Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Polemical Disputations on Faith and Works.

1. Much to the chagrin of all modern sophists who pose as theologians of the Word, faith and works are not irrevocably tied together. They are to be distinguished.

2. "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" Rom 4:4-5.

3. If one attempts to marry "belief" and "good deeds" in order to be justified before God, he gains neither justification nor good deeds nor belief (God help us all).

4. For the justification of God is rendered only to those who "do not work but trust God".

5. And good deeds are only substantially "good" in the sight of God after the man has been justified.

6. And "belief" is only present in the one who-though fully wicked- casts himself on the promise of God's grace rather than the synergistic potential of good deeds.

7. It is the undeserved favor of God, not substantially good deeds, that serve as the foundation for our eternal life (Ti 3:4-5).

8. It is the purpose of God, not "anything we have done" that wins us a place in Heaven (2 Tim 1:9).

9. Therefore justifying faith must always be divorced from the realm of human activity according to the Word of Christ.

10. It has been duly established by God that the realm of justification (from first to last) serves as a locus of reality where faith and works are forever separate. This is why we call the Word of God "good news".

11. Those who try to marry faith and deeds for justification succeed only in denying the Word of God, blaspheming His promise, scoffing at the "Good News" and propelling troubled souls into uncertainty about their salvation. We cannot guard ourselves against this enough.

Dear Father,

We are all of us impious wretches. On the one point you wish to console our broken souls, we take it and malign it with all of our "good deeds". Save all of us, from greatest to least, from disbelieving the simple truth of your gospel, that you saved us apart from anything we did or ever will do. I am so frustrated with myself and with others. In Jesus Name.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Thoughts on my flu.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was absolutely correct when he referred to sickness as judgment (cf. spiritual care). In the event of our sickness we have to do with the troubling reality that no one-not even God's child- is exempt from punishment for sin (1 Pe 4:17). Not that there is always necessarily a causal relationship between a concrete sin and subsequent illness, for we may well learn to say with Job: "Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy" (9:15). In truth our weakness instructs us with the reality that no one is blameless, and our hardships are endured as discipline. Within this frame of time the nature of God as Abba is ferociously tested and called into question through God's own hiddenness and wrath. We cannot bring ourselves to imagine that God would be the sort of person who would throw His arms around us, kiss us and weep with utter love. We begin to accept judgment as the proper revelation of God and lose hold of His generous adoption of us. God is now solely Master, Judge, Avenger, Hidden, Wrathful, Infinite and Terrible. The sacred scriptures witness against us; the beautiful creation witnesses against us, the promises dissapear, personal sanctity slithers away, conscience condemns, the brethren tremble and the fire of Hell irrevocably summons us. We cannot see Jesus as anyone other than the eschatological judge who approaches us only to say," Depart from me, you who are accursed, into the eternal fire!" Sickness is temptation; sickness is truth. But it is not true enough.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Forty Theses Against the Godless and Impious Doctrine that Salvation-once conferred on man- can be Lost.

1.Salvation is referred to by Paul as “the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Since the gifts of God cannot be revoked (Rom 11:29), it follows that those who suppose salvation can be revoked despise the nature of the gift and treat God’s Word with contempt, which clearly says that it cannot be revoked.

2. James speaks in similar terms when he calls the gifts of God “good and perfect” (1:17). But how can it be said that God’s gift of salvation is perfect if it lacks: 1.Certainty 2.Eternality and 3. Immutability? Thus to teach that salvation can be lost is to mock God, who promises a perfect salvation.

3. In order to confirm the unchanging and glorious salvation given to us in Christ, God took an oath in His own Name (Heb 6:16-20). Those who maintain that the salvation given to us in Christ can be lost blaspheme God most severely, making Him out to be a liar.

4.Furthermore, they make God out to be a promise-breaker and thus lead many into the sin of unbelief.

