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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Wright on Justification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Part 2)

In addressing Paul’s letter to Galatia, N.T. Wright declares, “Despite a long tradition to the contrary, the problem Paul addresses in Galatians is not the question of how precisely someone becomes a Christian, or attains to a relationship with God (I’m not even sure how Paul would express, in Greek, our notion of ‘relationship with God’).” Rather, N.T. Wright thinks that the basic thrust or intent of the epistle to the Churches in Galatia is to address the question of whether ex-pagans (who have been converted by hearing Paul’s gospel) should be circumcised or not.

Wright points out that the language Paul uses in this letter is covenantal language from start to finish. However, his audience is primarily Gentiles. Paul contrasts Jews and Gentiles in light of the works of the Law which Paul clearly declares no one (neither Jew nor Gentile is justified through or by), and those who are the sons of Abraham (3:7). These themes/subjects are the focal point of Paul’s letter (2:15-3:29). It is here where Wright declares that Paul is demonstrating who (regardless of race – Jew or Gentile) belongs to the people of God. Paul’s language of justification is to this end.

First, Paul details his own conversion as a Jew to Christianity (2:15-21). Second, he then addresses the Galatians directly beginning in chapter three with a series of rhetorical questions relating to their own conversion to Christianity. The question then arises, if Paul is addressing a group of listeners (the letter was probably read aloud publicly) who have not already been converted, then why wouldn't Paul write as if his audience needed to be converted? Paul has already defended his gospel and his apostleship to the Churches in Galatia (1:1-2:14). Chapter three clearly indicates that this audience was “taken in” by a group of Jewish converts who demanded that these Gentiles be circumcised in order for them to be genuine converts. Paul responds, in this letter, by declaring that this is not the gospel he preached (indicating that this audience has already heard Paul's gospel and responded to it, so to speak). Thus, Wright declares, “What Paul means by justification, in this context, should therefore be clear. It is not ‘how you become a Christian’, so much as ‘how you can tell who is a member of the covenant family’.”

In chapter three from verses one to nine, Paul demonstrates, in contrast to those who claim circumcision (which is a work of the Law) is a necessary act that must be performed in order for one to be called a Christian, that both Jews and Gentiles are not justified by the works of the Law, but rather by faith. Paul then emphasizes the fact that those who actually are sons of Abraham include both Jews and Gentiles (3:7-9). From this point, Paul spends the remainder of his time and energy in this letter indicating how one can know that they are in fact a son of Abraham and thus an heir to the Kingdom of God (i.e. a Christian). Certain Jews apparently thought they had a privileged position because they were circumcised. Paul, as Wright indicates, responds by declaring that the cross has essentially “leveled the playing field” so to speak. Therefore, all who are an heir of Abraham, whether Jew or Gentile, and all “who share faith in Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their racial differences, as together they await for the final new creation.”

Quote of the Week

"Election is not the consequence of faith,
but faith is the consequence of election".

- - Huldrych Zwingli

[A hearty "thank you" goes to Jim West for providing me with this weeks quote of the week]

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wright on Justification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Part 1)

In chapter 7 of What Saint Paul Really Said Wright is brief in discussing Paul’s epistle to Galatia. However, he is succinct in delineating what he thinks Paul is communicating in this letter. Wright makes several strong points in relation to the context of this particular letter which he believes centers on the idea of how you define the people of God (p.120). These points are:

  • Paul is not addressing the issue of how someone becomes a Christian or attains to a relationship with God. This is due to the fact that contextually this is not even implied; his readers are already Christian (mostly ex-pagans).
  • Paul is addressing, however, the problem or question: should his ex-pagan converts be circumcised or not? A mere prima facie reading of the text in any language demonstrates this fact. Also, does circumcision determine whether someone is a part of the people of God?
  • Wright declares that the content of Galatians is most certainly covenantal. The third chapter of Galatians demonstrates this idea in that the whole chapter is devoted to a lengthy exposition of the family of Abraham (which Wright declares is focused initially on the covenant chapter, Genesis 15 and moving through other covenantal passages including Deuteronomy 7). This could certainly not be construed as how individuals, first Abraham (since that is Paul’s reference point) and the church in Galatia (since that is Paul’s audience), and us today (albeit Paul would not even have us in mind) come to “faith.” The more likely context and subject matter is how one can know they belong to the family of Abraham (the people of God).
  • Based on Paul’s context, he is certainly addressing both Jews and Greeks. Therefore, the issue of religion and race play a factor in the content. Paul’s focus on the Jewish Law (works of the Law) as it relates to circumcision (which is a part of the Jewish Law) and whether Gentiles should practice such is the focus of this letter. Furthermore, this subject relates directly to the gospel which Paul was preaching, and which he argues for in the text, also demonstrating through the other Apostles that what he preached (i.e. his gospel) was approved.

