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Why We Need Moses and the Prophets Today

25 Sep

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“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

– Luke 16:31

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Yes, again, the Bible talks a lot about money.

And it is not only God, who, speaking through the Apostle Paul, believes that the love of money is the root of all evil (not a root of all kinds of evil, as I think more anemic modern translations put it).

Again, thoughtful persons throughout our history, often thoughtful persons with a lot of money too, have talked about all the problems that money can cause… about the pain and suffering it can bring….

And many see it as driving most everything and creating most every evil. Hence, many incorrectly say that the Bible says that money itself and not the love of it is the root of all evil… 

It in itself is not evil, but money can certainly cause many griefs, exacerbating our issues with foolish and harmful desires. 

Again, even many unbelievers realize – and are right to realize – that the world is indeed “broken”, as they say. With many broken people as well…

This realization mirrors the Bible’s evaluation of the world: The fallen creation groans, groans like a woman in labor, in expectation for its redemption…

Even though, again, there is a wrongness here too regarding the beliefs of many in the world… as many suppress the true nature of the problem — thinking, like the influential 18th c. Frenchman Jean Jacque Rousseau, that man himself is not fallen by nature and that it is only “society” that is bad… causing man’s issues and ultimately being at blame for his problems (instead of man being evil by nature, intrinsically evil, that is, infected by sin…)

So, finding the main problem *outside of themselves* they who are at heart, at bottom, naturally good (they believe), look to inspire others to move ahead with hope… looking for this or that change now! 

Transformation now! 

And a part of this is that many want justice to come…. They want men like the rich and selfish man in Jesus’ parable dealt with, and dealt with swiftly… 

Action!

So, they themselves being the change they are looking for, want a Jesus who helps them transform the world, who can level society by cutting many down to size, and even to help them “heal it and make it a better place…” 

…but do they want this last sentence of the parable?

Do they want this last sentence of the parable?

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“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

This final statement in the Gospel reading for today exalts the Old Testament of the Bible, which you may have heard, is the best-selling book of all time.

Truly, there was a time in this country when what Jesus says here would have not seemed so jarring, so shocking, so out-of-place on the face of it…

It was not long ago in America that you might be able to find people who were not Christians or who weren’t sure what they believed but at least knew that they were supposed to respect, to have reverence for, the Bible.

For even if it was little read, it was nevertheless widely believed to be the Word of God… if not to at least contain the Word of God…

Those days appear to be behind us now…

Not long ago, I spent the day working with a self-proclaimed “crazy Mexican” who was about my age. We had a good time talking about a number of topics, some religious ones too.

You see, earlier in that day, he had said “thank you, Jesus” in a way that was like a sincere prayer, and I took that as an invitation to inquire further. 

I found out that he did not think that God was a personal Creator distinct from his creation but that He was actually impersonal and that the world itself was God. Jesus was not the Creator who at one point became man but simply a good example for us about how any one of us is God and should act appropriately. And the Bible was not God’s Word but a flawed but otherwise valuable book written by wise human beings. 

I also listened to a podcast this past week with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller. It was a replay of a 2019 interview she had with the popular liberal religion scholar Karen Armstrong. 

Armstrong was talking with Miller before an audience at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul about “The Lost Art of Scripture” and had some ideas that my Mexican colleague would seem likely to embrace. 

Conflating all world religions as being one in the same, she spoke about how God is existence itself, being itself, which, without any further explanation, undoubtedly meant to her audience that God and the creation or cosmos are one in the same…

Muddling everything together, she said that “Scripture wasn’t telling us doctrines that we had to believe” but rather wasn’t coherent and it created a muddle… and that when we speak of the Divine, we simply go beyond what any words or thoughts can do…

Scripture, she also claimed, isn’t something that we should go back to to live from. Rather, it is an “innovative art” that must always move forward…

You can bet that when Ms. Armstrong said that “You must make those texts written centuries ago speak to now…” she was not thinking about how she could help her audience to better understand Luke 16:31, and to realize how important it is to realize how we should submit to the biblical texts, much less Moses and the prophets….

