses, or Joshua, or King David demonstrate deep similarities to the events and subsequent meaning of Jesus Christ, to them, proves that the teachings of the New Testament are a fraud, the way Jesus story fit’s into the hero cycle is so perfect, it must be made up.

I think it is quite the opposite. I think it demonstrates remarkably that there isn’t a universal collective subconscious, but rather a uniform singular conscious, specifically the mind of Creator, who has imprinted on our nature, and in our imagination, a yearning for this hero cycle. Which one of us doesn’t long to be a part of this quest? What woman doesn’t want to be rescued by her knight on a white horse? What man doesn’t want to engage life with such reckless abandon that he is swept up into a story much greater then himself? This is what is imprinted on our hearts and our souls thirst for it, long for it. It is played out in every character of every book and movie- it is the thread running through every myth, legend and tale. It is imprinted on our nature, beckoning us in our deepest longings, and we play it out in our imagination over and over. It is what makes us human and what makes us a living soul.

The human imagination is the receptor for the shadows and echoes of what God left for us to desire. We readily recognize in human stories the qualities of beauty and truth that we long for. The archetype of the hero originates in God and carries His truth, even though it may be distorted in the stories of pagan gods and heroes. In the human longing for fulfillment the mind creates an image that reflects the reality we were created for. Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, rather then being the enemy of the mythical heroes of pagan religions is actually the historically true fulfillment of what those myths were about.

And superior that, God is the author of the hero’s journey in the lives of real people and has foreshadowed his story time and time again through real men and women. Not only do false myths show God’s work, but factually true stories, show the providence of God working in history as a poet, constantly showing us and leading us to understand his story of the heroic redemption of his people. Joshua, the man, the warrior and prophet, points towards God’s fulfillment of that cycle in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Wanderers No More
Joshua, son of Nun, comes of age in the time of Israel’s wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. He first appears in Exodus 17 and goes by the name Hosea, when he leads a successful counter-attack against the Amalekites, even though he is very young. After this he subsequently becomes Moses’ personal assistant and protégé. It is likely at this time that Moses gives him the name Joshua. His original name Hosea means “saves;” and the change to Joshua changes the meaning of his name to “The LORD is salvation”. Illuminating but not coincidental is the fact that Joshua is Jesus’ actual name. The Hebrew name for Joshua is Yeshua which was translated into the Greek as Iesous; which was then transliterated into the Latin Iesus, which is where we get the English pronunciation, Jesus. Jesus and Joshua share the same name, which should tell us about the significance of this man in God’s unfolding story of redemption.

In this era of Joshua’s life is where see the hero’s journey begins with separation - God’s chosen prophet Moses changes his name to accord with his future and the future of all of Israel. Joshua is also specifically appointed by Moses to take his place, as just prior to Moses’ death it says Joshua was “full of the Spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him.” (Deutoronomy 34:9)

Now the initiation of Joshua, where Joshua enters the dangerous land and must complete the incredible task of conquering it’s inhabitants, begins in the book of Joshua 1:1-9

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Now what I find remarkable about the initiation of Joshua is the great transition it signifies. For a generation Moses has led the people. He led their deliverance from Egypt, from where they crossed the parted Red Sea, and were led by God in a pillar of fire by night and a rain cloud by day, and fed with manna from heaven. Moses receives the Law of God and delivers it to the people. But because of their wickedness, God tells them that the whole generation will wander for 40 years. And Moses, because of a moment of anger is kept from crossing into the promise land of Canaan. The Israelites were wanderers up until this point. They had the Law, but they were disobedient, they had been delivered from their oppressor, but they had no home.

After Moses’ death, God commands Joshua to cross the Jordan to the land he has given Israel. He marks out the boundaries of the land telling him that it extends “From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.” The LORD tells Joshua that no man will be able to stand before Joshua for the rest of his life and he will cause his people to inherit the land and that “God will be with him wherever he goes.”

So what does Joshua do? He obeys the Lord. He leads the people across the Jordan River, when God again stops the flow of water and they cross on dry land. When he gets to the other side we learn that the circumcision God has commanded as a sign of his covenant has been disobeyed and unfilled; God therefore commands Joshua that all the men be circumcised. Joshua also reinstates the Passover meal at which time the manna from heaven ceases. From this point on, through military conquest, in obedience Joshua causes the land to be taken.