These four points are the essential focus of Wright’s interpretation of Galatians. While I have simplified them a bit for the purpose of this post, Wright will give details as to how each of these play a crucial role in understanding this particular letter from Paul. Moreover, Wright will discuss whether these things relate or have anything to do with a notion of “one coming to a saving knowledge or relationship with God” in this letter. This then will be the focus of my next post.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thoughts from Zwingli

"Was it not great blindness that God Almighty, who created us, has so often made known to us that he is our Father, and finally even gave his Son for us; and he himself stands there and calls us poor sinners, saying "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." And we went and turned to the creature, and thought God to be so rough and cruel that we dare not come to him."

- - Huldrych Zwingli

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wright on Justification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Introduction)

As promised, I stated that I would post my thoughts on Wright’s work titled What Saint Paul Really Said. Well, here is the first of several posts which I will periodically discuss in the upcoming days or weeks. To preempt these posts it should be stated here that many contemporary reformers who I have either heard in lectures or read their books/articles disagree with Wright’s conclusions in this work. While I have also researched those who oppose Wright, as an 'historical reformer' when I read certain contemporary reformers the trouble I always tend to run into usually ends up being anachronistic interpretations of Paul's letters.

What I mean by this is when Paul’s letters are discussed; it is usually the case, with certain contemporary reformers, that these letters are almost always interpreted in light of Luther’s contentions with Erasmus, or Augustine’s contentions with Pelagius. While those subjects are fine to research in and of themselves, my question is always, what do these contentions have to do with Paul’s epistles? Paul is clearly not writing his letters to Galatia, or Corinth, etc. to deal with these same contentions. Therefore, why would anyone force these contentions upon the text of Paul?

In this work, Wright sheds light on certain epistles of Paul which have been, for lack of better term, misinterpreted (perhaps misapplied) in recent commentary history to fit a “reformed mold,” if you will. Having read Wright's work, for the second time now (once before seminary once after), and also having heard certain popular reformed evangelical thinkers respond to it, I think Wright has been wrongly assessed by these thinkers. In this work, Wright is not denying nor rejecting the “reformed doctrine of justification,” rather he is simply declaring that Paul is not communicating this doctrine in his epistles which many contemporary reformed thinkers have concluded that he is. I believe Wright has shed some very important light on these texts that perhaps has long been overlooked; perhaps this is so due to a search for passages (proof-texting) in order to 'prove' a particular doctrine (i.e. the reformed doctrine of justification).

To this end, I will proceed to comment on Wright’s work and would appreciate your thoughts as well, especially those of you who are currently doing work on Paul’s epistles in your doctoral programs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Born in the 60's and Grew Up in the 70's

Yes, I am a product of the sixties and grew up in the seventies - don't believe me - just click here and see for yourself!!
ENJOY!!! You can also toy around with the controls on the left side of the page.

Moltmann on The Messianic Calling of Human Beings: Imago Christi

"The true likeness to God is to be found, not at the beginning of God's history with mankind, but at its end; and as goal it is present in that beginning and during every moment of that history. In the New Testament it is Paul, more than anyone else, who uses the concept of likeness to God; and he applies it in order to present Jesus, the raised and transfigured Messiah, as God's true image. Christ is the image and glory of the invisible God on earth. In his fellowship, people become what they are intended to be. Their glorification is promised them with their justification and in the process of their sanctification."

- Jürgen Moltmann, Gott in der Schöpfung: Ökologische Schöpfungslehre [God in Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993); 225]

Monday, February 20, 2006

Which Type of Calvinist are You?

The "Hyper-Calvinist"

The "Horny-Calvinist"

The "Harassing-Calvinist"

Quote of the Week

"I dislike allegory
whenever I smell it!"

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Wright on the Pelagian Heresy

"I must insist, right away, that if you come upon anyone who genuinely thinks that they can fulfil Pelagius' programme, in whichever form or variation you like, you should gently but firmly set them right. There is simply no way that human beings can make themselves fit for the presence or salvation of God. What is more, I know of no serious theologian, Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, who thinks otherwise; indeed, one of the best expositions of the Augustinian or Lutheran or Calvanist doctrine of justification I have ever heard was given by a Jesuit, Father Edward Yarnold, in an ecumenical meeting. If Pelagius survives at all today, it is at the level of popular secular moralism, which is in any case becoming harder and harder to find in the Western world."

- N. T. Wight, What Saint Paul Really Said, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997; p.116.

Kant: The One Possible Basis (Part 3 & Conclusion)

Is Existence a Predicate?

