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Monthly Archives: September 2019

Unrighteous Mammon, Shrewdness, and Your Best Life Later (sermon text)

 

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“…use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

 

Some say this parable that we just read in the book of Luke is a great picture of God’s mercy –

They say it’s really about the dishonest steward banking on the fact that His Master was merciful & compassionate… and wants to be known as such!

Therefore, he could get away with what he did!…

I think this view is mistaken.

Even if those whose debts were slashed no doubt saw the Master that way…

On the other hand, in Luke 15, right before this parable—we read about the lost coin, sheep and son

Now those are definitely parables which are all about God’s mercy and compassion!

That trio of famous parables is all about the richest picture of God’s grace imaginable – about the most important way He blesses us.

And then, the parable in Luke 16—again, right after it—is about the most important way to use all the blessings that God has given you!

The key is this: don’t imitate the dishonesty but the shrewdness of the servant.

“use worldly wealth (or “mammon” – that is, that in which men put their trust…) to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings”.

The servant in the parable was worried about becoming poor and so shrewdly (and dishonestly!) made arrangements for the future – so he’d have friends who’d welcome Him.

You, on the other hand, should know that you are already rich and so should shrewdly (and honestly!) make arrangements for the future – so you can continue to know to the fullest the joy you’ve been given in Jesus Christ.

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So let’s explain this and sum it up a bit more – both Luke 15 and 16 together.

What I mean is this: as children of Adam and Eve, you, like the prodigal Son, wandered far from home.

You squandered your father’s wealth in every way possible. He was dead to you, because you yourselves were spiritually dead.

Born into sin by nature, you wanted nothing to do with the True God.

That said, you weren’t dead to Him.

He saw you over the horizon, and in spite of his status as a Wealthy Mideastern Nobleman, He took no concern for His dignity and ran out to meet you…

even if you were just coming back to survive.

He put His robe and ring on you and called out to His servants to kill the fattened calf, because His son that had been lost had now been found.

You couldn’t even finish that speech you’d prepared to convince Him to take you back!

Now, you are rich!

Now, you have your Father’s full acceptance!

Now, you share in all of His wealth!

And so He says… live in that joy![i]

As Paul puts it…. [I Thes. 5:16-18]

Even in great suffering, Christians know this is possible.

So be like your Father in Heaven, inviting persons from the hiways and biways to join you in joy – for meals at home… for spiritual meals at church!

And remember – the joy that we begin to know on earth in Christ will soon be transformed into heavenly joy as well…

So don’t just invite persons who can and will welcome you to their parties in return! That’s what the world, fixated just on this world, does (that is Jesus talking in Luke 14, by the way…)

Use your worldly wealth to invite the ones who can’t repay you here – and just keep in mind that in heaven they’ll certainly return the favor…

Because in heaven, none will be in want. And jealously won’t exist. And hospitality and generosity and glorious fellowship and joy from all and for all will flow like a river.

No one will feel like a wallflower.

No one will feel left out.

Like they don’t belong.

Folks, you aren’t the children of the world. You are Christians, and Christians are different.

And so we read:

“The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight…”

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So, that’s the main thing about the parable. Well, about Luke 15 and Luke 16.

At the same time, let’s dig in… think about this in the context of our other readings.

In our parable for today, the servant was really worried about his status in this world… he was really concerned about becoming poor.

So his hands weren’t idle!

…even as he turned to dishonest work, to say the least! (something we note Jesus condemned)

And this too, is not uncommon, is it? “Blue-collar” and “white-collar” crime and the like…

To be sure, it is a problem, and we should not hesitate to be concerned about this issue of poverty in our current world.

And with it, the idea of “being on the outside”, being on the outs or margins…

“Marginalization” we call it.

Many have pointed out how in the Bible God really does care deeply about these things… and that many Christians sometimes have a hard time seeing this for some reason.

The Scriptures tell us that poverty does not only come through personal moral failure—which many will often assume—but also through unexpected calamity and also genuine moral oppression…

God though, is the Champion of the poor, the “sojourner”, the widow, the orphan…

Our other texts speak about those who are in great need, and are not able to defend themselves against the stronger ones who basically act in predatory fashion.

In the book of Amos, we read about the one who uses dishonest scales, and who “buy[s] the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals…”

We are told that the Lord will not forget this. We can be rest assured that He is going to make all things right.

In the Psalm, we also hear about how “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap…” seating them with the princes of his people.

By the way, do you know what the Apostle Paul says about equity? Asking the Corinthians for money for the Jerusalem church, he said:

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’”

What should this mean for us today?

Well, more on that in a minute, but before this, let’s do another parable, a parable about the necessity of being shrewd for persons who are not necessarily materially rich, but spiritually rich.

I read it about a week ago…

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“Once upon a time, there were 10 brothers who were charged with guarding a gem the king had given to their village — a beautiful stone that promised them the king’s favor and protection.

When charging the brothers to secure this precious gem, the king gave them clear instructions:

“My enemy will constantly be scheming to take this gem away from you. He will threaten you with violence.

He will mock you and turn your friends against you. He will try to convince you the gem is not really yours or you don’t really need it.

But no matter what approach he uses, don’t fall for his tricks.”

One day, the king’s enemy approached the 10 brothers with a small army behind him.

“I imagine you’ve come here to steal our gem,” the oldest brother said.

“Absolutely not,” the enemy insisted. “I think it’s wonderful that you have it. I just hate to see the way your brother is using the gem.

His tone is always abrasive and arrogant when he talks about protecting it.

It gives the rest of you a bad name. Dismiss him from his post guarding the gem, and my army will leave you alone.”

The oldest brother always found his youngest sibling a bit irritating and embarrassing, so he considered this a no-brainer and immediately gave the enemy what he asked.

A week later, the enemy returned with his army, now claiming he had problems with the second-youngest brother.

“This guy has been saying the gem doesn’t belong to certain people in the village, people he doesn’t like. This is unloving and cruel. Disavow him too, and we’ll be friends.”

The oldest brother wasn’t especially fond of that brother either, so he once again gave the enemy what he wanted.

But week after week, the enemy kept returning and asking for the oldest brother to separate himself from another one of his brothers until, eventually, the oldest brother stood alone — the sole remaining guardian of the gem.

Seeing that the man now had no one left to defend him, the enemy walked up to the oldest brother, whispered, “You fell for it,” into his ear, stabbed him through the heart, and walked away with the gemstone.

The writer of this “parable of the guardians” explains:

The king is Christ. The gemstone is his salvation.

The brothers are Christians. The enemy is the devil, and his army is the mob of anti-Christian voices in the world.

And the moral of the story is this: No matter what they say, the devil and this world won’t be content until they’ve taken Christ’s salvation away from you.

