Gospel

Blinded by reality or to reality?

  • blinded by lightIt is quite a marvel that those who reject the gospel of Christ Jesus on the grounds of justice, seem to have missed one of its central tenets and hopes: the eventual destruction of all evil, on the grounds that God is perfectly just and will “balance the books” in every regard in the end. It also means that God’s people will, in the meantime, work and fight for justice and righteousness in every sphere of human life, anticipating that the labors of such love will produce undying fruit.
  • Also, quite remarkably many atheists are motivated zealously and passionately by the most wonderful principles of justice, righteousness, integrity, love, compassion, mercy, sympathy, and a desire to see freedom and deliverance for those in bondage to evils and horrors. Yet, they have rejected God who is the source of all love, mercy, compassion, and integrity, and who promises real deliverance from evils and oppression. In trying to understand this, it has been my impression that many such people do not actually wrestle so much with the question of the “existence” of God, but rather they have never been able to see the absolute goodness of God. Since they so often perceive even their own limited virtues as somehow superior to God’s, or any supposed “god’s”, and they have seen so much evil, they are blinded to the possibility of any perfect good coming from God.
  • Blinded by one reality, we so easily become blinded to another reality.
  • I suppose that faith is the only way to open one’s blinded eyes to see the reality of God’s goodness and unsurpassed beauty. And with eyes opened wide by faith, we begin to see that evil is truly not the end of the story.

Legalism or license?

“Love God and do as you please” is not an uncommon attitude (pagan “Christianity”) and philosophy (Gnosticism). Luther has been said to espouse a version of this idea in his oft quoted “sin boldly” refrain. Yet, there really is no option of disobedience to the law (obedience is possible), while on the other hand, there really is no option of legalistic presumption. The principle truth of the law is to have true love written on your heart. This leads to spontaneous obedience. The law was indirect in its promise. The covenant-promise was direct. The law shows us circuitously that there is a gap between God and man. The promise shows us plainly and directly that reconciliation will be accomplished. The law was conditioned. The promise had no ultimate conditions placed on the first Adam after his fall, only on the Last Adam, the Messiah. The conditions of faith are real, however, and freedom from the law in the new covenant never has meant license to disobey the law. The law is just and good, because it represents God who is good and just. God’s law compliments God’s promise. The law does not save, nor does the promise. The Lord’s promise is completed in the One who fulfilled the law. The One who said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”

 

Jesus weeps over and then returns to Jerusalem

Jesus’ triumphal entry: JERUSALEM, Sunday, Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-44; Jn 12:12-19 (OT prophecy: Isa 62:11; Zech 9:9)

(left) Albrecht Durer, Christ returns to Jerusalem

Mt 21:1–11 (NASB95) When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5  “Say to the daughter of Zion,
      ‘Behold your King is coming to you,
       Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
       Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”

10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew quotes from this significantly Messianic OT passage:

Zech 9:9-11 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth

Luke adds that Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem on account of its coming destruction and desolation he prophesied (Luke 19:41-45), and which occurred in A.D. 70 by the Romans (cf. 2 Sam 15:30 – when David went up to Jerusalem, weeping on his way). The King of kings does not come to conquer and celebrate his victory in reclaiming his city, rather he weeps at its coming destruction!

Lk 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Also see Lk 13:34-35 (Mtt 23:37-38) — “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35 “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”[1]

This theme of judgment and desolation of Jerusalem is a frequent one in the OT, especially in the pre-exilic period, but also some prophets point towards a future post-exilic desolation (Jer 12:7), though sometimes it may be figurative of the judgment on those who reject the Messiah. In this case, when many (the Zealots and other worldly-minded) were anticipating Jesus re-claiming the kingdom from the Romans at this time by force, Jesus instead prophetically describes the terrible destruction of the city coming from the Romans (A.D. 70).

Comments:  Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem is the long anticipated arrival of the Messiah into his holy city, as very specific prophecies are here depicted as fulfilled. The term “triumphal” is peculiar when considered from a human perspective, since it would seem quite contrary to a triumph when he comes in apparent weakness and will be killed in the process. Nevertheless, considering the various details of the Gospel testimonies (which each supply unique details), it is a marvel to see Christ’s full control of all that leads up to the Passover of his death.  Nothing is able to pre-empt his plan to reveal to the world God’s purposes and plan, that the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God would be according to God’s way and not mankind’s.  When Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a colt he was obviously not coming as the typical ancient king or military conqueror in a gold chariot seeking destruction of enemies, but rather he was coming to procure and offer salvation to those who were his enemies. Jesus’ true glory is most evident here in his humble submission to the will of God to achieve real victory. That is, he will crush the Evil one, and bring a reversal of the curse, not through a powerful military action, nor even by supernatural conquest with angelic hosts, but through fulfilling the law of God and paying the ransom required by God’s character to bring redemption. Zechariah’s prophecy indicated that the Messiah would be gentle and humble and would bring salvation. He would eventually even remove the war machinery through his actions, precisely because he would bring true peace (shalom) not through military conquest but through spiritual conquest. Despite Jesus’ radical departure from the ways of the ancient kings and their kingdoms, his actions still declared him to be the true King of Israel and the world, yet a king of an entirely different order than what had preceded in all of human history. His kingdom will be an eternal one, fulfilling the ancient promises of a human Deliverer from the line of Adam and Eve and Abraham who would sit on the throne of David forever. The gospel narrator is therefore especially concerned to address the question the Gospels seek to answer: “Who is this man?” He is affirmed/proved in the narrative to be:

  • The Lord (worthy of praise, “hosanna!,” “from the lips of infants you have ordained praise,” Mtt 21:126; Ps 8:2)
  • The King (fulfills the Gen 3:15 promise of a human Victor over the enemy and the curse)
  • Gentle (riding on a donkey colt, Zech 9:9, and Zechariah also stresses that this King would bring salvation as well as peace[shalom])
  • The Son of David (the covenant promise of an eternal King)
  • The Prophet (predicts the future and also interprets and applies the Scripture rightly)
  • The “blessed” one who comes in the name of the Lord (the One who represents the Lord YHWH bears his Name, and thus his glory). Luke 19:38 adds, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And also at the rebuke of the Pharisees, who did not approve of the crowds singing praise to Jesus, he said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40; cf. Hab 2:11). The creation must praise the One who created it.
  • The One who saves (“hosanna!,” also see Zech 9:9 above).

Notes:

  • Mt 21:4 – “spoken through the prophet” about riding on a donkey – Is 62:11; Zech 9:9-11.
  • Mt 21:5 – “King” of peace and shalom – he comes to his city and people, but not in victor attire and regalia on a war-horse. See David and donkey in 2 Sam 16:1-12.
  • Mt 21:10 – “the prophet” – Deut 18:18.
  • Mt 21:9 – “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” – Ps 118:36.
  • Lk 19:41 – “he wept” – ἔκλαυσεν (κλαίω; κλαυθμός, οῦ m; κραυγήb, ῆς f: to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping—‘to weep, to wail, to lament, weeping, crying.’[2]). Recall “Jesus wept” (shortest verse in NT) at the tomb of Lazarus (a different GR word: dakru/w, ἐδάκρυσεν) in Jn 11:35. Some have noted that the kind of grief Jesus feels here is an angry one at death itself, his primary enemy and objective: he must die to overcome death forever. Jesus also seems to have grieved to the point of weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death (Mt 26:36-46; Lk 22:4-46).
  • Lk 13:35 – “You will not see me again until . . .”— see  Isa 45:23; 22:5; Zech 12:10; Rom 14:11; Php 2:10-11; Rev 1:7.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 13:34–35). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 303). New York: United Bible Societies.

Integrity, Certitude, and Jesus

Mk 22:5-18  (NAS) Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 “Tell us therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?

They (the un-integral, duplicitous, trying to trap him in his integrity) came to Jesus and said they knew that he was a man of integrity: the word here is “truth” or “true” (ἀληθὴς alāthās). What was the reason Jesus said he came into the world? To “bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice”). This is the importance that Jesus places on this aspect of his person and mission. He also said he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). There are many nuances to this aspect of his person and mission: he in himself is the TRUTH, he is holy true, and wholly true, there is no falsehood or inconsistency in him at all; everything that he is, says, and does has integrity. He can therefore be trusted at all times, in all circumstances, and in regards to all things seen and unseen. And since he is the one who created all that is, he knows all there is to know about all that is; and therefore what he made must have integrity (or soundness) since the foundation is true. The truth as defined in this way is intrinsically related to his holy and glorious Person and character; it is ontologically, epistemologically, metaphysically integral in absolutely every sense. Therefore, we deduce that the truth of Christ is entirely “true to what is”; the truth perfectly correlates with and corresponds to reality, both seen and unseen. This is why we can have confidence in the truth, since wherever we know the truth, we can have certitude.

Biblical Rhetoric and our Beautiful Gospel

The Biblical Ideals of Rhetoric and the Beautiful Gospel

Our ideals for communication should flow out of our Biblical Theology of the Scripture. They should reflect the whole gospel of the whole  Bible, for the  whole person, for the whole world. Therefore, we take the wondrous gift of communication with grave sobriety, matched only by our great joy. We do not often achieve our ideals, but is it not possible to have substantial success? Sadly, we must admit, we too often communicate  in such a way that others might conclude that our God is not worthy of their  admiration or praise. It is, consequently, all the more imperative that we make every effort to rightly represent him as he truly is. To do so, our communication, our rhetoric, should accurately exemplify the character of Christ: that is, he loves perfectly, and communicates his love perfectly. As God, he loves the truth perfectly, he loves his creation perfectly, and he loves his people perfectly. As God, he communicates perfectly his character and his purposes. He communicates his holiness to unholy creatures perfectly.