Kant Declares:

"If existence is to be inferred as a consequence from the ground of the merely possible, that existence must be encountered in an analysis of the concept, for there is no other derivation of a consequence from a concept of possibility except through logical analysis. But then existence must be contained as a predicate in the possibility. Now since this can never be, according to the truth of the First Observation of the First Part, it appears that a proof of the truth in question is impossible in the way mentioned." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 225]

In that reference Kant explains that existence is not a predicate. To illustrate his point Kant uses Julius Caesar. If one takes Julius Caesar and then joins "in him all conceivable predicates, not even excluding those of time and place, [one] will quickly see that with all of these determinations he can exist or not exist." [Ibid., 57] Furthermore, according to Caesar’s ‘thorough determination,’ there can be no predicate missing at all. What Kant means by ‘thorough determination’ is simply that using a priori rules always ensures truth and certainty. Kant’s interest in using these a priori rules is that it helps strip away all matter and exhaust all options in order to arrive at certainty.

Thus, the term existence is used as a predicate, and as Kant asserts,

"This can be done and without troublesome errors so long as it is not proposed to deduce being from merely possible concepts as one is wont to do in proving absolutely necessary existence. For then one seeks in vain amongst the predicates of such possible being, because existence certainly is not to be found amongst them. In those instances of ordinary speech where existence is encountered as a predicate it is not so much a predicate of the thing itself as it is of the thought one has of it." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 57.]

In the above quote one can see how Kant’s rejection of existence as a predicate has direct connections with his contention of the ontological argument moving from concept to necessity. This is demonstrated in the fact that Kant firmly believes that the Cartesian ontological argument moves from possibility as a ground to existence as a consequence. Of course Kant reverses this process and moves from possibility as a consequence to a necessary being as the ground. Thus, granting the movement of the Cartesian process involves not only a logical problem for Kant but a predicate problem as well. The logical problem Kant detects in the Cartesian process is described in nice detail by Treash in his introduction to Kant’s essay The One Possible Basis (pp. 15-16). Kant believes the problem lies in the form of the argument. The Cartesian form begins with conception. Thus, in actuality the argument is, at best, "bare possibility" (as Treash describes).

The predicate problem stems from the logical problem in the sense that because the Cartesian process starts in conception, actual existence can only be deduced from ‘bare possibility’ (or mere possibility) through analysis of what is actually in the concept. [Treash, The One Possible Basis, 16.] Treash elaborates on Kant’s assertions by declaring,

"There is no conception or predicate attaching to an existent thing that does not constitute its determination as a mere possibility. The complete conception of the hero Julius Caesar must include all his determining predicates. These determine him both as an actual, historical character and as a merely possible one. Nothing at all is added to that determination which delineates Caesar from Brutus when the former is recognized to be a real and actual being. Hence although "existence" may sometimes be employed as a predicate in grammar, it is not a real predicate. And so it will never be possible to derive the existence of any entity from the concept of that entity, be that concept what it may." [Ibid.]

And Kant contends that the Cartesian form of the ontological argument does this very thing; it begins with the concept of a perfect being and moves to the actuality of that being as a consequence of the concept. Therefore, God’s actuality, according to Kant, is already contained in the possibility. And as Treash points out, "This requires existence to be considered a real predicate." [Ibid.] This is something which Kant is not willing to concede since he believes the condition through which God may be thought is hypostatized. In other words, as was stated earlier, Kant’s contention with the Cartesian view is that God (as being) is a consequence of the concept and is thus already present in possibility. Thus, predicating existence to God is something that is already present in the possibility, and as Kant points out later in his Critique of Pure Reason, "I cannot know as an object that which I must presuppose in order to know any object." (CPR A 402) [Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965), 365. See also Howard Caygill’s work A Kant Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995), under the term ‘existence.’ Caygill gives a nice description of Kant’s view regarding existence and the notion that it is not a predicate.]


Having examined a small aspect of Kant’s pre-critical philosophy of religion (esp. regarding the Cartesian Ontological proof for the existence of God) we can see the importance it has on the critical period; a period in which Kant is more explicit in his affirmation that any proof which purports to demonstrate God’s existence is ultimately suspect.

Kant, in his pre-critical period, while possibly being a little more sympathetic to the ontological argument, is not nearly as willing to pay homage to the notion that there is a viable proof for God’s existence. And this denial is more forthcoming during his critical period; a period which demonstrates a greater development of Kant’s thinking on these issues than was demonstrated in the pre-critical era. However, in his pre-critical period, as well as his critical period, Kant is more than willing to concede to the notion that belief in God is necessary. Albeit, certain proofs which attempt to support these beliefs are not necessary.

Kant himself, at the end of The One Possible Basis essay declares, "It is thoroughly necessary that one be convinced of God’s existence; but it is not nearly so necessary that it be demonstrated." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 239.]

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"Don’t Waste Your Cancer" by John Piper

Ben Myers has posted a very interesting response to John Piper's recent article which appeared at Desiring God minitries web site on Feb. 15th, 2006. This article was written by Piper just prior to his surgery to remove cancer from his prostate.