So don’t throw your fellow believers under the bus to escape persecution. All you’ll do is hasten your demise.”[ii]

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The point is this: the world looks at things that real Christians say and do, and still doesn’t feel very welcomed. They rarely say that directly though…

They are so very, very shrewd, o children of light….

“Speak the truth in love,” huh?

“Well, I don’t think the way you are saying that is very loving…”

Eventually, just what you are saying isn’t loving.

The world does this in all kinds of ways.

They look at the Bible’s focus on the poor and Paul’s statements about fairness and say “I can use that to my advantage.”

“I think Jesus said communist-like things, or at least a socialist-like things…”[iii]

Let me tell you another one I recently heard…

I heard about the topic of marginalization not long ago from a more liberal theologian who made reference to our I Timothy 2 passage this morning…

He got to addressing that passage by his own story….

He began by explaining how he had become a Christian in the army after high school

The other Christians he fellowshipped with were all about being free from the constraints of dogma and denominations.

And, he said he was a bit “fanatical”.

While overseas, he and other brothers, the “Soul Patrol,” would go into red light districts, brothels, in order to share the message.

They would even go on trains simply with the goal of passing out tracts…

Once, he went to a revival meeting that he found to be amazing, and he was telling his brothers all about the experience.

He spoke about the tongues, the miracles, and the preaching that he heard… but the men picked up on something that he’d said about the preacher: “she”.

“Did you say she? What does the Bible say? Women can’t preach.”

He replied: “I was there… she was preaching!”

The answer from his brothers came to him again:

“the Bible’s clear… women can’t preach….”

At this point he was shared the passage from 1 Timothy 2, the Epistle text for this morning…

“You believe the Bible’s God’s word, right?” his brothers challenged him…

He said he was 19 years old at the time, and that none of this seemed right in his spirit.

“Do you believe the Bible’s God’s word or not?”

His reaction was this:

“My whole life I have been fighting against this kind of thing. Against rules that said where I could and couldn’t go because I was black.”

He recalled how his father would tell him that he couldn’t go somewhere to eat but wouldn’t explain why this was the case.

He went on:

“We’ve been fighting this our whole life… this exclusion and oppression. And now I’m supposed to do to women what’s been done to me my whole life?”

“I want nothing to do with your God…”

So he became a liberal theologian.

He concludes today that life is all about “interpretation” – and our interpretations say more about us than they do about others.

They say what we believe and what we value – they are reflections of us.

As regards Christians, he said this means that our interpretations of the Bible say more about us than they say about God:

They reveal our beliefs and values more than they reveal God’s beliefs and values…

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This man went further: he made the case that the marginalized persons Christians hurt by their interpretation of the Bible are also the members of the LGBTQ+ communities as well…

“Look,” he said – “Paul may have called a lot of those things ‘sin,’ but today all of that has changed…”

What was this man, in effect, trying to do?

He was trying to gain friends for himself! Very shrewdly indeed…

And what is the harm? Perhaps God Himself is learning by experience?[iv]

No.

Not at all.

…but can you be sure?

Yes you can.

The fact of the matter is that, if we aren’t deeply familiar with the Scriptures here, and if we do not see them and love them as the Word of God, we are going to deeply confuse ourselves and others.

The fact is that there is an order to God’s creation – there are certain roles that exist—and that can’t be avoided.

And also, in the body of Christ, we are told that each and every part of the body is needed, valuable, not replaceable….

And we are to care deeply for one another.

This involves something we all call “tough love” – a phrase even the most “enlightened” worldly people understand

…even if they disagree about what behaviors are beneficial and detrimental to human flourishing…

Believe me, no one can live consistently thinking that “our interpretations say more about us than they do about others.”

Simply put, as creatures made in God’s image, we must and will make judgments.

And we’ll always insist that someone’s words are clear—someone that we “resonate” with—regardless of any person’s particular interpretation…[v]

Very shrewd they are.

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There is a constant theme running throughout the Bible that the world will persecute the church.

What this means is that while believers are often referred to as the poor in spirit, they are often identified with the poor as well.

The rulers and elites of this world will war against their God, and make things increasingly difficult for them…

The needy we are to attend to, therefore, are first of all other believers.

These are actually the persons that Jesus said the sheep focused on in Matthew 25, when He speaks about the separation of the sheep and the goats – He has hungry, thirsty, naked, and imprisoned Christians in mind — as well as Christians we don’t know well.

Do we have some of these in this congregation? Or nearby?

Paul makes it very clear where our priorities should lie when he says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

That word “especially” is especially important.

And regarding Paul, there are specific kinds of believers that he prioritizes for charitable work. Widows and orphans especially.

Do you have some of these in your congregation? Particularly those without family or extended family who can support them?

Does this mean that other kinds of persons who are in need are not important?[vi]

Not at all.

Nevertheless, we should also do hard thinking about what our priorities need to be…

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Again, I hope you found the discussion on the parable in Luke 16 interesting…[vii]

I want to clarify that this parable isn’t really about Jesus welcoming you into eternal dwellings… into salvation.

This is really talking about who among us is going to know the most joy in heaven.

You see, everyone in heaven will be happy to see you, but some people are going to draw quite a crowd – because of how they affected their neighbors with and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In other words, in heaven, there are some who will be more well-known than others.

Some of you will have more persons clamoring for you to visit them and enjoy times of glorious fellowship and feasting in their dwellings…

The world is going to tell you:

“We’ll welcome you if you just do what we say!

… if you will just not care so much about your brothers and sisters.. and throw them under the bus.”

Ignore them.

Focus on living in the truth, sharing it in love, and addressing your neighbor’s needs – in order of priority – as they come up…

This, by the way, is exactly the way our Lord did it.

For the message of forgiveness, life and salvation through the cross of Christ was first for the Jew

…then, the Gentile.

You.

Amen.

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[i] Though fasting is good and beneficial for learning to control your sinful flesh, we are to primarily enjoy spiritually feasting on God’s riches – and great fellowship with fellow believers!

[ii] https://thefederalist.com/2019/09/09/drew-brees-shouldnt-ditched-christian-brothers-lies-twitter-mob/

[iii] Never mind that the Bible never talks about achieving this kind of goal (fairness, equity) by force, for example, but instead specifically upholds the rights of personal property:

“And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?…”

“No matter,” the world says…

[iv] Maybe that is what happened with the Canaanite woman when Jesus says “it’s not right to give the children’s bread to the dogs”?

Jesus Christ learns the hard way, through personal experience, that He just hadn’t been treating her right?

[v] Eventually, one will make judgements about the words and behaviors of others, whether those judgments are in line with God’s or not.

Our liberal theologian friend could presumably come to more clarity about the things he wanted clarity on—where people “get it” more and more—and are able to communicate what they “get” to one another in human language….

God, on the other hand, has presumably not given us, or has been unable to give us, any kind of such clarity in His word….

Right.