Now a significant event occurs when Joshua is about to invade Jericho. It says “He lifted his eyes up, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua said to him, “Are you for us or our adversaries? And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” No? What you mean no? What does this tell us? The LORD is on his own side. The commander of the Lords Army is there to win the battle. It is not a matter God being on the side of Israel, but more of Israel being on the side of God. There are two important examples that show how God determines is righteous and who is wicked. Is it by birth and by law keeping? No, it is by faith.

This concept of salvation by faith is clearly illustrated when Joshua sends spies into Jericho, and Rahab the prostitute hides them because she says “the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Rahab is mentioned both in the lineage of Christ and in the hall of faith of Hebrews 11, where it says that “by faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Interestingly, the way that the invading Israelites knew not to kill Rahab and her household was she was directed to hang a scarlet cord in the doorway of her home. Of course, scarlet in the Bible is a common symbol of Christ’s blood. But isn’t it amazing, God spares a foreign prosititute because of her faith.

On the other hand there is Achan of the tribe of Judah, he steals a beautiful cloak from the conquered enemy when God had commanded the Israelites to give all the captured treasure to the LORD. It says that “the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things.” The result, Achan was stoned and burnt alive. From the tribe of Judah, he was circumcised, and according to the law ceremonially clean to be sure, but “broke faith” when a cloak became the god of his idolatry and he served it’s purposes rather than the Lord’s.

The Bible teaches us that “faith is reckoned to us as righteousness”. It is not by birth right, when a foreign prostitute is honored by God for all of posterity, but a child of Israel is stoned and burned alive for stealing a cloak. Achan had the law and it condemned him, Rahab did not have the law, but she had faith and God showed her mercy.

Finally the hero’s journey concludes in the return, when Joshua divides up and bestows the conquered land of inheritance to the 12 tribes of Israel. He also leaves them with a gift of wisdom when he says in Joshua 24:14 “fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness.”

Jesus Christ is the True and Better Joshua
Now obviously the story of Joshua is about a righteous man who feared the Lord, obeyed the Lord, was strong and courageous, and had faith, and therefore conquered his enemies, fulfilling what God had commanded him to do. But if we come away from this incredible story thinking of it only as a moral lesson that we need to be righteous like Joshua, we will have missed the reason for Joshua entirely. Joshua is an Icon pointing to the hope of the Gospel- it’s not about “Me and what I should do” but about “Christ and what he has done!”

It says in Romans 8:3,4
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”

Moses represented the law. But the people, even though they had Moses, they could not enter the promise land until Moses was dead. The deeper meaning is that having the law will not gain us entry into the promise land, into the Lord’s rest. Joshua is the Icon that reveals to us that we are not our own salvation, able to deliver ourselves by our ability to follow the law, but rather “the LORD is our salvation”. Our salvation is not found in following the Law, because we can’t, but in entering into the Kingdom that God has conquered for us. The transition from Moses to Joshua points us to see the transition from a covenant of works, wherein we must follow the law, to the covenant of grace, where Christ has fulfilled the law on our behalf. Just as Joshua succeeds Moses in leading the people, the Gospel succeeds the law in leading us to God.

And as Joshua brings the people into the possession of the Promised Land, Jesus brings his people into his heavenly kingdom and eternal rest. Jesus Christ is the true and better Joshua, the commander of the Lord’s army, who conquered the land of sin and death fulfilling the law on our behalf, so that we are no longer doomed wanderers, but have been led to rest in the covenant land of grace through faith. The boundaries are defined by God’s perfect righteousness, it is a spiritual kingdom, and we are his people, his church, secured by Jesus Christ’s obedience through faith. The sign of circumcision performed after the crossing of the Jordan; has been replaced by baptism, the sign and seal of our new life in Christ and symbol of rebirth, which is also a sign of something greater to come. The Passover meal, commemorating when the angel of death passed over the first born sons of Israel during the 10th Plague, because the blood of the lamb was painted on the doorpost, has been replaced by the Lord’s Supper, the meal which we consume to signify our participation in the death of God’s first born son whom he did not pass over, but rather was the lamb that was slain, whose shed blood causes us to be passed over. And like Rahab the prostitute who in faith hung a red cord in the doorway, we are saved by our faith when we are marked with the blood of Jesus Christ. The symbolism, the imagery, it is amazing. And the Bible is so rich in it.

