Passion Week: I’ll Never Deny You

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

(Jn 13:36-14:1)

How many times have we been in Peter’s sandals? We have committed and recommitted to our Lord thinking that somehow He is not privy to the alternate plans that lie within our hearts. As Holy week progresses toward the history changing events of the Easter weekend, we see the definition of full commitment, unwavering and unswerving. Our Lord expects nothing short from us though He is fully aware of our duplicitous natures. For this He gave us the Holy Spirit, a presence that transfers the full Kingdom commitment to us if we are surrendered to His will. Let this be the week we surrender in full.

Critiquing the Calvinist Critic

How an author treats the comments posted in response to something they have written tells the reader quite a bit about the strength of their convictions. In a dynamic forum such as a blog, one should be prepared to defend what has been written. If I voice an opinion or state something as fact, readers are free to disagree, point out the flaws in my thinking, correct what I interpret as fact, and generally call me to task if there are damages that result from my words. The comments tool that appears at the bottom of most blog postings gives the readers an opportunity to immediately make their thoughts known, not only to myself but to all of the others who might read the same piece. Blog software generally allows for a ‘moderation’ setting, giving the author the chance to review the comments before he or she displays them. Often, this is for the purposes of filtering the language, etc. so as to maintain a predetermined level of civility in the discourse. Occasionally, it is used to hide from opinions different than yours, to shield the weakness of your position from the buffeting of opposing arguments and facts. On most issues, we could dismiss this weakness as simple cowardice and not be too concerned with reading that writer again, but when the eternal destiny of the human soul is the topic being discussed, it is too important to let pass.

Recently I came across this piece, ‘Calvinism Analogy’ by REDACTED on her blog. I began reading with interest as a theologian but quickly saw the tenor of the post when she casually refers to Arminian believers as “duped” and “self-deceived”. Her exact words are:

Calvinism is a theological expression describing those who believe man, by his own “free” will, is not able to sincerely “accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and savior” and to confess Him as Lord. People who are duped in this way are called Arminians. The reason self-deception happens is because human nature is corrupted with pride and Arminian theology complements this.

The factual error here is simple but important: the assumption is that Arminian theology does not account for the total depravity of man [which of course it does] and the necessity of the sovereign grace of God [again, which it does]. Whether through malicious intent or ignorance of the facts, Ms. REDACTED sets up a straw man argument to support her attempt at analogy. She goes on to point out that Arminians are further guilty of misinterpreting the word ‘all’ and the ‘world’ throughout the Bible. Most of you who study theology are familiar with the Calvinist/Arminian arguments on these words so you already know the direction that her thoughts take.

She continues then, after presenting these incorrect arguments in favor of the Calvinist position, to give us her analogy:

I sometimes equate salvation to be a bit like we’re dogs at the pound awaiting our death sentence. God is the dog lover looking to adopt. He decides what dogs He wants, goes home to prepare a place for them, and then comes back to bring them home. I know it’s not quite like that (especially since God elects His children before they’ve even been conceived), but still in all, it describes love. Dog lovers don’t adopt every single dog that has ever been born and/or is alive; but yet one can still be a lover of dogs even if he never adopts more than just one dog.

Here is where Ms. REDACTED thoughts really run into trouble. Her scenario positions the dogs in the pound as though they were magically created or simply the products of biological interaction between other dogs. God, in her mind, is this distant observer of the kennel, graciously coming in and granting freedom to one or two of the creatures while leaving the rest to their destiny. The problem here is that God is not a distant observer but he is intimately involved in the creation of the creatures:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

“Your hands shaped me and made me.

Will you now turn and destroy me?

Remember that you molded me like clay.

Will you now turn me to dust again?

Did you not pour me out like milk

and curdle me like cheese,

clothe me with skin and flesh

and knit me together with bones and sinews?

You gave me life and showed me kindness,

and in your providence watched over my spirit. (Job 10:8-12).