[vi] Does this mean that we should not help other categories of persons that are perhaps more common in our day and age? Even certain folks we are told are “marginalized”. No.

[vii] I think Jesus knew that the twist about dishonesty in the parable just makes us pay closer attention to His words so that they sink into our hearts. He knows the kind of messed-up attention span we sinners have.

 

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Posted by on September 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Fighting Critical Theory Approaches in the Academic Library World

“We are not altering the real to suit the ideal. We are altering the ideal: it is much easier…” — G.K. Chesterton

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The concluding paragraphs of my 2016 essay, “Is Authority Always Constructed and Contextual?A Classical Challenge to the Framework forInformation Literacy,” published in the Christian Librarian (see the actual article for the footnotes to this section):

Conclusion: A Proposed Way Forward

Clearly anyone endeavoring to explain issues related to authority faces a daunting task. An earlier version of the “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” frame in the [Association of College and Research Library’s] Framework [for Information Literacy in Higher Education] was obviously realized to be too simple: “Experts understand that authority is the degree of trust that is bestowed and as such, authority is both contextual and constructed” (Wilkinson, 2014). Even though issues of trust cannot be cleanly separated from notions of authority, one is readily able to understand why such a statement did not make it into the final document (or, perhaps, “Framework 1.0”). If anything is clear about issues pertaining to authority it is that, as the foregoing discussion shows, they are fraught with difficulty and require an extraordinarily high level of nuanced thinking.

“But perhaps,” one might say, “you have been treating this question largely in an ‘originalist’ fashion, when we should be highlighting the fact that this is a ‘living document’ – that is, one that is evolving.” In other words, your argument assumes a certain “stability” of words, meanings, or things in general that is wholly unwarranted, at the very least, for such an intentionally flexible document. “And besides,” one might add, “persons are not going to agree with all issues pertaining to moral authority, tied up as they are with the various views of the universe, or ‘cosmos,’ as a whole – and views about where or how purpose and meaning are ultimately to be found.”

So, in light of this, does it not makes sense to see things like the Framework as “kairotic texts” (Drabinski, 2014) and nothing more – meaning that we should “approach standards as functional” (Drabinski, 2014)? Even though the Framework makes assertions, do we really need to be overly concerned “over what is true and right,” embracing what amounts to undesirable reification? (Who, after all, wants a positivistic search for “acontextually authoritative and valid sources” contrary to a “more situated and participatory vision” [Foasberg, 2015]?) Even as we, simultaneously, continue to insist persons should conform themselves to the moral norms we are currently in the habit of asserting for ourselves and the communities we serve? Insofar as the Framework presents itself as a useful tool in attaining these temporary goals en route to higher goals, why not use it in just this way?

There is however, something inherently problematic here. Does true progress mean that we are always changing the world in accordance with our vision, or that we are always changing our vision? If we want to say “both” to this, we should note what the ever insightful G.K. Chesterton (1909) wrote, namely:

[progress] should mean that we are slow and sure in bringing justice and mercy among men: it does not mean that we are very swift in doubting the desirability of justice and mercy… We are not altering the real to suit the ideal. We are altering the ideal: it is much easier” (p. 195).

When it comes to being clear about important matters such as these, persons like Chesterton would seem to be decidedly against building the airplane while we are in the air, and point us towards the need for at least something solid.

So, in light of the foregoing discussion in this and previous sections, are there any anchor points that could be agreed on?

I think there are. First, take the question of whether authority is incontestably contextual in the sense suggested by the statement “Authority is Constructed and Contextual.” Consider, for instance, Cicero’s observation that “Nature produces a special love of offspring,” and Epictetus’ assertion that “Natural affection is a thing right according to Nature” (Lewis, 1996, p. 99). Is it not, in fact, the default “societal position” of parents to be responsible for, and to be quite invested in, their offspring, to become expert guides in reference to them in their particularities? In like fashion, consider the argument of 18th century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid, pointing out the curious fact underlying the evidently universal feeling of thankfulness: “Gratitude for favors only makes sense because a favor goes beyond what is just” (Holmes, 117). As for justice, one notes that Spinoza, following Plato, pointed out that “the beauty of proportionality” can cause one to “abhor a situation that would bring one into disproportion with everyone else” (Goldstein, 2014, pp. 204, 392, 39), and that this, in turn, harmonizes with the Golden Rule. This is just a sampling of things that it seems various groups of human beings do not so much design or construct (unconsciously or consciously), but rather, as if by intrinsic design, something a “human community of practice” recognizes and receives willingly (at least in theory, i.e., “sounds like a good idea”).

And this can be seen to go hand in hand with the kinds of things that the motorcycle mechanic philosopher Matthew Crawford says in his most recent book, The World Outside Your Head. He notes, for example, “the world is known to us because we live and act in it, and accumulate experience… we think through the body” (Crawford, 2015, pp. 50-51). In other words, at least certain things “outside our head” subsist “authoritatively,” creating what the literary scholar Hans Gumbrecht has called “presence effects” (2004, p. 108). These, in effect, exercise their own intrinsic meaning as they help structure our attention, thereby anticipating our minds’ interpretive activities. Current trends in Western education, on the other hand, would even seem to suggest that facts are true for individuals only if they can be proved (McBrayer, 2015).

Therefore, unless cultural traditions can be identified that exhibit both long-term endurance and a persistent tendency to contradict all of these evidently common experiences, why assert that “Authority is Constructed and Contextual,” giving the likely impression that it is always and only constructed but never really “given” – “a given”? Interestingly, it would seem to depend on the wider context of thestatement, “authority is contextual” to determine whether or not authority, in particular cases, can actually be said to be constructed in the sense meant by the Framework! In other words, authority, in an unanticipated “meta”-move, turns out to even more contextual than the statement suggests. Why? Because it gives the clear impression of undermining the intended meaning and goal of the phrase “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” itself, a phrase which is meant to highlight and emphasize the importance not of experiences common to all human beings, but rather the diversity and variations of human experience.

Academic currents espousing the wisdom of social constructivism, and its sister, pragmatism, might seem to suggest the statement “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” is what we want. But given things like those that have been pointed out above, is not a degree of skepticism called for here? Does not this statement, with its seemingly universal claim, introduce all manner of demonstrable confusion as well as call into question the importance of the matter of truth itself – and with this, rational discourse? If the student at a religious seminary, for instance, were to insist that authority is constructed and contextual, he might well find himself failing to graduate.9 Acknowledging that many would no doubt contest this seminary’s actions, we nevertheless cannot simply respond by saying “This just goes to show that authority is constructed differently in different contexts.” True?