See the hero’s journey of Joshua is not about what you must do and how you must do it. It is about the ultimate fact that Jesus did it for you. Jesus is the true and better Joshua who leads us into rest, who has conquered the land for us, and who gives us our portion.

The book of Hebrews begins:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, who he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Long ago God spoke to his people through Icons, through the heroes of the Bible, but at last be has spoken to us by His son. Jesus Christ is God’s final word to us; he is the very Icon of God. The wisdom that leads us to life, it isn’t some abstract concept, some system of beliefs- it is a person- Jesus- or Joshua “the LORD is Salvation.” He is our hero, who has saved us.

The Gospel is the fulfillment of the hero’s journey: Jesus Christ, God’s only son and the exact representation of his nature, left his estate in heaven, was born of the Virgin Mary, became flesh and dwelt among us. He knew what it was to feel pain and sorrow, joy and pleasure; he was tempted to sin and did not, he performed incredible miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water; and he was delivered by his friend to his death. Jesus Christ the righteous one was crucified and died for our sins, and he rose again eternally triumphant over all of his enemies so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy. That is the Gospel.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Standing up for the Lord, KJV-Only Style

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

To: Calvin College. ATTN School of Education

The Christian school I teach at uses the ABEKA curriculum, which is published by the Christian college that gave the world the free will song. It's not surprising that their curriculum presents a rabid vigorous defense of their theology. That said, this 4th grade Math problem left me speechless:

Charles Finney is thought by many to be the greatest evangelist since the apostles. Of the people under his preaching who confessed salvation, 85 out of 100 remained true to God. Reduce 85/100 to lowest terms.

Category: Theoblogia
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

this guy rocks

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

If the blog is a rockin, don't come a knockin.

Jeremy and Allison got married in March.

I married Jessica in September.

Dave is marrying Denae in December.

Gosh, I wonder why we haven't posted for months.


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dr. James Kennedy goes home

Read about it.

“Now, I know that someday I am going to come to what some people will say is the end of this life. They will probably put me in a box and roll me right down here in front of the church, and some people will gather around, and a few people will cry. But I have told them not to do that because I don’t want them to cry. I want them to begin the service with the Doxology and end with the Hallelujah chorus, because I am not going to be there, and I am not going to be dead. I will be more alive than I have ever been in my life, and I will be looking down upon you poor people who are still in the land of dying and have not yet joined me in the land of the living. And I will be alive forevermore, in greater health and vitality and joy than ever, ever, I or anyone has known before".
-D. James Kennedy, Ph.D.


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Monday, August 27, 2007

is this a joke?

Just read this and bask in how asinine it is. If turning the shrill up to eleven against prosperity gospel peddlers, gospel-lite church growers, and money grubbing, cloaked charlatans is upsetting to the unchurched masses...? Do the editors at Christianity in Disarray even know what the Gospel is?

*Centuri0n blogged a response to this article a coupla' weeks ago.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

breakfast of champions


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Friday, August 10, 2007

values of the emerging conversation

This is more of an abstract... just some linked random thoughts...

As I have been discovering this week
(and here), much of the ethos of the emerging conversation relates to being a kinder, gentler person, and focusing on aspects of the Gospel that those in the more theologically convicted camp would call the "Social Gospel". Without depicting why those in the "conversation" have adopted this view, as it has been written about ad nauseum, I have this to say: I see little difference in the unbiblical asceticism of modernity and that of post-modernity.

We KNOW about the legalism of modern denominational and evangelical churches thank you very much. Post moderns and "emergents" have identified themselves as being accepting/tolerant/participatory of beer drinking, dressing down, tattoos, post-modern art and music, and left-wing activism. Fine, I don't hold dogma against any of those (well except the last). Many of the moral values of modernity are cultural not Biblical, but get trumpeted as absolutes. I understand the "emergent" complaint about this- but there is a fly in the ointment. I think that emergents have substituted only the content, and left the faulty presuppositions intact.