5. These mockers think that the security of God’s oath rests on human perseverance.

6. And since human perseverance is faulty, they judge God’s oath to be insecure.

7. But Christ has become our high priest forever, and He most certainly will not fail.

8. Furthermore, it has been decreed from Heaven that God “will keep (us) strong to the end, so that (we) will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (1 Cor 1:8-9).”

9. Those who affirm that salvation can be lost treat this promise as nothing, which clearly states that we shall be kept strong to the very end.

10. They also inadvertently scoff at God’s faithfulness which is enjoined by Paul to certify this promise.

11. They refer to passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-31 to build their case. Thus they choose a hermeneutical axiom which begins with God’s wrath and judgment, whereas “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Jas 2:13).

12. Nor do they take into account that the apostasy spoken of in Hebrews is juxtaposed with the “things that accompany salvation” found within the church towards which the letter was written (6:9-10).

13. They say that salvation is only secure on the condition that we persevere unto the end. Thus they teach that a man is saved by God on account of his works rather than by God’s grace.

14. But this is clearly refuted by Paul, who says that God “saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:5).” It follows that the righteous activity of perseverance will not merit salvation.

15. The Arminian says that God is free to take back what He has given, but the Christian says that God is free to keep His Word.

16. The Arminian says that some of those whom God has justified are later damned, but the Christian says that “those he justified, he also glorified (Rom 8:30).”

17. The Arminian declares that God consigns some of His own children to the everlasting lake of fire. The Christian declares that God keeps and protects His own.

18. For our earthly fathers, twisted as they are, would never allow their own sons and daughters to burn… not even for an hour.

19. But the Arminian teaches that the Heavenly Father revokes the bond of love with His child and banishes him to Hell. In the end the sinful, earthly father is richer in mercy.

20. But God alone is merciful, and thus the Arminian has an idol for a god.

21. They also make God out to be a tyrant much fiercer than has ever before been conceived, who suffers his very children to burn forever in agony without so much as lifting a finger to help them.

22. And if they say that our position as sons and daughters must be maintained, they make adoption out to be a wage earned rather than a gift freely given.

23. For which earthly father with even a smidge of compassion would dare to tell his own flesh and blood,” You must work to maintain your status as my son.” Surely we would call such a father a scoundrel and a knave, not fit to have children!

24. In this manner the Arminian speaks evil of God and will not suffer to imagine that He may be more gracious than an earthly father.

25. But God is a gracious Father to those who believe (Gal 3:26), thus it would take great mental gymnastics to imagine that He would let His beloved child burn.

26. And yet an Arminian insists that God is love, and love always values free will. Thus if we as His children choose the path that leads to destruction, God will honor our choice.

27. In this they rob God of all responsibility, who does not forbid His children from running into eternal destruction.

28. Yet not even an earthly parent- who sees his stubborn child attempting to run into a busy thoroughfare- would dare to honor the free choice of the child and look on as he is crushed. Such a parent would be judged wicked!

29. How much less will our Heavenly Father honor our blind and stupid wills when they rush off towards Hell and destruction?

30. Moreover, the will that even considers evil an option is not truly free.

31. And the scriptures have decreed that “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God (Rom 3:11).”

32. How then can the Arminian say that there are some who seek God? They cannot do so without pitting themselves against this word.

33. Yet they point to the droves of people in history or their own personal experience who professed Christ with all sincerity but later fell away.

34. In this manner they think that their personal experiences nullify the clarity of God’s oath and promise.

35. But God has declared that those who leave the faith “did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us (1 John 2:19).”

36. Since “none of them” who go out from the faith belonged to us, it follows that none of them were ever Christians.

37. And if they insist that these people truly were Christians, we choose to disregard their balbutiations in favor of the Word, which says that “none of them belonged to us.”

38. For surely one Word of God trumps the testimony of 10,000 Arminians!

39. Jesus Christ Himself witnesses to the eternal security of the believer when He says that,” a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever (John 8:35).”