I know this for sure because right after saying “You must make those texts written centuries ago speak to now…” she goes on to say “…and that means change it…”

To my Mexican friend, I had explained that some more liberal Christians explain the Bible in this way. They say that “some Christians put a period where God means to put a comma… God is still speaking…” and he liked the sound of that.

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And it seems to me that the recently deceased Barbara Ehrenreich, who as an advocate for the poor wrote the best-selling book Nickel and Dimed about her experiences going undercover as a blue-collar worker, would also like the sound of this.

Queen Elizabeth may have passed away recently, but I heard a number of socialist commentators focus on Ehrenreich this past week, praising her for being Our Queen, the Left’s Queen, the Real Queen….

On another podcast I listened to, a man named Gabriel Winant shared something which he thought summed up Ehrenreich’s thought and philosophy. 

Basically, Ehrenreich felt that if we could fully embrace female sexuality and communism as well, rejoicing in the “softness and the permeability of the world around us”, the barriers that divide men and women, the “high” and the “low”, would “crumble in the face of this new energy” and we could all live in harmony; instead of “holding ourselves back in lonely dread…” we could be revolutionaries in the cause of life” (bold mine) 

Revolutionaries indeed. 

As another commentator speaking of Ehrenreich’s influence put it, “we need to transform the totality of social existence…”

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When you are rich, powerful, and successful – when you have most everything your heart wants – you might have a hard time thinking that you need to hear from God, that you need a prophet… In fact, the Bible tells us so.

In like fashion, when you are among the intellectual elites who believe we must  “transform the totality of social existence…” countering the patriarchal and fascist violence that has reigned throughout history, now even “raping the earth” as it seeks Dominion…

…you also might not have much use for a message from some “Father-God” purportedly passed on from one corrupt generation to the next… 

If you’d like to learn more about this kind of viewpoint — and it is good for some of us at least to know our enemies well — I’d recommend reading, for example, Riane Eisler’s book, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future.

The 19th century German philosopher Karl Marx – one of both Ehrenreich’s and Eisler’s inspirations – also did not have much respect for tradition, particularly Christian tradition.

After all, what had the past brought us except endless oppression of the poor, the great masses of mankind, by the rich, the bourgeois? And who since then, many say today, has caused our environmental issues with their desire for riches and rule?

And so Marx said, and many following in his train have said: “Philosophers [or scientists] have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point[, however,] is to change it.” 

The point is to change it…

Of course, you can’t blame everything on Karl Marx. He didn’t come out of nowhere, after all. Many others had been noting problems before him and had a variety of ideas about how to fix things.

And a lot of those ideas about how to fix things, of course, had to do with getting rid of the influence of the Bible.

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Nevermind that world history, until re-oriented by Christian conviction, actually revealed a general lack of concern regarding children, women, and the practice of slavery… 

Also, in the Greek and Roman world, work was something that was undignified and that those at the bottom, not the top, did. 

How well are we aware of these facts?

And nevermind that now that for all the progress and hope that many of these revolutionaries claim to see…

…racism as a concept is increasingly used only to discourage, frustrate, and demoralize anyone we feel is to blame for the world’s problems, generally those with insufficient levels of melanin

…and in spite of concerns about changing the climate, changing one’s own biology is somehow just fine…. We can no longer be so limited in our imaginations and so it makes sense for girls to cut off their breasts and maybe even become “pregnant men”, boys to cut off their “toxic” member, etc…

…it is OK for schools to deceive backwards, oppressive, even toxic parents who won’t support the transgender revolution. So the revolutionaries not only hide what’s going on but throw fuel on the fires…

…all now all sexual relationships are to be celebrated simply because “love is love” – if the “hearts fit” the parts, whatever they may be, fit as well.

…not only this, but attractive and intelligent college women, for example, see no shame in starting an “Only Fans” site or getting a “Sugar Daddy” as a side gig not even because they feel they need it, but because they think it’s fun and can make some extra spending money…

…and, of course, we all know that “woman’s health care” means their ability to not only contracept but even kill the precious gifts in their wombs.