While I love John Piper, his preaching, and his ministry, I do take issue with his views on suffering and especially his theodicy. I simply disagree that God creates or designs "things" such as cancer or other "evils." Evil is certainly not a thing to be created or designed for that matter. I have posted on this issue here - Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part One) and here - Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part Two).

While I certainly understand Piper's views regarding the sovereignty of God (and agree with much of what he espouses in this issue), to include in God's sovereignty the creating or designing of evil is very problematic, and not accepted nor taught in Church history (Augustine seems to have the definitive work on this issue).

However, Ben posted some comments by Karl Barth as an alternative to Piper's views. Having read those remarks, I am not convinced that Barth is actually answering the issue any better than Piper. These are the comments from Barth that Ben posted, "“[Sickness] is opposed to [God’s] good will as the Creator and has existence and power only under his mighty No. To capitulate before it, to allow it to take its course, can never be obedience but only disobedience towards God. In harmony with the will of God, what man ought to will in face of this whole realm ... and therefore in face of sickness, can only be final resistance” (CD III/4, pp. 367-68).

My complaint of the above remarks made by Barth is that he seems to be declaring that we get cancer (or allow it to happen) out of disobedience to God (unless I am misunderstanding this out of its complete context). This is also problematic in various ways. On the other hand Piper declares, "It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design." I take issue with these comments since it certainly seems to communicate that God is the designer of evil, but I respond that evil is not a thing that is designed (or created for that matter).

Piper has already had the surgery, and from what I have heard it went well. I do pray that Piper recovers and is able to continue in his minstry at Bethlehem Baptist Church. However, with all due respect to Piper and his ministry, I simply disagree with his views of suffering and theodicy. If you have the time I recommend that you click on the link for Ben's response and also click on the link to Piper's article, both are worth the read.

A Bit of My Background (Conclusion)

During my seminary career, my wife and I were members of one of the largest PCA churches in the southern part of the U.S. It was actually at this church were my frustration began with churches in America. My final year of seminary, the pastor of this church (who is well known in PCA circles) left the church to help another PCA church in a different part of the country. It was at this point where this church (where we were members) went out in left field, so to speak.

The church slowly and progressively began to become more entertainment oriented. The associate pastor replaced the former pastor and thus inaugurated some changes in the church. The new pastor had some very bizarre theological ideas and me and several other seminary students who were also members of this church noticed certain theological remarks which were being made on a progressively regular basis. However, in the back of mind, long before the previous pastor ever left the church, I wondered why this church, which called itself “reformed,” did not perform the Eucharist every Sunday. Especially since “word and sacrament” was espoused wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, the church began to progressively worsen, so my wife and I left in search of another church.

In a years time we must have attended over three dozen various churches. We never found another church home in North Carolina. However, we witnessed some of the strangest activities from wacky dramas which actually replaced the preaching, to live bands or videos which “constituted the worship service,” and everything else in between. When I was accepted into the philosophy program at Marquette University, we moved to Wisconsin as a pair of “homeless from church” people. Unfortunately, like in North Carolina, in Milwaukee, we never found a church home. We crossed denominational lines, visited every imaginable church one could think of (except Roman Catholic and Episcopal since, at the time, neither of us were moving in our thinking in that direction), and the same "weird" and "crazy" things were occurring here that we had experienced in North Carolina.

Due to a bad business decision on our part (I’ll leave the details out on this incident) I was “forced” to step out of the program at Marquette. By now, my wife and I had gone two years without a church home, and this was having a serious effect on both us. So, due to job positions, we moved back to Texas where we immediately went back to the PCA church we had been attending prior to our leaving for seminary. Much to my surprise and elation, the church was now performing the Lord’s Table every Sunday. I was asked to teach Sunday morning classes, we were getting involved and meeting good friends (David Piske and our friend Clint).

However, after about three years of membership in this PCA church a serious problem/event occurred that indirectly involved me (details withstanding once again). Much to my wife’s and my trepidation, consternation and serious and long contemplation of the sour/bad circumstances (which was not handles in an appropriate manner by the leadership of this church), we left the church for ethical and theological reasons. This was a major blow to both of us since we both loved this little church so much, had many friends within it, and we were both very active within it. However, simultaneously I was having a shift of thinking in my theology regarding worship, liturgy, as well as historical views regarding the Reformation and Church Tradition; albeit, this had nothing to do with our leaving this church. Moreover, since we left this church, we have yet to find another and once again, in the last ten months, we have seen some wild and bizarre things in various churches in our area (some of which I have posted on this blog). Needless to say, we continue to search for a church home.