Former Library of Congress librarian Thomas Mann, author of the Oxford Guide to Library Research (2015), after reading a rough draft of my paper, said this to me:

The problem with the assertion that “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” is that it is self-invalidating. The statement itself claims to be a universal truth about authority, maintaining that authority is always dependent on social constructions and contexts. If that is true, however, then the very assertion of that claim is itself nothing more than yet another statement grounded on a particular social construction that has no more authority to it – no more claim to true understanding – than any other statement claiming “authority” that has the power of some other social group behind it. This unarticulated and concealed proposition behind the statement leaves the door wide open to the very proliferation of hostile “us vs. them” groups that all are capable of amassing considerable power – with power being the ultimate determinative of which views shall prevail. Moreover, since the statement that “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” cannot possibly be a universal truth without contradicting itself, then the door is wide open to consider other statements regarding the nature of authority (and truth); and some of those other statements may indeed have much better claims to universality (T. Mann, personal communication, May 24, 2016).

When put so bluntly, it is difficult to resist Mann’s analysis. When the influential Richard Rorty defined truth as “what our peers will let us get away with saying,” how does this not, in effect, make truth liable to being nothing more than a power play for one’s advantage? From which it follows that it is really true (!) that it is ultimately only things that overpower other things that can be said to exist – to be. This certainly puts a new spin on what Aristotle said about truth, namely that “to say that which is, is and that which is not is not, is true”! With this assumed, the best among us can only be those who take and lead leaps of faith into oceans, hoping that the evolving beliefs we think are “good” – and not just our genes – will be spread and passed on. Here, any classical notions of knowledge as “justified true belief ” are banished, as whatever can function to win, if only temporarily, is all that remains for us to hope in. On the other hand, what if what we ultimately need is just such knowledge, and real wisdom, perhaps even involving a truth that even goes beyond “accuracy” – implying perhaps even a goodness that goes beyond our own subjective impressions?

Even if one thinks that such questions are not ideal for an increasingly secular age, should we not at least honestly wrestle with the issues presented above – and perhaps be content to assert that “Issues of Authority are Nuanced and Contextual”? Here is something I think almost all of us can agree is true – at least now – full stop. Perhaps being concerned about what is really true is more important than where the academic trends of constructivism and pragmatism seem to be taking us. At the very least, re-framing this statement from the Framework would allow for those who want to ask questions like this – and who in fact believe the answer is affirmative – to continue in their practices without finding them unintentionally undermined.

FIN

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Rolling the Dice vs. Trusting God’s Promises: A Critique of Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved.

 

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This post is actually a point-by-point critique of an extended quote from David Bentley Hart’s new book That All Shall Be Saved. 

Though I have not read the whole book (yes, feel free to stop reading now), I thought I would make the effort to respond rather fulsomely to the quote from the book that Eastern Orthodox priest Aidan Kimel put on his blog (from pp. 40-42).

I guessed it was what Father Kimel believed to be a key snippet in the book and so thought it would be a good exercise for me to tackle it.

Of course, I respond in accordance with the 1580 Book of Concord, which builds on the 1530 Augsburg Confession, which in turn claims to represent the historic teaching of the catholic church.

And yes, I realize that there may well be other parts of his book where he challenges thinking like mine. If this is the case, feel free to let me know! I have not written the book off as something I will not read.

Hart’s words are in dark blue.

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“The more one is in one’s right mind—the more, that is, that one is conscious of God as the Goodness that fulfills all beings, and the more one recognizes that one’s own nature can have its true completion and joy nowhere but in him, and the more one is unfettered by distorting misperceptions, deranged passions, and the encumbrances of past mistakes—the more inevitable is one’s surrender to God.”

Hart is describing the attitude of the person who is already saved, and who is growing in a knowledge of God’s grace and, yes, love towards God.

It is not that a non-Christian cannot believe that “one’s own nature can have its true completion and joy nowhere but in [God]”—even if there are fewer of these kinds of non-Christians these days. The point is that even though one may believe this—they in fact know this even as this knowledge is suppressed—this does not mean that one can really understand just what this means in terms of following through accordingly. The man under the wrath of God may in fact be a theist or even think the man Jesus Christ was God but also have a completely false understanding of how and why man may finds true completion and joy—namely, through trust in the atoning and life-giving work of the man Jesus Christ as revealed in the Christian Scriptures.

“Liberated from all ignorance, emancipated from all the adverse conditions of this life, the rational soul could freely will only its own union with God, and thereby its own supreme beatitude.”

In other words, none of us can be saved because in this world, none of us is “liberated from all ignorance” and “emancipated from all the adverse conditions of this life”. This is because we are, by nature, fallen creatures under God’s wrath who live in a fallen world. We are certainly given the impression from the Holy Scriptures that man prior to the fall into sin did not possess all of the knowledge that we were meant to have – and again, neither does the one saved by God’s grace in Christ. Man prior to the fall, however, could have grown in that understanding not without the challenge of temptation, but certainly without sin. The sin which will entangle us until we are made fully and completely new when Christ returns. There is no reason to think that Adam and Eve’s continuing to be able to fear, love, and trust in God above all things was contingent on them having gained all the knowledge that they were eventually meant to have. Why would we not assume that they were right where they needed to be at the time? God does place great value on faith for a reason.

“We are, as it were, doomed to happiness, so long as our natures follow their healthiest impulses unhindered;”

The problem is that our natures are wholly unable to follow their healthiest impulses unhindered, for apart from God’s grace man’s desires are both wholly tainted and misdirected. It is only believers, those who have been made new creatures in Christ, who are able to begin to do this, albeit imperfectly, in accordance with their new natures.

“…we cannot not will the satisfaction of our beings in our true final end, a transcendent Good lying behind and beyond all the proximate ends we might be moved to pursue.”

While Hart is right to proclaim a “transcendent Good lying behind and beyond all the proximate ends we might be moved to pursue,” we are, nevertheless, unable to pursue our true final end (see previous answer above). Only those given the grace of God are they who will, in their true final end, be free from all sin, sorrow, pain, and death.

“This is no constraint upon the freedom of the will, coherently conceived; it is simply the consequence of possessing a nature produced by and for the transcendent Good: a nature whose proper end has been fashioned in harmony with a supernatural purpose.”

While is true that our nature is “produced by and for the transcendent Good” and for a “supernatural purpose,” our nature, being fallen, is spiritually unable to pursue this in the least apart from the grace of God, whom the Lord bestows on those who hear and believe the Gospel, when and where He pleases.

“God has made us for himself, as Augustine would say, and our hearts are restless till they rest in him.”

True. And none seek this rest rightly. Hart, by the way, is not in line with Augustine in any of this.

“A rational nature seeks a rational end: Truth, which is God himself.”

Our souls continue to be rational only in the sense that we provide reasons. We are arguing animals who give reasons to others for acting in the way that we do. Even if we may be inclined, at this or that time in life, to seek some truth, none of this means that man ever seeks the whole Truth apart from the grace of God given in Christ Jesus.