Her analogy of the Calvinist supralapsarian position is better voiced (using the same language) portraying God as the breeder of the dogs. He purposely creates many dogs, some intentionally created for eternal torment and destruction while some are adopted and saved. Not only did he create them, He continues to create them centuries after the original genetic sin that infected their parents occurred.

What is most troubling about this posting is the not inaccuracy of the arguments (you can read similar threads every day) or the poorly constructed analogy (for which the author claims to have been praised) but the fact that when her facts and illustrations are challenged theologically she refused to engage. A lovingly worded response was posted in the comments of her blog asking for Scriptural and textual support to the various incorrect assertions made in her writing and gently providing an alternative view on her analogy which fell into “awaiting moderation” limbo. Apparently unwilling to support her thoughts are address the Scriptures, the author chose to simply delete the comment as thought it never happened, thereby cementing her notions as correct and worthy of praise.

Teaching about God and His ways is a risky endeavor and not one to be taken lightly like this (“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”) If you think that I have erred in discussing ideas that have eternal importance, I expect that you will correct me and likewise others who presume to teach should also stand ready to be challenged. The souls of men and women are at stake in these types of discussions as they read them and accept the ideas as fact and simply having your feelings hurt by a theological challenge is not an acceptable reason to avoid engagement. Blog authors are free to run their world however they like, but to speak of about God is another dimension altogether.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort toe keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4:2-3)

Lent with Joel

Our reflection today is short and simple; the call of the Lord is for all of His children to return to Him from whatever distance we have placed between us.

“Even now,” declares the Lord,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart

and not your garments.

Return to the Lord your God,

for he is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love,

and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:12-13)

The sacrifice of our Lord and His grace are the only things that enable us to return to the security of His arms. This season reminds us of this sacrificial action and the love in which it is rooted. Be blessed today.

Advent Joy May Be Complete

Our anticipation of the Christmas event is so close in this Advent week as the blessed celebration draws near. The din of the secular side of our holiday threatens to consume us, offering to substitute a joy rooted in the exchange of material objects for the joy that comes of knowing the Lord Jesus. His exchange of life for imputed righteousness gives us a joy rooted in being heirs, brothers and sisters of Christ. In a well know promise he says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Continuing to expand on this singularly wonderful gift – being grafted to the living vine – Jesus says that he tells us this so that we do not need to look any further for our source of joy:

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)

Maranatha!

Advent Joy – To Free All Those Who Trust in Him

Our anticipation rises yet again as we meditate on Joy during this Advent week. From the plaintive choruses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, our hearts bear witness to what we know, that the Lord Jesus came to us a man. John speaks to this:

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)

We break into song exclaiming our joy, knowing in advance what’s inside the packages. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen ( listen ) lets us recite the story of Christmas Joy over multiple verses like this one:

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,

“Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour

Of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him

From Satan’s power and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

Maranatha!

Advent Peace: Like a River

Shalom.

We often settle for a simple definition of that common Hebrew word taking its definition of peace. Peace for many would be the absence of conflict. For our persecuted brothers and sisters, peace would be not just the absence of conflict but also the cessation of hostility toward them, the restoration of their livelihood, their residence, their ability to worship without threat, or even, their lives. Peace takes many forms and numerous connotations and שָׁלוֹם encompasses them all. Shalom is not simply the absence of strife, it is an expression of being complete in your well being. There is peace in our physical and psychological security and then there is the shalom of God in which we are at peace spiritually.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Ps 85:10)

This week of our joyful season of advent is a reminder of the peace that we through our binding faith in Jesus. He is our promised restoration of the shalom, the Prince of Peace. Though we may continue to sense the un-peace of the world, our faith lies not in this place but in the new Heavens and Earth over which our Lord will reign and once again, all will be righted.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

God promises peace like a river, a shalom like the crashing waves:

For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; (Isaiah 66:12-13)

river The anticipation of this Peace is the center of our prayers this week. We shall pray for it to wash over us, to crash mightily on top of us and to carry us toward the promise of the kingdom of God.

Maranatha!