[N.B. I am in no way, in any of these posts regarding my background with churches, declaring or even attempting to imply that the Southern Baptist denomination or the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) are “bad” denominations and should be avoided. Quite the contrary, albeit there is “bad apples” in every batch, I in no way think anyone should avoid these denominations or their churches, and have not intended to post my experiences as “arguments” against these denominations.]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kant: The One Possible Basis (Part 3)

Even in his pre-critical stage Kant firmly believed that a demonstration for God’s existence must meet certain criteria. For instance, for a thing to be mathematically certain it must be arrived at in only one way. If there are multiple ways in which something could be proven, then the proofs themselves suffer some error and are thus suspect. This is confirmed by Kant when he declares, "Conviction of the great truth, that there is a God, must if it is to be of the highest mathematical certainty, have this property: that it can be achieved in only one way." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 223.]

Therefore, in his pre-critical stage Kant believed that logical grounding of proofs was necessary since he thought that mere concepts are not subject to formal analysis. In the introduction of the translation of Kant’s essay, Gordon Treash declares,

"The Cartesian method proceeds from the possibilities of things as a ground to the existence of the primordial actuality as a consequence derived from this ground. The Kantian argument completely inverts the process. It moves from the possibilities, as consequences, to the necessary being as their ground." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 15]

This is perhaps the best description of what Kant is trying to accomplish in his pre-critical essay regarding what he thinks is illicitly missed in the Cartesian ontological argument. Of all the proofs which have been offered prior to Kant, the ontological proof is the one which Kant thinks has the greatest possibility of providing an a priori synthetic judgment. However, Kant believes the ontological argument does not have a proper beginning or grounding, and thus he attempts to correct what he thinks is lacking. Kant himself declares,

"I note only the following here: the ground of proof we give for the existence of God is built simply upon [the fact] that something is possible. Thus it is a proof which may be adduced completely a priori. Neither my existence nor that of other minds nor that of the corporeal world is presupposed. In fact it is deduced from the internal mark of absolute necessity. In this way the existence of this being is known from what really constitutes its absolute necessity and thus entirely genetically." [Ibid., 95]

In commenting on this remark, Treash points out that "Kant notes that he has provided a properly ‘genetic’ foundation for demonstrating the existence of God, genetic because it has been derived only from the characteristics of absolute necessity. The existence of the absolutely necessary being is known through what constitutes the being’s necessity." Treash goes on to point out "the one foundation for demonstrating this existence is due to be uncovered by analysis of how that being functions in the world. That God is the necessary being will be shown by proving that there is a function which is absolutely essential and can be assumed only by a being which cannot not be." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 13]

Therefore, Kant’s intent is to demonstrate that God is necessary simply because some things are possible. Kant is looking for the basis or ground of possibility and a thing or a being which is that basis cannot not exist. For if this being, which is the basis or ground of possibility were denied, all existence and all possibility would be denied as well. Bernard M.G. Reardon, writing about pre-critical Kant, delineates further upon this idea by declaring, "if human thought can admit possibility - and we are unable in fact to deny it without thinking, and to think is implicitly to affirm possibility - then it must also admit the ground of possibility, i.e. an actual being antecedent to any merely possible being." [Bernard M.G. Reardon, Kant as Philosophical Theologian (Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books, 1988), 32. Emphasis in the original.]

However, denying the possibility of existence entails a contradiction, and Kant affirms,

"There is only one God and only one argument through which it is possible to apprehend his existence with the perception of the necessity which positively eliminates any opposition. A judgment of this sort can lead immediately to the nature of the object itself. Any other thing that may exist anywhere may also not exist. Accordingly, experience of contingent things cannot give an adequate argument by which to comprehend the existence of something of which it is that it not be." [Kant, The One Possible Basis, 237.]

Furthermore, as Treash points out, "It is not possible for there to be nothing, for the very possibility of total non-being would itself have to be at least a possibility." [Ibid., 14] This is an a priori demonstration. However, where it departs from the Cartesian ontological argument is in that God’s necessity is not demonstrated in how God is conceived. Rather, it stems from "the nature of possibility itself." [Ibid.] Thus Kant’s method moves from possibility to necessity.

Possibility is, in this method, consequence, and necessity is its grounding. Therefore, Kant’s method is not merely an analytic judgement, but is synthetic, which seems to possibly answer the problems Kant sees in the Cartesian ontological argument as a purely analytic judgement. However, at this point Kant is not willing to ‘die in the ditch,’ if you will, for this method, but it at least demonstrates the pre-critical development in Kant’s thinking.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

When it Rains It Pours

Well, I am asking for prayer again. I have been working for my dad on a somewhat temporary basis and he had to give me a one month notice today to find another job. I knew this was coming I just did not think it would be this soon. Moreover, my wife and I just bought our first home about 8 months ago, so our budget is in need of a certain amount of money to make the mortgage payment and pay on all my outrageous school loans (as many of you know how expensive school can be - especially seminary)

I should be hearing from the community college about which I posted several weeks back. I am expecting to hear back from them any day now. We are praying that God will provide me with that position but more importantly that we will not worry (too much anyway) and rest in God's provision and providence over this situation. I do covet your prayers and thank you for them ahead of time!