40. And since a son belongs to the family of God forever, we profess that our salvation can at no time be lost.

*The author of these disputations is not a Calvinist. Nor does he think that he need be one to maintain the Christian truth of eternal security. The author also wishes to have it made clear that a person who holds to the Arminian doctrine can indeed be a Christian, but that his doctrines belong to the unbelieving nature which wars against his soul.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The root for "distinction" is the latin prefix dis which means "apart" or "off, away".* This is significant for our discussion on the nature of law and gospel, for if a distinction between the two is warranted, it will always be rooted in keeping the two "apart, off, away." To distinguish between law and gospel is to keep them away from each other. This act of itself is neutral and can be either good or bad depending on what is intended in the separating. At hand right now is whether the law and the gospel should be distinguished for the salvation of the individual. Can a person enter into covenant with Christ without making this distinction? Is this distinction to be made by us or has it been made by God for us, or both? Does the distinction require a seperation of the two entities "as far as the east is from the west" (Luther) or is some manner of proximity kept?

What is at stake in this matter is the never-ending life or damnation of both me and the hearers, so those who consider this a philosophic abstraction ought to remember that God dwells in the abstract and the unreachable, and it is from the abstract that the Word of forgiveness comes to us (John 1). With this in mind we must suffer the abstracts and pay careful attention.

I want to finish this post with another scripture to chew on: "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Gal 3:10)

* Taken from

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Current trends on Law and Gospel.

Recently a number of provocative conversations, essays and articles have prompted me to consider the distinction of Law and Gospel in the scriptural text, and whether such a distinction can be made. I guess this started when I read Scot Mcknight's commentary on Galatians, noticing that the bibliography of consulted works omitted any mention of Luther's historic work on this epistle. It seemed almost a statement in and of itself, especially in lieu of the fact that the only commentary written prior to the 20th century that he mentioned using was Thomas Aquinas'. When I had the opportunity to ask him about this in person, he sneered and said very sharply," I don't buy into the whole "Law and Gospel" distinction that Luther made in the scriptures."

Since the distinction of "Law and Gospel" had until now been meat and potatoes for me-one of the most freeing distinctions I have ever learned- I too was sneering (but for different reasons). To be sure, I had heard a fellow once say rather blithely that the Jewish consciousness had no knowledge of such categorizations, and that they were eisegetically imposed onto the text with Enlightenment presuppositions (a historical falsity, given that philosophic "distinctions" were used obsessively in Medieval interpretations of scripture). But nothing like this from a theologian and scholar in the Protestant quarter!

Later I read an interview* given for Ben Witherington III's first volume in "The Indelible Image" series where he mentions that," in some cases the Reformer did Paul no service by setting up contrasts between law and grace..." and in my Sermon on the Mount Class my professor began to excitedly talk about Christ bringing out a "new Law" with requirements that must be fulfilled. Verse by verse we were inculcated with the "reality" that the beatitudes were moral expectations (I never knew it was commendable to have an impoverished spirit!), that every jot and tittle of the old law must be understood and re-applied to today. The passages on anger, lust and divorce are covenantal expectations that (if not fulfilled) bring eternal damnation on the believer. At one point I asked my professor," So, this is the gospel that Christ came to bring?" to which I received an affirming nod. I gulped some air before saying rather snidely," Gee, that sure is good news." He thought so. I had never met someone who thought the "new law of the Sermon on the Mount", the law that expects much more of us than Moses did, was the gospel of our salvation! Such is where we have arrived now that the distinction between law and grace has been done away with... right back where Luther was in the 1500's, wrestling with Satans great effort to turn Christ into a "new Moses". I wouldn't be surprised if John 1:17 were re-worked to say," The law was given through Moses, and it came down much harder through Jesus Christ." Of course, not even those who think like this obey the covenant demands of Christ (numbering in the hundreds), and the ones in history who tried (most notably Tolstoy) spent their life in cyclical misery and despair. They would not be quite so quick to call this type of thinking "good news".

At any rate, this is alot of rhetoric and not enough research. In the up-coming posts this month I hope (God willing) to begin investigating the scriptural judgment of law from divers portions of the canon to test this new type of thinking. In the meantime, I leave this little chestnut for any passing reader to chew on:

"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!" (2 Cor 3:7-9).