See, a lot of "emergent values" could be called post modern asceticism. Think about it. The cultural virtue of the 1950s is largely gone, and frequently mocked. Those cultural virtues have been transformed and altered over the last 50 years into the cultural values of political correctness as dictated by liberal political ideology. Tolerance, kindness, acceptance, dialog, etc, etc, these are the morals of the progressive culture, and not one's necessarily grounded in scripture, primarily being pluralistic, with an emphasis on marginalizing anything dogmatic. Emergents are so deeply attached to the progressiveness of post modern culture, they have shaped their theology around its values. It's no worse, but certainly no better, than it's predecessor.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

minnesota bridge collapse


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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

piper goes off on the prosperity gospel

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Friday, July 06, 2007

living with grace infused abandon

I read this at a friend's blog and thought it was solid. The Pastor who wrote it seems to be an emergent/seeker friendly type, and not really my cup of tea. But, what he writes is reflective of the way I hope to live life. Which, for me, results from the influence of the Doctrines of Grace and an ever expanding realization of God's sovereignty.

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and the last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. And remember: If God is for us, who can be against us?

-Mark Batterson

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

why the grown ups need to be in charge

The thing that separates the political left so drastically from the right is their incredible denial that radical Islam poses a threat to our survival. Some even go so far to suggest that we are the aggressors in this conflict and the Islamofacists are somehow the victims. It's our fault due to "oppressive" and "imperialistic" foreign policy that has filled these humble and reverent people with righteous indignation leading to frustrated violence. If we just capitulated more enthusiastically, all would be well. This propagandist tripe plays right into the schemes of those who don't view us through the lens of geo-politics, but theology. A reasonable question to ask is, was American foreign policy at fault when Muslim armies invaded Europe in the early 8th century?

Among the Democrat presidential field there appears a mad dash to be the most amorous towards the enemy. The vapid and intellectually bankrupt John Edwards has gone as far to say that the "war on terror" is nothing but a bumper sticker slogan and isn't really happening as the administration claims. We don't need war, we need a "conversation", they say. Bleh. Following last weeks terror acts in the UK the only sound emanating from the Dems was crickets chirping. Conversation... not so much.

Read this article penned by a man who was once a terrorist and confirms that which the left wishes to deny. The left's entire paradigm is based in an alternate reality and this guy proves it.

And fascinatingly, it's not a bunch of ignorant, folk Islam, yokels behind the most recent terrorist plots exposed, but doctors!

Our enemy is at war, and we need to be too.

(pay attention this weekend: 7-7-07)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Newtonian Eschatology

When commenting on the Apocalypse (which, interestingly, he thought would be in 2060 AD) Sir Isaac Newton had something to say to the LaHayes and Robertsons of his day:

"This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

PCA Report Aftermath and Fallout

Well, judging by the reaction in the Federal Vision blogosphere, I'd say that FV folks aren't taking yesterday's events too well. Of all things, I'd say that FV reminds me most of Paris Hilton. No matter how much misfortune, indignity, and dishonor befalls it, FV has an uncanny way of maintaining an invincible, smug self-confidence amidst it all. There seems to be no averting FV's high self-estimation. But at least we can say that FV is not just famous for being famous.

If my bizarre illustration doesn't resonate with you, please consider, then, the more serious words of Jim Cassidy:

I've read some of the responses already by FVers. And quite frankly, I am surprised. They are disappointed, but there is no sign among them that perhaps they might be wrong. Brothers, the vast majority of the Reformed church in America has said that the FV is out of accord with the Westminster Standards. Does that not at least give you some pause? I mean, if my brothers spoke so loudly and in such unison to me about my views on a given issue, I would be trembling. Maybe I am weak in my nerves, but when the corporate body of Christ speaks with such unison, I am humbled.

Look, none of us FV critics are throwing a catered party over this matter (OK, maybe I was tempted to) because we don't take these matters lightly, but it would be nice to see the FV do something besides shrug off this development and immediately begin planning their next ecclesiastical survival tactic.