Advent Hope: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Just seeing the words in the title triggers an immediate, visceral response in follower of Christ who has been around the church for more than a single Advent. It immediately brings to mind the carol in all of its brooding minor keys. Singing that difficult song produces a unique feeling; the melody and notes take you instantly to a high church-ancient reverence as you intone the plea of so many before you – Come Immanuel – Come God With Us!

In many churches this week, the Scripture readings included this well known verse from Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isa 7:14)

The promise of the Prince of Peace and the Everlasting Father  as the righting of the world. How we long for that.

The hope that arrives in the newborn baby.

Advent is a season of anticipation with weekly or daily reminders of what is to come. Our eyes and hearts rarely turn backward during this period; we are focused in hope on the birth of the Savior. His coming into the world restores our sometimes shaky faith and dispels the feeling that God might have left us to our self-created rewards here in the world. To know that the Wonderful Counselor will walk with us once again, as the Father walked with Adam, is to be given the greatest gift of all. Our hopes for the shoring up of the crumbling walls of the city, the banishment of our enemies, the restoration of vision that Bartimaeus, all will be made right with the One who created and sustains it:

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:3-5)

Advent reminds us that our hope lies in one thing, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Maranatha!

Janet Weiss – Louise – Bull Durham’s Jesus

Actress Susan Sarandon recently spoke about the Jesus that she knows. It appears from here statements regarding the divinity of all humankind that she perceives, that this Jesus was just another guy like you and me, divine but also an activist. Forgive my naivete, but isn’t an activist one who protests and campaigns to achieve a change in the order of things? Jesus was not trying to get the rest of the divines around him to help him change the order, HE CHANGED IT. Perhaps a closer reading of the Bible would help Miss Sarandon [and her partner Mr. Robbins] with an understanding of how Jesus engage the world. (You can read the interview from which this comes here.)

You and Tim [Robbins, Sarandon’s longtime partner] are so well known for being peace activists. What are some ways that regular people can help bring peace into the world?
I think it really starts with your neighbors. I think it starts with your everyday life and living as Christ did, in a loving way and a respectful way. That, then, leads to questioning other things. And you find in your heart what resonates with you. And then you have to take action, whether it’s in the street, or licking envelopes, or writing to your congresspeople, or taking care of veterans when they come home. I think that you have to not be result-oriented in order to look back on your life and think it was a life well lived. I think that it’s every single day, the choices that you make in the presence of how you go towards truth and justice. And it’s an individual decision how that manifests itself.
There is certainly so much need in the world for compassion. Every action is a political action. The only thing I’m completely sure of is that inaction is not acceptable.
I think that Christ was an activist. Christ wasn’t afraid. His life is an example of activism. I think that the gap between the rich and the poor contributes to the pain of the world. I think that that anything you can do that helps to alleviate this huge gaping gap between the rich and the poor will eventually make the world a more peaceful place.

‘Louise’ lost me in the second sentence. Jesus did live in a loving way but often, those on the receiving end of His tough love were anything but immediately enamored with Him and He certainly did not travel around the Holy Land and engage others in a respectful way. Read Galli’s book Jesus Mean and Wild to get a better idea of the way that the Lord confronted those who ran opposite to the ideals of His Father’s kingdom. ‘Janet’ then goes on to say that she envisions Jesus as an activist, that He was not afraid. Well, He certainly had nothing to fear, knowing full well that God had everything well in hand. On the other hand, he held a special contempt for those who had it in their power to relieve the suffering of others and yet did not act; for example, saying that everyone should do what they can in order to alleviate poverty but continuing to store up riches of their own here on earth.

Miss Sarandon, what would your Jesus say about the lifestyle that you and Mr. Robbins openly promote?

The Narrow Theological View of Red-Letter Christians

Dr. Stackhouse has penned this reasoned opinion on the new RLC movement fronted by Bro’s Campolo, Wallis, etc. While the idea of directly applying the words of the Lord appears to create a sound foundation, God’s revelation provides a much wider perspective that Christians must consider. Read it here “Red-Letter Christians”: A Bad Idea with a Bad Name, Alas  and see what you think.