Distinctive or unitive? Would anyone say with a straight face that the gospel and the "ministry that brought death" are inseperable?

*Taken from "The Indelible Image---The Interview", Ben Witherington III

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A few words..

The first portion of the Westminster Catechism has been applied wrongly. Somewhere along the line, we took "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever" to mean "the chief end of man is to glorify Karl Barth and enjoy him forever." If I have children, I hope they will not make the same catachetical error.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Question about the Rich Ruler.

"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."

This is a crucial sentence in my ongoing struggle to come to terms with the dilemma of the rich young ruler (see blog below). The man in question heard the Word of God proclaimed to him-commandment and promise- from the Word of God enfleshed and walked away without eternal life. Jesus declares elsewhere that "...whoever comes to me I will never drive away (Jn 6:36)." Could it thus be available for the rich ruler to turn around at any given moment, perhaps months later and find the welcome of Christ?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Twenty Ambivalent Suggestions About Prayer

1. Prayer is something we rarely want to do.
2. Prayer is made possible only by the commandment of God (Luther).
3. Prayer does not put us in a position to receive God's grace.
4. God's grace has already been given in totality through Jesus Christ.
5. Prayer is the obedience that comes by God's initiative.
6. Faith justifies, and those who put their faith in Christ will pray.
7. And yet in a certain sense it can be said that prayer merits grace.*
8. For just as my earthly father would have never given me the Church Dogmatics for Christmas unless I had asked, so my Heavenly Father will only give me certain graces if I ask.
9. Prayer is thus something done most fruitfully on the plane of reality that has God as our Dad and we as His Children.
10. Prayer is an evidence of justifying faith, for only a justifying faith would dare to enter a milieu where the judge of all the earth is addressed as "Abba".
11. Prayer is a grave risk and a danger. When a teacher hurt my feelings in elementary school, I told my father and watched him grow incensed to the point of calling this teacher to account. So too we have the power to convince our Abba to wreak havoc on those who do us wrong (Psalter).
12. Prayer renews the mind to synthesize the passages of servanthood and sonship. They no longer contradict.
13. Prayer is to call God to task on the promises His own lips freely uttered (Luther).
14. Prayer moved God to forgive all of the sins of Manasseh and dredge him up from the dungeons of a distant land into renewed Kingship.
15. Prayer opened the mouth of the great fish to vomit Jonah out; alive and safe.
16. Prayer persuaded God to split open the Red Sea and provide safe passage for those who prayed.
17. Prayer gave Hezekiah fifteen extra years of life.
18. The prayer of Jesus brought Peter back from apostasy to faith.
19. Prayer is a clue to the mystery of Christ's being. "He always lives to intercede.."
20. Since the Lord of life "lives to intercede", the greatest task of our life is to pray.

*I mean grace in no.7 in a loosely catholic sense. The grace which provides justification cannot be merited at all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Dilemma of the Rich Young Ruler pt.1

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22)

I have read many scriptures that trouble me, that "mow me down" to paraphrase my pastors words. But out of all of them, this one ranks near the top. The account of the rich young ruler is my thorn in the flesh. It is one that shakes all of my experiential and doctrinal assurances and causes me to question everything I know to be true about salvation. Why this passage? Because it documents one of the very few cases of a sincere fellow who came to the source of eternal life and was not qualified to enter. Shouldn't that trouble me? Shouldn't that trouble anyone? Indeed, those who were first to witness the event cried out (and you can sense their stammering despair)," Who then can be saved?". Long have I wrestled with Christ on this count, and to date I have gleaned more questions than answers. What follows are a few of my questions and reflections.

