Burial Cloth and Neatness

The Jesus We Missed by Patrick Henry Reardon

imageThe folding of the kerchief may have been completely unconscious. I do not find this hard to believe. The universal Christ, the eternal Word in whom all things subsist, was still the same Jesus to whom an act of elementary neatness came naturally.

It was in reading these words in the closing paragraphs of The Jesus We Missed that the import of the book finally took hold. The humanity of Christ, while a matter of theological discussion through the centuries, is rarely given the biographical treatment that we read on these pages. Is it important? I believe yes, because the full picture of the God-man Jesus is incomplete unless the full measure of his humanity is realized and taken into account alongside of His words and actions.

Jesus was not God simply inhabiting a human form. He was God who willingly made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Phil 2:7). He was not an infant who simply pretended not to comprehend the voices around him, Jesus was the helpless babe in the feed trough. He was the terrible two-year-old, the rebellious teenager, the young man full of strength and possessing the craftsmen’s hands.

And He was God, knowing an intimate relationship with the heavenly Father that we are called to emulate in the days preceding His return.

Reardon’s excellent book is not a casual read. It demands consideration on every page of the human nature of the Savior. In doing so, the reader is awakened to the senses of sight, smell and hearing in the fully-man Jesus. Events that often take on an other-worldly character when we forget His humanity are viewed in a different light as you consider scriptural hints that you may have skimmed in the past. The human portrait that Reardon paints is an encouragement to the reader in addition to its edification. Jesus relied on prayer to know the Father and His will and God used that open conduit to guide the Son’s steps. Has He promised anything less to us?

The Jesus We Missed will challenge you. It is written for the non-theological reader but that doesn’t make it a breezy read. You will be stopped on page after page as you find facets of the Lord that you had not considered in your travels through the Bible. Don’t hesitate to put the book down and pick up the Scriptures. The expanded perspective is well worth the time.

I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this copy for review.

Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

imageSweet and Viola say this somewhere near the midpoint of their new book, Jesus Manifesto: “Get a fresh glimpse of your incomparable Lord, and you will be emboldened to stop spending your life on yourself. Connect with Him who is life, and you will be empowered to deny yourself, live beyond yourself, and live outside yourself.” Herein is the key idea behind the author’s call; the Church and her members have abandoned their life in Christ in favor of creeds, theological constructs, and self-help. Rather than sermons, service, and self rooted in ‘having my best life now’ or ‘the me I want to be’, Manifesto insists on every page that we return to a Christianity rooted in Christ, from Alpha to Omega.

The call for Christians to return to our first love is all encompassing as befits the all-in-all that Sweet and Viola remind us that Christ inhabits. It is this need to remind us of our first love that drives the book. The authors reach far and wide to examine the myriad ways in which Christians have substituted self-esteem, moral improvement, theology, social justice and a whole host of other things for Christ. Jesus has been reduced to the titular center of the church. Our movement away from Him in an imagined exchange between Jesus and Peter. Does Christ ask Peter, upon his restoration, to build a leadership program, improve the self-esteem of His followers, or help them to try harder to be Christ-like? No. Jesus asks His friend Peter, “Do you love me?”

Along the entire span of Alpha to Omega there is but one question to answer about Jesus, “Do you love me?”

 

Thomas Nelson graciously provided this book for review.

Eternal Security: The Arminian View

Arminian theology spans a wide range of beliefs, just as Calvinism does.For this reason the presentation of Arminian doctrine on perseverance requires that it be divided into two pieces. The first, which you are reading now, will present the most conservative Arminian view that is closest to the theology of Arminius himself. The second part will delve into the doctrine as stated by the dominant Wesleyan Arminian theologians. With regard to the topic of perseverance, Arminius and the initial Remonstrants were not resolute in the opinion that one could become apostate from the regenerate state. He briefly addresses the topic here:

My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the Saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers to…gain the victory over those enemies–yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit…So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, to institute a diligent enquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.

Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. (The Writings of James Arminius)

Though his statement here lacks a definitive position, the ultimate point that derives from a complete examination of the ‘Reformed’ (cf. Stephen Ashby) Arminian theological system follows from the basic understanding of the conditional nature of salvation, predicated on placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ. If the entry into grace is conditional (Titus 2:11, Jn 12:32, 2 Pet 3:9, Jn 3:15, Acts 16:31, et al.) then it must proceed that perseverance is conditional as well, continued by the believer remaining in faith to the end of their life. The Bible, according to the Arminian, is replete with sufficient warning against apostasy (Hebrews as a whole esp. 6:4-6, 10:19-39, 2 Pet 2:18-22, Col 1:21-23, Gal 5:1-4) so as to support the development of this doctrinal position.

The possibility of apostasy is not presented by the Arminian solely as a logical assumption proceeding from the doctrine of conditional salvation but rather, it is seen in the scriptures as coming from a variety of directions:

  • As mentioned before, the book of Hebrews is filled with warning passages about the very real possibility of apostasy.
  • There are texts that point to the conditional nature of salvation (Col 1:21-23, 1 Pet 1:5, Heb 3:14)
  • Passages name those who have fallen away and prove to be a danger to others (1 Tim 1:18-20, 2 Tim 2:16-18)
  • Passages in which the author complains that their work may be in vain among believers (Gal 4:9-11, Phil 2:15-16, 1 Thes 3:5)
  • The passages that speak of the possibility that a person’s name can be removed from the book of life. (Rev 3:5, 22:18-19)

If one accepts that apostasy is a possibility, the final question that must be posed to the Arminian theologian is, can this apostasy be reversed? From the classical theological position, the answer as supported the reference texts is no, this apostasy is irreparable. This stand is widely debated within the Arminian community and is a wide gulf between the classical and Wesleyan theologians who support a reversal of apostasy upon repentance. The definition and causes of apostasy must be approached very carefully then, in order to avoid seeing episodic sinfulness or even seasons of backsliding as definitive proof of the loss of salvation. The classical Arminian accepts only one proof and that is the complete rejection of faith in Christ which removes a person from union with Christ.

Summary

The classical Arminian doctrine that posits the conditional nature of eternal security is certainly not as popular as the ‘once saved, always saved’ idea. Though ultimately mile apart in their result, the Calvinist notion of perseverance and the Arminian doctrine of the possibility of apostasy share the same undergirding belief, faith in Christ is the key to security. The final and ultimate denial of this faith is the condition on which security is lost and the Christian must ponder long and hard about the lengths one must go to in order to reach this point of disaffirmation. Short of that point, staying in Christ and He in you grants the believer assurance of an eternity in His presence.

Wesley on the catholic Spirit

Wesley does not speak here about theological compromise. Instead, he demonstrates a rare ability to segregate the essential from nonessential elements in the Christian faith.

Every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true; (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it;) yet can no man be assured that  all his own opinions, taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assured they are not… “To be ignorant of many things  and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.” This, therefore, he is sensible is his own case. He knows in the  general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particular he mistakes, he does not, perhaps he cannot, know…

Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him whom he desires to unite in love that single question, “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”…

But what is properly implied in the question? … The first thing implied is this: Is they heart right with God?…Does the love of God constrain thee to serve Him with fear? … Is they heart right toward thy neighbor?… Do you show your love by your works?… Then, “thy heart is right, as my heart is with they heart.”

“If it be, give me thy hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not: I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot; It does no depend on my choice; I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. Keep you your opinion, I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute these points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other: Only “give me thine hand.”

I do not mean, “Embrace my modes of worship;” or, “I will embrace yours.” This also is a thing which does no depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold you fast that which you believe is most acceptable government to be Scriptural and Apostolic. If you thing the Presbyterians or Independents are better, think so still, and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized; and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you are otherwise persuaded, be so still, and follow you own persuasion. It appears to me, that the forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitably to your own judgment. My sentiment, is that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized; and that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master; however, if you are not convinced of this, act according to the light you have. I have not desire to dispute with you one moment upon any of the preceding heads. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into light. If thin heart is as my heart, if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: “Give me thine hand” (Works, V, 494-499)

Perhaps we too can exercise some discernment and divide the essential from the non-essential, loving one another as the result.