God Bless!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

General Wisdom - E.J. Carnell

"General wisdom is not a threat to the gospel, because everything good traces to God. God is merciful and kind; he bestows truth, as well as rain and sunshine, upon the just and unjust. Christ is the 'true light that enlightens every man.' This bestowal should inspire feelings of joy, not resentment, in the heart of a Christian. Aristotle said many wise things about logic, Confucious many wise things about morals. When a Christian attacks general knowledge in the name of the gospel, the natural man will attack the gospel in the name of general knowledge."

- Edward John Carnell

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kant and the ‘One Possible Way’ (Part 2)

Pre-critical Kant

Clement Webb in his work Kant’s Philosophy of Religion describes the pre-critical period of Kant’s efforts in the arena of the philosophy of religion as such:

"The earliest published reflections of Kant on the philosophy of religion are chiefly concerned with the impression of design made upon us by the spectacle of nature. This seems to have been always in his eyes the most obvious and natural means by which the thought that there is a God is suggested to the human mind." [Clement C. J. Webb, Kant’s Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), 25.]

This is a telling quote about Kant’s pre-critical philosophy which becomes more evident in his Critique of Pure Reason regarding the notion of analytic and synthetic judgments. However, prior to the fullest development of this theory of judgments Kant’s pre-critical era at least demonstrates his move toward such conclusions (from the above quote) in his assessment of the proofs for God’s existence. In other words, pre-critical Kant, as we will soon see, seems to be searching for a possible demonstration for God’s existence via what he would later call a synthetic a priori judgment.

[Throughout Kant’s career he believed that the notion of the synthetic a priori is the only way in which one could, if it were possible, truly prove God’s existence. Thus, for Kant, proof for God’s existence would require this type of judgment.]

It seems one of the reasons for Kant’s essay The One Possible Basis for a Demonstration for the Existence of God was his contention with the current use of the ontological argument. Clement Webb has pointed out that "it may surprise those unacquainted with the course taken by Kant’s thought on this subject prior to the appearance of the Critique of Pure Reason to find that this ‘only possible proof’ is a modified form of what is called the ontological argument. [Clement C. J. Webb, Kant’s Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), 30.] If nothing else, pre-critical Kant is at least playing with the notion that there might be a possible demonstration for the existence of God. Of course, the operative term in the preceding statement is "might."

In his pre-critical writings Kant is not willing to concede the notion that there is any "proof" which would, without doubt, be able to demonstrate God’s existence. Nonetheless, in this pre-critical essay Kant is at least working on the idea of possibility as being a better explanation for demonstrating God’s existence than what has been presented as ‘proof’ in the Cartesian ontological argument.
In his essay The One Possible Basis for a Demonstration of the Existence of God, Kant formulates an argument which looks something like this:
  • All possibility presupposes something actual in which and through which everything conceivable is given.
  • Accordingly there is a certain actuality whose annulment itself would totally annul all internal possibility. But that whose annulment or negation eradicates all possibility is absolutely necessary.
  • Therefore, something exists in an absolutely necessary fashion.

[Immanuel Kant, The One Possible Basis for a Demonstration of the Existence of God, trans. by Gordon Treash (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 79. I have put the argument in a syllogism to distinguish the premises and conclusion. This was not something that appeared in the original text.]

Prima facie the above argument only seems to demonstrates that there is such a thing as necessity. However, this argument is the basis or ground from which Kant attempts to rework or correct what he finds wrong in the ontological argument. Frederick Copleston, in his popular work A History of Philosophy volume six describes with great clarity the intent of Kant’s pre-critical assessment of the arguments for God’s existence. Copleston declares,

"All proofs of the existence of God must rest either on the concept of the possible or on the empirical idea of the existent. Further, each class can be divided into two sub-classes. In the first place we may attempt to argue either from possibility as a ground to the existence of God as a consequence or from possibility as a consequence to God’s existence as the ground of this possibility. In the second place, that is, if we start with existing things, two courses are open to us. Either we can try to prove the existence of an independent cause of these things, and then show that such a cause must possess certain attributes, which make it proper to speak of it as God. Or we can try to prove at the same time both the existence and the attributes of God. Any proof of the existence of God must, according to Kant, take one of these four forms." [Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy vol. VI (New York, New York: An Image Book Dell Publishing Company, 1985), 188.]

The above quote is quite helpful, especially to those readers of pre-critical Kant in determining what exactly Kant was up to when he was examining the proofs for God’s existence. It at least lays a good foundational starting point from which a more thorough examination of Kant’s early essay can be established.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Wow! I'm Famous!