“The irresistibility of God for any soul that has been truly set free…”

Who is the One who is wholly set free? The one who believes in the Son of God; the one who is set free by the One who grants grace, repentance and faith.

“….is no more a constraint placed upon its liberty than is the irresistible attraction of a flowing spring of fresh water in a desert place to a man who is dying of thirst; to choose not to drink in that circumstance would be not an act of freedom on his part, but only a manifestation of delusions that enslave him and force him to inflict violence upon himself, contrary to his nature.”

True enough, but this is exactly what sinful man is determined to do because this is what he, in his heart of hearts, desires to do. Even if he wants to believe in God, he does not want to do this rightly, for he suppresses the truth about God and his creation that he knows.

“A woman who chooses to run into a burning building not to save another’s life, but only because she can imagine no greater joy than burning to death, may be exercising a kind of “liberty,” but in the end she is captive to a far profounder poverty of rational freedom. So, yes, we can act irrationally, but that is no more than a trivial deliberative power; it is not yet true liberty. Only because there is such a thing as a real rational terminus for intentional action, which is objectively distinguishable from irrational ends, is there such a thing as real freedom.”

True enough. The book of James speaks about the perfect law that gives freedom. The problem though is that even those who claim the Name of Christ and follow this law externally, before the eyes of men,  may do so for reasons that are impure and misdirected and hence, ultimately, evil and damnable.

“This is, in fact, an ancient Christian orthodoxy, common to the teachings of the church fathers and great mediaeval theologians; and, were it not true, the whole edifice of the Christian conception of existence and of creation and of God and of the unity of the ontological and moral dimensions of reality would entirely collapse.”

Yes. Christian orthodoxy has always spoken about the perfect law that gives freedom. In fact, in the Lutheran tradition, Martin Luther said that the law of God, exemplified in the 10 commandments, was eternal.

“Even the suicide is merely fleeing pain and seeking a peace that the world cannot give, though he or she might be able in the crucial moment of decision to imagine this peace only under the illusory form of oblivion; his or her fault is one only of perception,….”

Why is this important? If the fault is one “only of perception” it is because man has a perception which is at total war with God and therefore under His wrath. Whether one follows one’s own “law” or God’s law before the eyes of men, apart from the grace of God he will only follow it in accordance with twisted desires, evil motivations, and self-justifying reasons.

“…in a moment of severe confusion and sadness, and certainly not some ultimate rejection of God.”

On the contrary! It is indeed an ultimate rejection of God. Apart from the grace of God in Christ, there is nothing but the ultimate rejection of God in any of us.

One cannot even choose nothingness, at least not as nothingness; to will nonexistence positively, one must first conceive it as a positive end, and so one can at most choose it as the “good” cessation of this world, and therefore as just another mask of that which is supremely desirable in itself.”

Thinking like this that gave rise to Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Even the most “noble” of human beings by the standards of this world is at war against God. Even the saint in the church who follows God’s law externally (“blameless”) and yet relies on his own actions can hope for nothing but damnation. Anyone who believes they are seeking after what is good will not be able to find such good apart from the grace of God! For though they might want to find some good or truth on earth or in heaven they can only do so from false desires and motivations. As such, even their most heartfelt and sincere actions can never reliably find God. In fact, some who assert that God can be found in this way displease Him, for the law was given not to attain the grace of God but to show us our sin (Romans 3:20). Even if the Apostle Paul encourages non-Christians to seek God (Acts 17:27), we also read the following:

  • The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (I Cor. 1:18).
  • The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness… (I Cor. 2:14).
  • That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6).
  • All of us [Christians] also lived among [the unbelievers] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
  • No one understands; no one seeks for God (Rom. 3:11).

The real point is that unbelievers do seek wrongly, but even wrong seeking can nevertheless be beneficial when it leads to hearing God’s Word!

“In the end, even when we reject the good, we always do so out of a longing for the Good.”

We long for God because we were created for Him. That said, we do not long for God rightly. We do not acknowledge Him in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And even if we do think and believe at some level that Jesus is this, we do not even begin to do so with appropriate fear, love, and trust apart from His grace which transforms our hearts. Again, even if we seem to acknowledge and hold to His law externally, our motivations for following His law are both impure and misdirected.

“We may not explicitly conceive of our actions in this way, but there is no question that this is what we are doing. We act always toward an end that we desire, whether morally, affectively, or pathologically; and, so long as we are rational agents, that end is the place where the “good” and the “desirable” are essentially synonymous terms.”

This assumes that every decision a rational agent makes will be good. Again though, as seen above, to be rational means simply to be a creature, who, unlike other creatures, gives reasons. One attempts to justify what one does to others. Furthermore, what one desires and what is really good are often very different things, even when we talk about the decisions one makes here on earth, much less any decision one might make about spiritual matters. Here, again, man’s will is complete incapacitated, as we are by nature children of wrath.

“And our ability to will anything at all, in its deepest wellsprings, is sustained by this aboriginal orientation within us toward that one transcendental Good that alone can complete us, and that prompts reason to move the will toward an object of longing.”

Sure, but all is twisted and awry, and always will be apart from the grace of God in Christ which pulls us out of this darkness into the light.

“Needless to say, we can induce moral ignorance in ourselves through our own wicked actions and motives;…”

All human beings do this because we are sinners. Some, however, may give up completely following God’s law, flinging themselves headlong into increased sin. They might find themselves denying God exists, calling evil good, or being more and more unable to detect the sinful things they do.

“…but, conversely, those wicked actions and motives are themselves possible only on account of some degree of prior ignorance on our part.”

This assumes that if we know the good we will do it. Socrates aside, that is not true of sinners.

“This circles admits of no breaks; it has no beginning or end, no point of entry or exit. When, therefore, we try to account for the human rejection of God, we can never trace the wanderings of the will back to some primordial moment of perfect liberty, some epistemically pristine instant when a perverse impulse spontaneously arose within an isolated, wholly sane individual will,…”

The impression given in the Scriptures is that Adam and Eve were innocent until they violated God’s command and basically changed their nature (now blaming one another, realizing they were naked and feeling shame, fleeing from God). The reason for their sinning is certainly a great and terrible mystery, but the text gives every impression that they were meant to overcome in some way, shape, or form, the temptation that God allowed in the Garden.

“…or within a mind perfectly cognizant of the whole truth of things;”

The fact that the church has always taught that sin will not be possible in heaven certainly goes hand in hand with the increased knowledge that we will have. Also a fear, love, and trust that is no longer simply innocent but also fully mature. One that has fully matured and become one who for whom sin is simply never going to happen, even if some form of temptation were still present.

“…we will never find that place where some purely uncompelled apostasy on the part of a particular soul, possessed of a perfect rational knowledge of reality, severed us from God.”