Christ told the rich young ruler bluntly: "One thing you lack." Is it thus true that we must meet specific requirements in order to be accepted of Christ? How then do we understand that "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:5)" ?Since this is so, how was it that the rich young ruler was required to undergo the righteous act of selling everything he had and giving to the poor to be acceptable to Christ? If someone tells me that it was rather a test of where the rulers heart was, might I ask how godly our hearts must be in order to be accepted? Since when did our hearts have to be in the right place in order to find salvation (Mt. 9:12-13)? If someone tells me that these requirements were to be met by him after he was saved by grace, I might point out that the ruler was given this requirement in response to his question: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?". I might also point out that rather than being given grace and then directed to the requirements, he walked away without eternal life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hermeneutical Hypocrisy

I am guilty of it; the selective ear that opens up all conduits for hearing the promises of God, the heart that savagely fights to defend the clear comforts of the Word, the mind that denies all reason to continue magnifying God in seasons of darkness. The selective ear that stems from a selective faith, the faith that avoids examining the side of God's wrath, the talk of Hell, the clear judgments of God throughout the whole counsel of scripture, the warnings, the threats and the decrees that knock all of our chateaus of peace and safety to the ground.

In a bout of temptation when the flesh and the foe entangle me with despair, I desperately quote psalm 121: "He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber!" And if the enemy calls into question the applicability of this promise, I defiantly boast," This is the eternal Word of God! Away with your historical-critical method! God didn't give us a stone age Sword that has become dull with time." I rush to defend the most antiquated of scriptures, the most hidden and forgotten portions of the text if they offer some shred of support or comfort. But if the text should say,"On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot" I am all to ready to start carbon dating the psalm and placing it amongst an assorted pile of things not-eternal and no longer applicable. Historical-critical method can really be just an intellectually swank way of avoiding the dire reality of God's anger. "Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel! (Isaiah 30:10-11)"

Why is it also that the blessed comforts of scriptures can be read and understood without commentary but the threats and warnings become "difficult passages", obscure, unclear, in need of a volume or two of patchwork and cover-up? Are we trying to push God out of the Bible? Jesus offers an apt diagnosis of the problem: "Why is my language unclear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your fathers desire. (John 8:43-44)"

Who will avoid this piercing word? I suspect that those who feel comfortable, out of the way of this statement have merely bought into the lie of self-righteousness. Hermeneutical hypocrisy, as in all forms of wickedness, comes from us because we belong to our father, the devil. It is hear that we must step up to the gospel once more and believe on Christ. He alone can heal us.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The triumph of hope.

"From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair." -Psalm 88

This quotation is extracted from the only psalm in the Bible that concludes with not a shred of spoken hope. In it we find the zeal and faithfulness of a man who devoted himself to God, received no answers in return and spent his youth in darkness. If we probe the depths of the psalm we discover a lostness that goes far deeper than the grain of todays narcissistic 'emo' pop culture. This is the lostness of a wise man, a man of God, who contends with the forces of God's wrath, the encompassing of death, hatred among friends and the final prospect of damnation to the cold and black realm of Sheol and Abbadon. Note that his string of prayers and supplications throughout the psalm avail him no answer or change in situation; and from his position God will never answer.

Naturally this psalm offers us great encouragement. Note that though this man never received his answer from God, God took note of him enough to have his name (recorded as Heman the Ezrahite) and his prayer included in the canon to be remembered forever. God remembered him. Secondly, as the church affirms the inspiredness of the Psalter, it is worth noting that God's very Spirit breathed life into these words and made them the Word. This argues a closeness and intimacy that Heman may not have realized. Finally, we must conclude that as our lives draw near to the fires of Hell, as God's wrath lies forcefully on us and our prayers avail nothing...they avail everything. The hope and promise of God's grace, according to this psalm is completely independant of our experience and our life. We, like William Cowper the hymnist, can spend the length of our days in utter despair and never recover...and God remembers us. God records our name and our prayer, listing us as those who fear Him (Malachi 3:16).

"They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty,"in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." (Malachi 3:17-18)

Friday, April 17, 2009

A short eulogy for professor John Mcrae.