It looks as if my frustrations have made it out into the larger blogsphere!

These comments were made about my frustrations in trying to find a good church home!

steve said...
I stumbled on to this suggested name in another blog. It was a comment in response to a guy ranting that we need more traditional and liturgical churches.

The suggested name? The One True and Only Real Church Cos All The Others Are Pants Church.

The blog (I suggest you not visit): Shadows of Divine Things with a follow up here: Frustration Continues.

Oh . . . C'mon guys, you can visit my blog! I'm really very harmless . . . besides who can resist this face:

[The face of a guy who can not find a good church home!]

Books, Books, Books!

Well, thanks to Ben and Chris, I am now back into my "book mode." This is that mode where I want to go out and buy some books! Thanks a lot guys!!

So . . . instead of going out and spending money I don't actually have at this time, I'll leave a link here to a post I put on this blog back in early November of last year. The post is aptly titled Bibliomania.

I can relate to Chris when he declares about books, "I sniff them, take them to bed, devote hours of attention to them, gaze on them affectionately, caress them, and yes, even read them."

We're a pathetic lot aren't we?

A Bit of My Background (Part 2)

Between the time of my “traumatic” conversion and actually leaving for seminary was a 6 year period. In that six year period I moved from my hometown to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and joined one of the largest Southern Baptist Churches in that area. It was at this church where I met my wife. I was teaching a Wednesday evening class and she attended, and the rest is history. I was also teaching one of the largest single adult Sunday morning classes at this church (about 100 to 150 people in the class), so this forced me to do my homework.

In this six year period, due to serious research of theology texts, and Scripture reading I slowly transformed from an Arminian theology to a Calvinistic theology. However, within this transformation I also changed from a solid Southern Baptist belief in dispensationalism to a covenant theology. So this was a “whole” theological shift. At the same time I was making this shift, the Southern Baptist Church where I (and now my wife) was a member slowly shifted to a more contemporary entertainment “worship style.” This simply did not set well with my newly formulated Calvinistic framework and so my wife (we married in this church) and I left this church. Moreover we actually left the Southern Baptist denomination, never to return (more so for my theological shift than anything else).

We actually landed at a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) which was just across the street from our old Baptist church. The Sunday school teacher and associate pastor of this PCA church was a friend of Michael Horton’s. By this time I was very familiar with the works of Michael Horton, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, etc. So this new church was a near perfect fit for us. However, after a little over a year I decided it was time for me to further my education, so I searched out seminaries which had an emphasis in apologetics. Through RZIM (Ravi Zacharias’ ministry) I discovered a little seminary in North Carolina called Southern Evangelical Seminary. This school actually offered a degree in apologetics with an emphasis in philosophy.

So, after applying and gaining acceptance into the school, off to North Carolina we went. This was a major decision and a major move for us, since neither my wife nor I had ever lived anywhere else but Texas. But off we went nonetheless. Now, my seminary experience was both “bitter” and “sweet.” It was sweet in that the faculty there was some of the most well known in evangelical circles; men like Norman Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, Frank Beckwith, etc. taught classes at this school. Moreover, because Geisler was the President of the school there was always a need for students to do research for his books and other well known writer’s books (i.e. Josh McDowell). I also was fortunate enough to travel with Dr. Geisler to many of his speaking engagements at various universities, churches and conferences. Through Geisler I met men like R.C. Sproul, William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, etc. I was also invited by Geisler to go see several conferences which included speakers like Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan (and other Jesus Seminary fellows – but it should be pointed out that I am not too impressed with the Jesus Seminar group and their work) and was able to hear Geisler carry on conversations with these men. And during this time I was also privileged to here N. T. Wright speak on the resurrection of Christ (an experience I will always cherish). However, it was bitter in that I was an historic Calvinist and quite covenant in my theology and Geisler as well as SES was not; albeit Geisler called himself a moderate Calvinist, I do not believe he was. However, this made for great discussions in class and on the road with Geisler. It also forced me to dig deeper into my research of the Reformation and Reformed thinking.

Another nice feature of SES was the student to teacher ratio, which meant that I got to know everyone of my professor very well. That being the case there was one professor in particular who had a tremendous influence on my life. It was through this professor, and his brother who taught Greek, Hebrew and Old Testament at SES, that I “discovered” Thomas Aquinas in a more thorough and deeper fashion. What is more, it was through this professor that I discovered and was encouraged to apply and attend Marquette University.

Seminary opened up a whole new world of theology and philosophy to me that I was totally unaware of pre-seminary. So I at least have that much to be thankful for with my education at SES. Moreover, I meet some great people at SES such as Doug Beaumont and Jeremiah Cowart (both bloggers in the blogsphere); Jeremiah was, at the time I met him at SES, more interested in Kant than any other thinker in philosophy and theology and after many hours of conversations in the library with Jeremiah, for me he sparked a huge interest in Kant – thank you much Jeremiah!