Man did not need to have a perfect rational knowledge of reality in order to have good reason for trusting God’s commandment. Neither does the fact that Adam and Eve’s apostasy was compelled in some way (not in the sense that it was forced on them, but that they were swayed by another other than their Lord) mean that their culpability was not sufficiently serious to warrant both their spiritual and physical death. They had been warned.

“Such a movement of volition would have had no object to prompt it, and so could never have been a real rational choice.”

He is saying that such a movement of volition would have had no object [of goodness] to prompt it, and therefore this choice would not have been rational. But so what? This is the introduction of sin into the world, something which is not rational. For it has no good reason, no good explanation, to give to God for its action.

“Thus it is, for instance, that the Eastern church fathers, when interpreting the story of Eden, generally tended to ascribe the cause of the fall to the childlike ignorance of unformed souls, not yet mature enough to resist false notions (and this, lest we forget, accords exactly with the Eden story in Genesis, which tells the story of two persons so guileless and ignorant that they did not even know they were naked until a talking snake had shown them the way to the fruit of knowledge).”

This seem to be the thought: Adam and Eve, not fully mature, are not fully guilty. That, to be sure, goes against every impression left by the biblical text. “Did God really say?”

“Hence, absolute culpability—eternal culpability—lies forever beyond the capacities of any finite being.”

Rolling the dice.

“So does an eternal free defiance of the Good. We are not blameless, certainly; but, then again, that very fact proves that we have never been entirely free not to be blameless—and so neither can we ever be entirely to blame.”

There is no absolutely no good reason to assume that Adam and Eve were not entirely free to be without sin.

They knew what they needed to know, and God had provided everything for all of their needs, and that is all there is to the matter.

FIN

 

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Build the Tower. Fight the War (sermon text and video)

 

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” – Luke 14:33

 

+++

 

In the Gospels it seems like many who go to see Jesus aren’t necessarily His followers but are often just curious… or maybe they even just want a good ringside seat for some fireworks… (David Garland).

And sometimes, maybe even we who truly believe are tempted to do that as well!

Maybe this is just one of the reasons it seems that Jesus is always eager to challenge us… keep us evaluating, keep us assessing, keep us guessing, keep us asking… “What does this mean?”

+++

In our specific Gospel text for today, Jesus tells the great crowds accompanying him – and us as well – that we must hate our family and our own lives, carry our cross like him, and, well… give up everything we have.

What about honoring one’s father and mother?

What about easy yokes and light burdens?

What about an abundant life?

Here, it seems like being a Christian is really, really hard… Maybe even impossible!

It almost might sound like Jesus is trying to discourage us… “Should you really be a Christian?”

And yet, once again – we dare not forget the importance of context!

What else, after all, do we see surrounding this passage in the book of Luke?

Well, we see, on one side, the great message of the wedding banquet! You know the story….

[briefly sum it up]

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”

And on the other side, we also see the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son….

[briefly tell it]

+++

So just what is going on here in this short snippet sandwiched between these great accounts of God’s grace?

Well, Jesus is asking us to be steely-eyed about everything, and so He is warning us of the very real dangers we face.

Jesus is being a realist. “There is no escaping it” He says. You can’t be friends with the world and its ways. Discipleship will demand sacrifice and suffering.

Count the cost.

The world doesn’t get Jesus but it has an idea of what realism entails, even as, yes, it also understands the capacity of human beings to deceive themselves (but, ironically, if often can’t tell when it itself is being deceived…)

Anyway, realism.

I recently was reminded of Jesus’ words in our text today when I read the following from an economist:

“For the past couple of years I’ve been binging on war and battle documentaries and podcasts.  In part to learn history.  In part to learn about military tactics.  But also in part because I find it a fascinating study on economics.  Specifically the complete and total ignoring of it.  Because in nearly every instance of battle, war, and invasion the winner always had better economics.  And had the opponent in the war merely took the time to measure and assess their resources and economic efficiency against their adversary, most wars would have never been fought, millions of lives never lost, and thousands of economies never ruined.

Still, even to this day, economics I believe plays a subdued or unrecognized role in warfare and battle.  WWII is about the only war where resources maybe made it to the forefront, perhaps the frontal cortex of the Allies’ brains.  But Hitler and Hirohito failed miserably to assess their economics versus the Allies and millions died and perished because of it.  Had Hitler and Hirohito just had better economics, WWII would have never started.

Still, this is the price we pay as a society for mis-measuring other countries’ economics and economic potential.  Millions dead.  Economies destroyed.  Centuries lost.  And hundreds of millions of affected family members.  And so if we can do a better job assessing economic reality, we stand to gain tremendously as a global society.”

Now, maybe this economist is seeing everything through his own biased economist lens, or maybe he is right on the money. I don’t know. But just like this economist, Jesus is saying “Pay attention and be realistic! – take account of the facts on the ground and don’t you dare not be practical.”

And like our economist, Jesus is also, by the way, thinking about war.

Again, if you are a Christian… if you don’t feel likes its really happened to you already (I’m guessing it has), you are going to realize that the world is at odds with you, and in fact, is going to hate you.

At some point, this will hit you like a ton of bricks…

And Jesus doesn’t want you to be unprepared.

+++

Let’s look at what our Lord says again:

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”

Again, Jesus’ point in all of these short parables today is for us to be realistic and count the cost. Don’t think for a minute that He wants you or anyone else to ask for terms of peace!

That would be to surrender to the world, your flesh, and the devil.

Our God doesn’t want you to fall into all the temptations to throw in your lot with those who are fixated on the world and its ways!

Possessions?

Those can be taken away at any time. Cultivate your attitude of abandonment (Gaebelein) and be prepared to run lightly…

Hate your relatives?

They don’t give you the identity that lasts into eternity. You are always to prefer God and to serve Him above anyone else.

Crosses to be carried daily?

If they persecuted your Master won’t they persecute you?

Hence all throughout the book of Luke we see similar warnings:

  • “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
  • “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
  • “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
  • “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three….”

And we remember the parable of the sower of seed, where in some cases Satan immediately snatches the seed out of hearts, or hearts fall away when tested… or life’s riches, cares and pleasures choke whatever faith such hearts may have had…

I hope “not so!” with me! I hope “not so!” with you!

Let our hearts be the good ones who keep and treasure the Word planted.

Let we who have ears hear!

Again, Jesus wants us to see that there is a war going on here!

In his parable about building the tower just before his parable about the armies, some commentators make the case that this is also related to war.

It is likely a military tower… a military outpost that serves as a defensive fortification. And the army illustration, of course, speaks to this defensive posture in war as well.

Indeed, Jesus wants us to be those prepared for the siege, for all-out battle.

To fight.

And, I believe, to do so realizing that the way we become a Christian is the way we stay a Christian….

+++

What do I mean? We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.

We continue to live in this world in exactly the same way.