I do believe God was eternally impacted by our prayers, pleas and petitions, and yet we must
relinquish ourselves to the wise and perfect will of our Father. I hope we can find joy and comfort in how much more awesome God's plan is that He called John home....perhaps many will be sanctified and saved to the glory of Christ and the utter delight of John.Since John and I were both avid dilletantes in philosophy, I was jokingly able to tell him in the hospital," Looks like you are in for an ontological promotion John." He chuckled and mulled over the comment before saying," either way you are right."
I had a dream this morning that he was trucking into the Galatians class full of vigor and life. He was healthy and sharp, full of his unusual wit and candor. When we asked him about pancreatic cancer, he looked annoyed, baffled and professional all at once, as if cancer was merely an aggravating mathematical equation that he had to work through. Then he went on to tell his bizarre and hilarious stories, as he would always do for five minutes before circling back to some profound point he wanted to make.
In many ways this dream signifies his, mine and God's indignation that cancer should by any means rob John of of life. I do believe, without a speck of sentimentality, that John can still say-now more than ever- with a straight face and furrowed brow, one arm waving in the air and the other rubbing his buzz cut," I have been crucified with Christ! And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Sonnet For Good Friday

Much is made of the strength that erects,
artifices of bronze and iron and steel,
amidst steadfast citadels we scarce can feel,
or contemplate, but only assign great defect,
to hands that absorb the iron we perfect,
hands that caress wood over zeal,
wooden, leaning tower and shame to seal,
a contract left for the grave and the earth to direct,
a few deluded whores and fishermen to mourn,
a contract made on forgotten stakes,
beneficiaries of ointment and worms,
just flames licking the subject of criminal scorn,
Who would assume such weakness makes,
The redemption of man on immutable terms?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The oddity of the way of Christ.

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." -Colossians 1:16

Such has indeed been the creedal confession of the church from the 1st century onwards: that the Christ we serve is also before all things, and responsible for all things. But let that doctrinal truth sink into the pores of the intellect for awhile.... brood on it, and then examine the way of discipleship this self-same Lord and King calls us to. Examine, for instance the British Columbian horizon; buttressed with the natural fortification of the coastal mountain range. Every morning these mountains are flecked with rich colors of pink , blue or dark green by the presence of the rising sun. Dew once more settles across every square foot of every couloir, penetrating the top layer of soil and stone that can bundle over the crust of the earth for square miles at a time. Thick stratocumulus clouds drape over the peaks and curl their way down over the treeline in a hidden dance, an aromatic artwork of fragrance and colors, wetness and life and silence. The floors of such lively slopes are blanketed each day by a fresh supply of citrusy needles, cones and leaves. Higher up, alpine meadows flourish with every sort of wildflower displaying their beauty for a hidden audience; honey bees never lacking in nectar. The ptarmigans cluck and preen their greyish mantle in a thick copse of bush and alderwood. Strawberries, blueberries and salmonberries glisten in the morning sun. The waxing of eloquence over one mountain scene could go on perpetually. There is no end to the richness of this daily vista, which we as Christians dutifully wind up in our profession of faith in "one Lord whom all things were made... (from the Nicene creed)." It is humbling, awesome and faith-stirring to ascribe all of this glory to the humble man of Nazareth. But far more baffling is the simultaneous call we hear from our Lord's lips even as He goes about His mighty work of sustaining the universe: "...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Lk.14:33)" or "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Lk.6:20).

In Christ we are buffeted on every side by suffering, persecution, fears from within. We partake of His sufferings, His crucifixion. We battle long bouts of temptation, the weight of the world, sorrow, an enemy who in all seriousness wishes to damn us. The cost of discipleship overwhelms us because it demands all of us. This odd tension between crucifixion and glory would make little sense to me unless the history of the world ended in the resurrection. In the meantime, the treasures of the earth and the fullness thereof seem (if not doctrinally, experientially) off limits until the sons of God should be revealed. Not that we do not have access to every good thing, but that every good thing stands in the midst of a battle for the salvation of of the human soul. No soldier climbs out of the trench to exploit a fruit tree standing near by... not when bullets whizz overhead! Do we not experience similar things in our Christian life?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On Prayer