If things continue the way they have, FV will be exiled from the NAPARC churches, at which point it will be hard for FV to have any Reformed street cred. If so, FV will more aptly resemble the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail, exclaiming "it's just a flesh wound!" after all of its limbs have been chopped off. At this point, Paris Hilton's self-image will seem rather reasonable in contrast.

Another voice whom FV sympathizers should have listened to with some care and heeded as a bright, dazzling red flag is that loveable Romanist apostate who taught us all how to laugh, how to cry, and how to swim the Tiber with the help of FV theology:

The PCA has essentially told the Federal Vision adherents that they are not welcome in the PCA denomination and that their beliefs are contrary to the denomination's theological commitments. If the Federal Visionists seriously trusted their ecclesiology and believed that the PCA was a valid Church, they would submit to the ruling. I doubt they will. I predict a split, a new denomination, or a defection to Douglas Wilson's homegrown denomination.

He had previously remarked:

younger Presbyterians will gravitate toward what the Federal Vision offers. Many will sink their teeth into it and many will find it wanting. Many will discover that the Catholic Church is their true home, and many will discover her in a great moment of joy. This Federal Vision is really only a peek into the keyhole of the Catholic Church. The Federal Visionist has a vision of the beautiful things inside, but they have not yet appreciated the warmth of a true home.

HT: Dr. Scott Clark

Peter Leithart registers his disagreements and quibbles with the Report's declarations here. It is hard for honest people to think that the Report was "slandering" FV and didn't hit its mark when we see reactions like this. Clearly these reports are striking some real, not imaginary nerves. To this I would add the vociferous objections of James Jordan against the recently-published Mid-America Reformed Seminary Report (claiming it incorporates "pagan thought").

Dr. Clark has a worthy discussion concerning FVs future in my denomination, the United Reformed Church.

To say that my classis (Classis Southwest) has been zealous against Federal Vision-related errors is an understatement, but I do wonder if our orthodoxy is as prevelant and unanimous in other classis' (or is it classes?) in the URC federation. Our Synod is coming up in just a few more weeks, and I'll have more to say about it in the days to come.

Category: Theoblogia
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The Federal Vision Just Got Owned. Again.

Praise be to God for the good work He has granted today, through the PCA's General Assembly, that adopted the PCA's REPORT OF AD INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE ON FEDERAL VISION, NEW PERSPECTIVE, AND AUBURN AVENUE THEOLOGY. For those who have been following the Federal Vision Theology (FV), this is consistent with its track record in just the last year:

1. Last year the OPC General Assembly adopted the Report critical of the Federal Vision, which rejected FV as being compatible with the Westminster Standards.

2. The Synod of Bible Presbyterian Church adopted a resolution to reject FV.

3. The RCUS rejected FV in their report.

4. Just a few weeks ago, Mid-America Reformed Seminary published a statement against the Federal Vision doctrines.

The PCA, being the super-hip and technological denomination they are, have webcast their GA. Please check out the proceedings on the Federal Vision Report. You'll find good debate in there, along with R.C. Sproul at his best! Dr. Scott Clark recaps the proceedings on his blog here.

My brother Lane Keister/GreenBaggins commented on the development here, calling it a Triumph of the Gospel:
The motion was defeated by about a two to one majority. The recommendations themselves passed by approximately 95%. Indeed, that is probably a conservative estimate. It was a resounding triumph for the study committee report.

Tim Wilder made a pertinent comment at Lane's blog about the matter concerning Joel Garver's response to the Report's adoption:

Garver is already pooh-poohing the vote:

“The report is merely commended as useful and the nine declarations should be pretty innocuous for anyone ordained in the PCA.”

What these guys mean is that are going to force long, painful judicial processes everywhere, fighting every step, causing maximum damage on their way out of the PCA.

In response, Doug Wilson gave a fairly gracious response. This, however, is somewhat undercut by the implicit assumption that the PCA delegates couldn't read a 36-page report. He condescendingly stated:

If Christ can tell us to bless those who despitefully use us, then how much more should we be able to see our way to bless brothers in Christ who thought they were doing nothing more than affirming sola fide?