…finally, we actually seem to be inviting a time when truth only matters insofar as it helps us in war and is selectively used to damage our enemies…

…and even outright lies can be good if they harm the right people

Do not be afraid of the world and the seeming sophistication you often seem to sense from them… 

At bottom, it is corrupt, shallow, parasitic, and foolish. The only relatively good, true, and beautiful things it manages to know are all the good gifts it receives from God and twists and tweaks to its own liking….

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Since the fall, and especially since Cain, the world has always been against God, against Jesus Christ, against those who follow in the train of Abel, Cain’s brother. 

And in an interesting twist, those who reject God most forcibly and explicitly tend to be the powerful who, generally speaking, live lives that seem outwardly respectable to many people… 

So many today, though perhaps somewhat uneasy about some of the things I mention above…

…nevertheless seem eager to push forward, following those elites they think are in the right. 

This was certainly the case with the religious leaders in Jesus’s day. Even as they violently rejected Jesus, these men were the respected pillars of society, the upper and upper middle classes of their people…

And so not too many seemed opposed to killing Jesus when the leaders pushed things this way.

This is true today as well. 

Men and women aspiring to be among the leaders, the cultivated, the sophisticated, the cosmopolitan, see the kind of suffering that Jesus speaks about in in this parable…

… and they do not first see this as an opportunity to examine their own hearts.

… and they do not first see this as an opportunity to examine their own hearts.

Instead, immediately, they either go to or are highly sympathetic to this or that form of thinking that has always been with us but that Marx perfected…

…where all of life is seen through the oppressor-victim lens and even the God of the Bible — particularly as He shows Himself in the Old Testament — is not immune from their condemnation…

So fixing the world that this Oppressor God made, putting it all under their control and slowly and surely repairing it according to what they believe is right — and deftly taking out of the game those raising objections — becomes the overriding obsession…

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And then, God’s changing the rules of your game is out of the picture…

Again, Jesus says ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Elsewhere, in the book of John in chapter 5, he says something that is similar as well:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?… If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” 

Whatever direction the world seeks – whether it seems indifferent to the true God revealed in Jesus Christ, or, in our age, exceptionally hostile to that same Jesus – it will always pursue its own glory, apart from glorifying God. 

The Bible considers the world foolish, and so should we. 

Don’t be so concerned to be “normal”.

The Apostle Paul, after all, speaks of how God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise… Those who are weak and of no account in the world God chooses…

The Christian faith definitely talks about the reality of mystery and seeing through a glass darkly but before that, it is keen to speak the truth and implies the knowability of the truth….

…and even to speak of proof for His work (see Acts 1:3). 

In Acts 17, addressing the truth-seekers or philosophers of the day in the Greek city of Athens, the Apostle Paul was also bold to claim….

“[God] now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

In other words, please don’t whine that you can’t believe in Jesus Christ. 

Please don’t think you can carefully define and delineate what proof is apart from a consultation with the Almighty.

However practical your ideas about what knowledge is may seem… 

However much traction they might actually get in the world… 

God, particularly in His Christ, definitely gets a say….

…to say the very least!

And yet, again, for many, none of this seems to matter… Look at our parable today, where the rich man from hell in effect complains to God about something he should have done but failed to do… 

Everything is God’s fault. 

But it’s not, of course. God’s word might bring truth, conviction of sin, the knowledge that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord… but the Spirit is also quenched by sinful man and God allows this….

God, in love and fulfilling what He said He’d do, performs miracle after miracle in the Old and New Testaments, clearly revealing His Promised Messiah in the latter… and some will still not believe…. 

Empiricism, that is, a philosophical outlook focused on what we can learn from the outward evidences our senses experience, is evidently overrated. 

After all, shortly after Jesus tells this parable, an actual man Lazarus is raised from the dead by Him and this is attested to by no small army of witnesses…

…and the conclusion is that both Jesus and Lazarus — exhibit A testifying to Jesus’ being the Messiah — must be killed…

“Come, let us reason together” the Lord would always say to us…

And man whines “I can’t – you’re too mean!” or shouts “No! I won’t!”