My uncle and Aunt have been without a job and proper finances for years now. They live in the suburbs of a major South African city, where unemployment holds little promise. A month back my grandparents joined me here in British Columbia and we carried on the work of persistently asking God's hand of favor over our relatives. In two short spurts, quite out of nowhere they landed on a spacious home and property on a hill for ridiculously low pricing, and my uncle got a job under Sun Microsystems as territory manager for West Africa. This all simultaneously with the increased weight of our corporate prayer. This brilliant blessing on behalf of our loving Father has caused me to ask a few questions on prayer.

1. How often have I lacked good things because I failed to ask of God?

2. If Jesus has secured Lordship over the universe and bids us approach with requests, why are my requests of meagre proportion?

3. How often has God said no to my requests, not because I lacked faith or because they were evil, but because I did not ask often?

4. When Esther approached King Xerxes, he looked on her with favor and said," What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you." If a pagan king could make such pledges-presumptuous or no- to his bride, is it not logical that the Lord of Truth could make much more to His?

5. If God has been busy tending to a storm the size of three earths for three hundred years on Jupiter, does He lack power or attention to handle the requests of one of his children?

Merely some thoughts to ponder.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fear or Love? Or Both?

A debate was hosted awhile ago featuring atheist Christopher Hitchins and prominant theologian Alister McGrath (to be viewed online here: The subject matter is religion: poison or cure? Hitchins, suprisingly more intelligent than I had assumed, avoids the deification of science and resorts to logical deductions in his attempt to deconstruct the Christian faith. One of his appeals is against 'the preposterous notion of compulsory love'. He deems that the God of Christ demands our love, and that we must simultaneously be terrified of Him. I suppose Hitchins sees this as fragmentary and stupid, an anthropological impossibility and an undermining of true love. Where, I ask, did he get these doctrines? From Sinai? 'Moses said to the people,"Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." (From Exodus 20:20) It would appear that a right interpretation of the Revelation of God on Sinai; the trumpet blast, the thick darkness and cloud, the fire and storm would not be fear; but trust and protection. Where then did he get this idea of love and terror? From the Gospel? "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (From 1 John 4:18) I challenge the reader to carefully search all of the divine manifestations, examining closely the verbal challenge of God. It would seem that God textually speaks against fear and terror before Him. It is plausible that the ultimate purpose of God is to drive out all of our fear; convincing us that His purpose is not to punish us but to love us. Augustine sees this as an eschatological reality; a promise not yet fulfilled. From time to time we face dread and terror before a Holy God. "For those to whom it is said,"I call you servants no longer, but friends"(John 15:15) are not afraid of one who is now a friend, when they have been led right through to what was promised." -Augustine (Exposition of Psalm 5 p.98)

In the meantime we must challenge and weigh our fears before the God whom we address as 'Abba'. Are they hindrances or helps?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On Silence.

Some have advised that I carry on with this blog. What can I say to this?

"....A wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15)

Tranquility overcomes me when I ponder how few readers stop by. I am off in the wilderness with my God, with my Father. A few stragglers pass and take note and grin; but in reality I am left with God, with Father.

Why then have I written so little? I clap my hands over my mouth. I have nothing to say other than to give exegesis to my own muteness. God has said enough; Martin Luther and Augustine and Yancey have added a little more....and that is good. Why then ought I to speak? I ought rather to listen....and when I've had my fill of wisdom and find the world awry still; then I'll rebuke myself and the world and listen closer. Why not a theology of listening rather than speaking? Take note of this! (James 1:19) I'll take my cap and my crown off and give it to more qualified men. Why cannot Jeremiah and Solomon and Ezekiel be our theologians? I think they do it better; I want to learn to treasure their words.

Lord Father,

Teach us to listen. Especially let us listen to and to listen more to your Words.


From Jeremiah

The harvest is past,
the summer has ended,
and we are not saved.