Um, the Report said a bit more than that. And this comes on the heels of Wilson's disgusting arrogance (quoting his son-in-law) toward presbyterian FV critics:

The Reformed always managed to be orthodox and intellectually engaging. But with the death of Falwell and the retirement of that generation of evangelicalism, it seems like our presbyterians, with their willful ignorance on the FV issue, are shifting over to take the place of orthodox shallow thinkers. If that happens it is going to leave a real vacuum for orthodox believers looking for challenging thinkers.

Oh, yes, if only we could all be like those sophisticated, erudite folks from Moscow, ID and Monroe, LA, (BTW, can someone remind me where Doug Wilson and Rich Lusk went to seminary, I can't seem to recall) since apparently the army of folks who actually pastor in confessionally-reformed denominations and have doctorates (like Ligon Duncan, R.C. Sproul, Robert Godfrey, Guy Waters, Gary Johnson, Joseph Pipa, R. Fowler White, Calvin Beisner, Robert Reymond, George Knight, Mike Horton, Scott Clark, T. David Gordon, David VanDrunen, etc.)are too dense and shallow to understand the glories of the Federal Vision theology.

On Wilson's blog, someone suggested that the PCA Report had made slanderous accusations against the Federal Vision proponents:

The implicit assertion that the FV writers deny the 9 declarations is effectively a violation of the 9th Commandment not to bear false witness.

To which I responded:

Gosh, where could they have gotten that idea? [Steve Wilkins wrote:]

The reprobate may be in covenant with God. They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God.

But the Report stated:

The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

[And Rich Lusk wrote:]

Final justification, however, is according to works. This pole of justification takes into account the entirety of our lives -- the obedience we’ve performed, the sins we’ve committed, the confession and repentance we’ve done

But the Report states:

The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

Category: Theoblogia
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Friday, June 08, 2007

shocking news?

Nikola Tesla was doing this over a hundred years ago.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

what is the gospel we preach?

From J.I Packer's introduction to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen

According to the Scripture, preaching the gospel is entirely a matter of proclaiming to men, as truth from God which all are bound to believe and act on, the following four facts:

(1.) that all men are sinners, and cannot do anything to save themselves;

(2.) that Jesus Christ, God's Son, is a perfect Saviour for sinners, even the worst;

(3.) that the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and put faith in Christ as Savior shall be received into favor, and none cast out (which promise is "a certain infallible truth, grounded upon the superabundant sufficiency of the
oblation of Christ in itself, for whomsoever (few or more) it be intended" (J. Owen));

(4.) that God has made repentance and faith a duty, requiring of every man who hears the gospel "a serious full recumbency and rolling of the soul upon Christ in the promise of the gospel, as an all-sufficient Saviour, able to deliver and save to the utmost them that come to God by him, ready, able and willing, through the preciousness of his blood and sufficiency of his ransom, to save every soul that shall freely give themselves unto him for that end." (J.Owen)


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

C.S. Lewis, Mythology and Reality

The heart of man is not compound of lies,
But draws some wisdom from the only wise,

And still recalls Him.
-JRR Tolkien, Mythopoeia

The great 20th century Oxford Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature, Christian apologist, lay theologian and author, C.S. Lewis, was also (IMHO) the greatest modern mind to study and elucidate the unique qualities of the particular type of story commonly called myth. Not to be lumped in with legend, a type of story rooted in a true event that as ages pass by is embellished with fantastic details and impossibilities. Or fairy tales and folk tales that seek to impart moral lessons of virtue and vice. Myth is an imaginative story born from the poetic mind to impress on the senses the truth about reality. Myth results from man’s attempt to understand the phenomena of nature and the world he lives, in light of the eternity written on his heart. Whilst Mythology writer Edith Hamilton, and modern mythology scholar Joseph Campbell would claim that myth merely was an early form of science melded with art, C.S. Lewis would say it is much more than that; myth is the exercise of human imagination reaching for the Creator who transcends, yet is immanent in his creation.