Nevertheless, unlike God, in our sinful state, we can only humbly strive to represent him in our character and communication, praying that he will give us sufficiency and strength of character beyond our ability. One important aspect of our representing him in our love for him, his truth, and his creation, is that our rhetoric in all aspects should be beautiful. When our rhetoric lacks beauty, it is of course ugly. Though this is an “unscientific” assertion, lacking completely objective  definition, it can be fair to say we all know when we are being unkind, unloving, uncivil, ungracious, unforgiving, impatient, insulting, discourteous, harsh, cruel, close-minded, arrogant, pompous, cynical, and ugly. Consider even the most severe judgment texts in the Bible: they are never demeaning, degrading, insulting, impatient, or arrogant, etc. In fact, they are written in the most beautifully exalting prose and poetry known to humankind, in language that expresses all of the beautiful perfections of God’s character. Importantly, the Scriptures are the only perfect place to find a model for rhetoric, since God has given us there the most extraordinary, and perfect, balance of love and holiness, of mercy and judgment. Even where the prophets, and Christ,  most strongly excoriate there is never any degrading or demeaning of the audience/recipients since God always communicates from his holy, loving, and glorious nature. His communication is therefore always perfectly loving and perfectly just. We, on the other hand, recognize that in ourselves we are unjust and unloving, and our communication is so often corrupted by our sinful hearts. Therefore, we must all the more give careful attention to our rhetoric as a matter of obedience to Christ. In this way, we pray to be affirming, complimenting, encouraging, humble, kind, gracious, patient, courteous, civil, forgiving, gentle, open-minded, long-suffering, and loving, and thereby approximate a modest representation of his most beautiful character.

It is also true that perceptions vary from one culture and generation to another. For example, in what might be regarded as harsh at one time might be perceived  as witty and persuasive at another time. What might be insulting to one generation might be received as a powerful polemic to another. This does not mean that our biblical ideals are relative, but that we must attempt to understand our own generation to discover what best exemplifies biblical standards of rhetoric so that our communication presents Christ and his gospel with as much love and beauty as is humanly possible (by the help of his Spirit). Knowing how often we fail (when we do not depend on his help nor follow his example), should incline us to even greater humility, patience, kindness, gentleness, and love as we fervently pray to better communicate the beauty of his holiness. In our desire to follow Christ our King, whose teaching and rhetoric was unparalleled in every aspect, we must work especially hard to best communicate in our rhetoric so as to proclaim, to demonstrate, and to teach the glories of his truth with the immeasurable
and unmatched beauty of his love.

In so doing, we present him as he truly is, as the one most worthy of all love and praise.

 

 

Atheists hope [in what is seen]

the-mountainUnbelievers, those who choose the label “atheist,” often hope to be consistent with their view that this extraordinarily wondrous universe, and our miraculous existence and lives within it, are just a [hopeless] blip on the radar-screen of infinite time, and that we exit without any [hope of] anything after. And, in order to cope with the consequences of such a horribly empty [truly hopeless] perspective, they sometimes opt for the classification of “agnostic” in the hope that there might be some hope somewhere, after all. The atheist and agnostic must hope that they are correct in their assessment of these things, but we are confident that such hope will disappoint, and forever.

I did not use the word “meaningless” to describe this hopeless state of the atheist/agnostic, since they often claim to have meaning in their lives, though this meaning is typically rooted in finite things that cannot give true hope. We all know the litany of those things that people believe and hope will give them meaning or some satisfaction, and what they serve to that end, so there is no need to repeat that here. Yet, it is reasonable to say that those things actually can give no hope at all, and can even blind us to true hope and thus to true meaning and to real significance. In other words, in this case, it is impossible for finite things to give us an everlasting hope or an infinite reference point of meaning and significance for our eternal lives. These things are simply incapable of, as insufficient for, such a monumental spiritual, philosophical, emotional, and moral task.

For the truth, we are compelled to tell the unbelieving atheist and the unbelieving agnostic that there can be true hope, and lasting hope, a hope that “does not disappoint,” but it must be found at its source. But I must conclude with saying that this hope we have is not just hope to have hope, or hope in hope, it is the present and coming reality of what God has promised. This hope must relinquish the vain hope in the finite mirage of what is seen, and patiently wait for the fullness and reality of what we do not yet see fully.

Paul addresses this very beautifully in his letter to the Romans (8:18-23):
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

“. . . .may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, , so that you will abound in hope . . .” (Rom 15:13).

There are only two “races” of the human-race: those in Adam and those in Christ

The only truly good news available to resolve the confusion created by the racist delusions of the Darwinists and Marxists and Caucasoid-white-Arian-Negroid-black-African-Mongoloid-Asian-Hispanic-Semitic racists and “supremacists” found in every generation is that in Adam all are one human race by descent and are all equal under God’s law, but that all who are in Christ by faith have been made alive into one people of God by grace.

As Paul stated it: 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:10–11 (NASB95)

  • For an essay on the relation between Darwinism and Nazism, see Nazism.
  • For an essay on the relation between Darwinism and Communism, see Communism.

Picture credit: “Leaving Race Behind: Our growing Hispanic population creates a golden opportunity,” by Amitai Etzioni from The American Scholar, Spring, 2016 at this site.