In sharing these parables about the tower and army, God is rousing us not to shrink back, but to fight.

Like Peter, we are meant to cry out “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”

He means for us to recognize not only His total Authority but our total and utter dependence on Him for everything.

Again, not in a million years are we meant to conclude that embarking on this course is something we could never do (Marshall).

Perhaps something only for the morally strong.

Or for the morally fit.

Or, even for those who are just prudent risk managers (David Garland)!

Indeed, even from the more noble worldly point of view, becoming a disciple of Jesus would be imprudent since the power of raw human desire — “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” as the Apostle John puts it – seems so powerful and overwhelming…

“This Jesus clearly doesn’t get what He’s asking… He’s not being realistic”

“Wrong,” He says, steely-eyed….

And then He asks “Will you go away too?”

Our Lord is in fact communicating to us that the very survival of True Love, Life, and Light – everything good, true, and beautiful that we have begun to experience in this world — is at stake.

So with Him it is all or nothing.

No half-measures are in play here!…

Fight.

The.

War.  

You say you can’t do it? You can’t but you must – and you don’t know where to turn?

I get it. I’m there.

Remember this though: we aren’t meant to conclude that this is something that we can do on our own, from our own internal and intrinsic powers… but only with Him and the grace and strength He provides us.

  • Having seen His great love, do we find ourselves, even at the most minimal level, wanting to throw in our lot with Him?
  • Having been invited to this great feast of the great King, do we have visions of being able to participate in this wonderful King’s work, His war?
  • Do we see that His war is an awe-inspiring mission to rescue those held in captivity by the forces of evil?: sin, death, and the devil?
  • Do we want Him to be able to rely on us as faithful soldiers in the battle that He has, for all practical purposes, has already won?
  • Do we believe that His resurrection shows that His work at the cross was the Greatest Victory?
  • And that He is coming again to rescue us, His people, in the final battle?

These are the key issues – the bigger picture – that all of us need to understand are at stake here….

+++

One way or another, one must lose everything.

And for those elect of God, those called by God, to “lose your life” means nothing more than to submit to what you hear from our Great Master and Commander

….the crucified One who really counted the cost.

So surrender!

…but not to the world, but to the King of Grace.

On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my Life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!

That is the song the church keeps singing.

And rest assured, without Him and His Purposes in the picture, we will certainly lose any saltiness we might have previously had….

And we might indeed lose that which was so easy to gain in the first place – our very free salvation.

And again, that of course, is not what He wants.

He calls us to war, wanting us to fight against the world and to fight with Him.

And the paradoxes that result from this are many:

  • Only in this way will yokes be easy and burdens light.
  • Only in this way will we must fully understand what it means to honor one’s father and mother.
  • Only in this way will we know abundant life.
  • Only in this way will the hope of heaven and all its rewards seem to be totally worth it….

Because heaven is where Jesus, our King of Grace, will be.

Brothers and sisters, Abide in His Word.[i]

+++

Let’s talk through just a bit more about what this means for us in practical terms, in the context that surrounds us today.

To enter the Christian life is to be called into lifelong battle.

It is a battle, however, that is so unlike the battles that are fought in the world…

Again, our Lord’s is a spiritual mission of rescue that results in eternal salvation from sin, death, the devil and hell.

It is a spiritual war of justice—with an emphasis on grace and mercy—vs. the world’s forces of evil and oppression.[ii]

And as compatible as our faith and our culture may have often seemed, they, actually, aren’t going to like people being serious about following Jesus.

Hearing us, they are often not going to convert, and will be very confused.

Again, be realistic!

The world hates this message!

“Isn’t complete and total cultural and political freedom after all, the most important thing in life?”

No.

Many will never grasp the “good news” because they don’t want to hear the Bible’s realistic – true – message about what has happened in the world and the way things subsequently are…

  • Stop going on about how we live in a fallen world! A “Genesis 3” world!
  • Hey Apostle Paul, in your letter to Philemon, stop leaving us with the impression that God was actually alright with certain kinds of slavery even as he also encouraged masters to do better!
  • Stop saying that there are limits to what freedom might mean and I can’t live my life anyway I please or be whoever I think I am or dream of being!
  • Stop telling me that there are limits to what my imagination can shape and build!
  • Stop talking about death likes it’s an enemy and not a part of the way things are!
  • You medieval freak, stop talking about how we are sinners and need God’s forgiveness!
  • Stop saying that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life!

Don’t get me wrong.

Some will hear and believe!

Often those who we have just been human with …

and who have felt welcomed and loved by us will hear us out, and even be transformed, by the power of the word of God!

It can’t not happen, because we are salt, and it is in fact the Word of Christ, working in all places but especially through us, that preserves this world and gives it the little joy it does experience…

We have joined an army with the Lord as our Commander who will not falter and who supplies all of our provisions.

Aware of the enemy’s tactics and eager to counter them, this army ultimately aims to open up the Kingdom of Heaven to all people.

It is an odd army of mercy, who, like their Lord, eagerly gives the promise of paradise to those enemies of God dying to the left of them and to the right of them, if only they would have it.

It gives to those who have nothing to give, and who can pay nothing back.

We, God’s people, like God Himself, are driven by true justice, and this means in part to be profligate with compassion, mercy, and grace.

So go out and tell them to come in. Seek the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son.

Build the tower.

Fight the war.

Stay salty.

Amen

 

 

[i] As we abide in His Word, our eyes are fixated primarily on the stories of God’s grace and mercy while not excluding passages that demand everything we are and have.

These all need to go together.

The parables and accounts of God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ – about His desire for and seeking out the lost – like the very ones that surround our reading for today: the parable of the wedding feast. The parables of the lost coin, sheep and son.

…these are really, ultimately, the food or fuel that drive us.

It is by God’s grace that we remain in this grace, and keep grace-focused eyes.

It is through God’s grace that we recognize the fight that we have before us and that we are able to maintain this orientation and outlook.

…that is to know in our heart of hearts that God’s grace not only for us but for our neighbors as well…

Our mission, like his, is to love each and every human being – to desire their good and their final salvation.

When God says that He desires all persons to be saved, this desire should be ours as well.

[ii] And regarding the final judgment, Christians will judge the world as Jesus says and Paul echoes.

That said, prior to the final judgment, Christians of course were to judge as God judges: showing mercy – both pity in the form of physical assistance and the forgiveness of God Himself through Christ – to all, first to the believer and then to the terrified unbeliever.

 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Interjecting Myself Into the B. Mason — N. Shenvi Debate

Comment:

Bradly,

“And the new quotes culled to ground his four “tenets” are simply never presented in Sensoy/DiAngelo’s work as the core tenets of CT, CRT, or CSJ; again, this is just a construction—a reconstruction—of ideas common to and included in CT, though never presented as distinguishing nor determinative. When Sensoy/DiAngelo (or any other Crits) do offer definitions or overviews of CT, these “tenets” just aren’t present.”