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We still need the law and the prophets today because we still need to respect… to defer to… submit to… all of God’s words, understanding and appreciating them rightly in the Light of Jesus Christ…

What helps is hearing the word. 

Hearing the truth, spoken in love, embodied in love. 

In many places, in many ways, from many people…. 

Often. Very often. And then, finding yourself, perhaps to your surprise, increasingly hungering for that word…

Let us hear again, anew, the prophet Isaiah: 

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

“To the law and to the testimony!

Believe.

And none of this, by the way, means that we cannot also be encouraged and strengthened when we hear loving, knowledgeable, and wise Christians defending the faith with their own well-formed reasoning… 

As a matter of fact, this kind of thing can ultimately be helpful in renewing our appreciation and hunger for God’s word…

For example, in a couple other podcasts I listened to this week — yes, I have been doing this more lately — I heard some excellent thoughts from a couple pastors dealing with questions and concerns that Christians often have about the book of Genesis, one of the books of the Bible that has faced some of the most withering attacks over the years…

In his great daily Bible Study podcast The Word of the Lord Endures Forever, Pastor Weedon said the following:

We should not bend Genesis to fit with whatever the current assumptions of scientific thought may be. God’s revelation, alternatively, needs to be brought to bear on our human reason. 

He also talked about how Jesus Himself believes that the five books of the law, Genesis – Deuteronomy, were written by Moses, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. The theories of many scholars today who don’t believe this lead to wild speculation.

Also the host of the daily podcast Issues ETC. answered a challenging question about the age of the earth and Genesis.

He pointed out how incomplete so many of the scientific theories are, quite knowledgeably, and how they are laden with improvable and even improbable assumptions. He also essentially spoke about how the only way that we could know what has really happened is to depend on someone who is there, and God is in fact the Eyewitness (with a capital E). 

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Ultimately, it is good news that Christ, who is your Creator God, died for your sins and rescues you from death, the wages of your sin. 

It is not cosmic child abuse perpetrated by the evil Father-God. No, the Son was “all in” with the plan.

God’s word is not unreasonable. Even if fallen human reason refuses to give credence to and in fact refuses to understand God’s Word, that does not mean that Christians — who have been commanded to love God with all of their minds and have the mind of Christ — cannot begin to use their Spirit-guided reason to exalt and illuminate the Scriptures, but to also answer objections that the world raises to them… 

Death catches up with us all. This world is not all there is. 

We can and should make a difference to our families, our next-door neighbors, and those God throws in our paths, even every living creature, for we are told He loves His whole creation…

But none will heal the world with their Utopian fever dreams… 

Ultimately, only God offers the help that is good and that will last forever. 

Now, more than ever, the church needs to flee to the headwaters, to the pure fountain that leads to eternal life, to the Word of God…

And to take every thought captive to it.

Have you heard the story of St. Augustine’s conversion? It is told in his book Confessions which you can read in full. The world’s first autobiography by the way….

In his account, we learn that at age 31, at the top of his game, Augustine was a professor of rhetoric in the great court of Milan. He was in a prestigious position but also tortured because his view of the world wasn’t working and also encouraged him to give himself over to behaviors and pleasures that were ruining his life… It was at this time, in a public garden behind his house, where the man who had cried out “Make me chaste God, but not yet” heard a little child’s voice, singing out, “Tolle lege, tolle lege.” Tolle lege is Latin for “Take up and read.”

Augustine took this as God’s voice to him, opened up the Bible, and came across a Bible passage from Romans that seemed just for him: 

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

It was at this moment that Augustine’s life changed.

We might not all have a story like that, but God’s sheep will hear his voice… 

You too, tolle lege… tolle lege… always. 

Because there you will find that Jesus Christ is risen, and, praise the Lord…

…that He is for you and not against you.

Amen

With footnotes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vHTvwqSW2OzRHtZT0Jxk6tV16ay7aGVq/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=114064425610182039594&rtpof=true&sd=true

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Posted by on September 25, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

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