Prof. Lewis describes six characteristics of literature that make a myth:

  1. It is extra-literary, or independent of the words used. Mythology is not a literary style; it is not a specific form of poem, book, or essay. It is an image that carries with it a meaning that touches human experience and longing.
  2. The pleasure of myth does not depend on literary devices such like suspense or surprise. The mere existence of the stories image is what one finds enjoyment in. Creative plot is not an important function. In some myths, it is clear from the beginning what is going to occur; in fact in many cases, the exact end of a character is revealed before the story is even underway.
  3. Our sympathy with the character is minimal. We do not identify specifically with the character. They are like shadows moving along a wall. We are not sad or joyful for the individual character, but their tragedy or triumph is something we understand and react to.
  4. Myth is always fantastic and deals with impossibilities and the preternatural. Myths reside in a world where the uncommon occurs. The natural order of the world and the universe are constantly subverted and changed by the powerful influences of its supernatural inhabitants.
  5. Though the experience may be sad or joyful, it always is grave and never comic. There is never humor for the sake of being funny. The experience of myth leaves the feeling that we have encountered something solemn.
  6. The experience is not only grave, but awe inspiring. We feel as if something of great importance has been communicated to us. We recognize that whatever it was, it was much greater than ourselves. We somehow know that the facts we believe to be true, though not wrong, are somehow incomplete to the way things actually are.

Secular mythologists would claim that mythology is the result of ancient man observing the facts and building up the story upon them. As time progressed, simple and crude myths became more elegant and complex, constantly reappearing in higher, more organized forms. Jesus Christ is immortalized in legend as a god that dies and comes back to life, because the concept was copied from less ordered myths about corn gods or gods of the harvest, who die in the fall and are reborn again in the spring. The secularist sees the search for religious significance as growth upward from the simple answers of mythology. C.S. Lewis says that this is the modernist assumption that higher things are always copies of lower things. Much like Darwinian evolution, where more complex life forms have evolved from lower life forms, the secularist claims that Christianity, along with other great religions, is simply myth evolved into a higher form.

On the contrary Lewis would demonstrate that lower things are copies of higher things. Mankind exists as the main example of this. We are made in God’s image. We are a copy of an infinitely higher being. Though the communicable attributes of God are present in mankind, mankind is not God and never will be. Likewise the pagan myths are true in as much as they are copies of the complete truth. The pagan myths though not true in historical reality, are nonetheless the distorted reflection of a higher reality.

We discover then, that the heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. “By becoming a fact it does not cease to be a myth. God is more than a god, not less. Jesus is more than Balder not less,” Lewis says. Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, rather then being the enemy of the mythical heroes of paganism is actually the historically true fulfillment of what those myths were about. The pagan myths give us a glimpse into what was really meant to satisfy our longing as humans. Pagan myths do not disprove Christianity, but reveal that pagan people received a glimpse of truth and reality prior to it becoming fact. One finds truth expressed in pagan myths that are the echoes of God himself.

The human imagination is the receptor for the shadows and echoes of what God left for us to desire. We readily recognize in human stories the qualities of beauty and truth that we long for. The patterns of mythology originate in God and carry part of His truth, even though it is often distorted. Mankind longs for the beauty embodied in myth that cannot be complete in this world. The fulfillment of that longing is what Lewis calls joy. “If I find in myself a desire in which no experience in the world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it; that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures where never meant to satisfy it, but only arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” So then, says Lewis, if we are made in Gods image, and cannot exist apart from him, then it would make sense that we have a craving for this very joy that is beyond all earthly satisfactions. The imagination therefore reflects this truth. In its longing for fulfillment it creates an image that reflects the reality we were created for.

C.S. Lewis also claimed that it is right that other religions possess truth. The similarities or parallels that other religions contain should not alarm Christians. In fact, according to Lewis, we should be alarmed if they didn’t. It is the similarities that demonstrate the divine origin that humanity shares. All the great religions possess the truth to some extent, but they do not have the complete truth. The pagan myth contains some truth; that is why as humans we find momentary satisfaction in the images they present. But the Christian myth is a factually true myth. It contains the complete truth and provides lasting and complete fulfillment, or joy. Lewis says that “the story of Christ is a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with a tremendous difference that it really happened”. Other religions are made up of men’s myths, generally revealed by God in the minds of poets. Christianity is God’s myth. God’s special revelation expressed through real things. Pagan myth seeks an answer, but God’s myth is the answer.

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