If I might say so, this, perhaps, is the real sticking point. It is rare that you are going to find a conservative Christian who highly values God’s word and also takes the writings of CT writers at absolute face value, like you are admirably (I think!) trying to do.

Still, if CT is anti-essentialist as you say and all is socially constructed — if people are operating within this frame — what does this mean? It means that they are at war with God and hence all their thinking — whatever good insights they may possess — is ultimately going to be geared to overthrowing His authority and work in creation (and word)

Why? If all is socially constructed this just means it is much easier to justify misleading or even outright lying to persons ***about what you really think are the core issues*** — and then justifying one’s self as not being a liar at all! Why? Because, as one Lutheran pastor in our LC-MS flock recently put it, “preaching is worldmaking”. And many non-Christian-preachers say “Amen” too.

That phrase about “worldmaking,” I suppose, can be understood in a Christian way, but you know those sympathetic to the sophists, for example, might take that in another direction. One can justify not being a liar because our words are important and we know they certainly have the power to create all manner of positive change and cause no small measure of [Hegelian] evolution! We make reality — to a degree!

We *know* these changes need to happen and we must do it, and so the means justify the ends (eggs and omelets), but it is now tempered a bit by the [conflicted] Christian convictions in the mix….

This is how many influential people in the world, driven by Vico’s historicism/Hegelianism (subconsciously or consciously), operate. And here, given that they don’t have an authoritative source outside of the Bible that clarifies what is natural or good, we need to challenge them mightily for lack of grounding of their certainty (for while they might be right in some areas, they go so, so wrong in many others). So, as I put it in a critique of the American Library Association’s tenet that “authority is constructed in contextual”:

“When the influential Richard Rorty defined truth as “what our peers will let us get away with saying,” how does this not, in effect, make truth liable to being nothing more than a power play for one’s advantage? From which it follows that it is really true (!) that it is ultimately only things that overpower other things that can be said to exist – to be. This certainly puts a new spin on what Aristotle said about truth, namely that “to say that which is, is and that which is not is not, is true”! With this assumed, the best among us can only be those who take and lead leaps of faith into oceans, hoping that the evolving beliefs we think are “good” – and not just our genes – will be spread and passed on. Here, any classical notions of knowledge as “justified true belief” are banished, as whatever can function to win, if only temporarily, is all that remains for us to hope in. On the other hand, what if what we ultimately need is just such knowledge, and real wisdom, perhaps even involving a truth that even goes beyond “accuracy” – implying perhaps even a goodness that goes beyond our own subjective impressions?”

https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/tcl/vol59/iss2/6/

Ultimately, I think this is the kind of thing we need to be thinking hard about and challenging the world about — and also in the church: how it affects how we are seeing all of these critical questions about race.

I believe that deception is occurring and the father of lies is having a field day with our culture right now. How conscious any of the deception is among the humans involved I don’t know… Many deceive others, I believe, without even being aware that they are doing it. This would be because they would also be deceiving themselves. After all, we suppress all kinds of knowledge of God, His creation, and its ways.

+Nathan

Another unanswered comment I left on his previous post as well:

Bradly,

“…given a society structured to distribute advantages and disadvantages according to socially constructed group membership, dominant groups are in a structurally oppressive relation to subordinate groups, by virtue of said distribution…”

What if your socially constructed group identity has to do with holding on to certain cultural distinctives, like a certain language and the privileging of one religion over another? Is that necessarily defined as oppressive to the minority group not holding to these things? If not, why not?

+Nathan

This is the kind of the stuff that both of my published papers in the library world dealt with as well.

For a crash course in social constructivism and social constructionism, check out this post as well.

And again, all of this grossly anti-biblical stuff can be traced back to Vico’s historicism.

The end effect and key point?

All of this makes is possible for the old Social Gospel stuff to come back in postmodern garb…

FIN

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

“Finding God at the State Fair” by Paul Strawn

Today is the last day of the very popular Minnesota State Fair (you still have several hours to get in on the action!).

We went on opening day, a couple of Thursdays ago, and I thank my son Sam for taking the pictures you see in this blog post.

The great piece which follows on finding God at the State Fair was written by my pastor, Paul Strawn, in our church’s September newsletter. I hope you enjoy it!:

A common question, it seems, is how people discover whether or not God is working in their lives. Assumed is that God exists, but He only interacts with people now and then to achieve what He wants to achieve. Of course believers, like the prophets, even like Jesus Himself, have better access to God, are more consistent in their interaction with God, and so enjoy more of God’s attention—so such thinking goes. God is therefore like a basketball coach, or a band director, or a teacher, who cannot help and advise everyone all the time, but must focus his or her attention on individuals, one person at a time.

So many…. How to get God’s attention?

The trick? How to get God’s attention! Proximity would appear to help. When I was in band in high school the flutes and clarinets seemed to dominate the attention of our director, mostly because they were sitting right in front of him! In basketball it was the talented, the tall, that garnered more of the coach’s time. Perhaps in business it is the workers who are of greatest importance to the success of a project that enjoy the lion’s share of the boss’s attention.

Ultimately, no matter what the method used, the quest, the desire, for help, for attention from one who is greater, or higher, or has more authority and power than we have is understandable. And so understandable as well is the question as to how to get God’s attention, so that we can have Him work in our lives for us in some way! In any way!

The funny thing is, God is working in all of our lives, every single day. And in countless ways.

Need proof? Go to the state fair. There you will see how God works through all those around us to provide for us daily all that we need to support this body and life. Wherever you turn at the state fair, from the hog barn, to the miracle of birth center, to the radio and television venues, to the science building, to machinery hill, to the heritage center, to the world market, to the education building, the 4-H building, etc. you will discover how our loving heavenly Father works each day to sustain us with food, clothing, medicine, education, work, in short, everything we need! Thought about in this way, it truly is overwhelming!

How do we understand this? Martin Luther used the idea of the “masks of God,” that is, whenever we receive what we need to live from another person we are receiving it from God, wearing the mask, as it were, of that person, of our friend, or coworker, or parent, or even a stranger. When someone at a food stand hands us a treat, it is God who is doing so. When we are being taught how to tend bees, it is God who is doing so. When we are helped to find something we are looking for, it is God who is helping us find it.

Yes, I know, the state fair can seem like a bit of excess, of all sorts of people making all sorts of effort to somehow separate us from the few dollars that we have in our pocket. And what do we get in return? Sunburn, sore feet, and a few extra pounds that will take weeks to work off!

But what really is going on there? Is it not an annual opportunity—really the only opportunity I know of—for us to be reminded of just how many ways our loving heavenly Father takes care of us? Psalm 145 is, at the end of the day, simply true: “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

FIN

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2019 in Uncategorized