However, it was in seminary where I began to study the writings of Martin Luther specifically and the Reformers in general which ultimately led me to a deeper study of Church History and the issues of Scripture, Tradition, and how worship should entail word and sacrament (which, by the way, is a very Roman Catholic notion albeit the Reformers stressed it quite often in their theology). So that by the time I graduated seminary and was accepted into Marquette University, I had developed a huge interest in Tradition and Scripture as presented by the Reformation and its theologians. It was with this mindset and interest that I entered Marquette University.

[To be continued . . .]

Quote of the Week

"If a man knows nothing of the power of sin, of law, or of grace, I do not see how I can call him a Christian. It is there that Christ is truly known. The knowledge of Christ is to know his benefits, taste his salvation, and experience his grace; it is not, as the academic people say, to reflect on his natures and the modes of his incarnation. If you do not know the practical purpose for which he took flesh and went to the cross what is the good of knowing his story?"

- - Philip Melanchthon

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Bit of My Background (Part 1)

On my blog, as of late, I have been grumbling about my plight to find a good church home for me and my wife. On a more personal note, I wanted to post a brief article on my background and what factors and issues have led me to my current stream of thinking. I do this hopefully to shed light on why, perhaps, it has been difficult for my wife and me to find a church home (despite the fact that there are not too many “well rounded” or solid churches in our area).

I was born in West Texas, and was raised in a small West Texas town in the middle of nowhere (literally). To give you some perspective on this, within a 200 mile radius the only town that was larger than my own was Fort Worth (and Dallas). In this small town, I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church (I actually spent the first 30 years of my life in the Southern Baptist denomination). However, this church was not just any typical Southern Baptist Church, this was the First Baptist Church in this town, and was, for the most part, quite fundamentalist. In fact, in High School, in the early eighties, I listened to music that was considered “the devil’s music” (i.e. Metallica, Judas Priest, Kiss, AC/DC, etc.) by certain people in our community and church. The church I grew up in stressed anything but meaningful theology (that I can recall anyway).

When I was twelve years old, after coming home from a very emotional church camp (with all the typical Baptist campfire tunes that are meant to get an emotional reaction out of you), I went “forward” (walk the isle as many call it) and made a “public profession faith.” I will save the details of this for another post (especially since David Piske and I have been conversing about these very issues lately in our usual “theological gatherings”). It was at this point that I “supposedly” became a Christian (once again I will post on this very issue a little later).

After graduating high school, I did not do the typical thing that my brother and sister had done; that was to leave our small town and go to a large university (they both attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock). No, I stayed in town and went to the local Southern Baptist University. After several years at this university, bored half out of mind, I stepped out of school for about a year in order to work and decide what I wanted to do with my already miserable existence (I say “miserable” due to my lack of discipline and the friends I was hanging out with and the things I was doing at the time - I'll spare you the details). After a year of being away from school, and through a long time friend, I decided to go back to finish my undergrad work. However, when I went back to this Southern Baptist School, I actually changed my major to Theatre (and added English Literature as a second major). This was the best decision I could have ever made because the theatre gave me the discipline I was lacking at that time in my life.

Around the same time I graduated from this Southern Baptist University, I had what I like to call my “traumatic” conversion experience; this was several events which ultimately “led me back” (for lack of better term) to Christianity. These events actually turned my whole life upside down and I became “on fire” for the Lord. I was witnessing, attending the Southern Baptist Church I grew up in, the whole nine yards, so to speak. It was actually through this “coming back” that led me to an interest in apologetics. While witnessing to my own dad (he lived in Houston at the time – my parents were divorced when I was about two years old in the late 60’s) who was, and still is, a member of Unity School of Christianity (a type of ‘mind science’ or New Age group). He pretty much chewed me up and down with regard to certain essential Christian doctrines.

After this experience, I realized that I was quite unprepared to “give a reason for the hope that is in me” (1 Peter 3:15). This experience also made me realize how scant my knowledge of Christian theology actually was at the time. Moreover, this experience ultimately led me to a deeper study of the Bible, theology, and with such a great interest in those things this ultimately led me to desire a seminary education. I will save that part of my journey for another post.

[To be continued . . .]

"Musical Mush" by Charles Colson

David Wright, at Nelmezzo, has posted a link to an article Chuck Colson wrote which pertains to Chris Tilling's infamous "Winds of Worship" series. If you have the time you must go to David's blog and check it out! Sadly, it is both very funny and quite sad at the same time. In fact, here is the first paragraph of the article Colson wrote:

"When church music directors lead the congregation in singing some praise music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We had been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called, "Draw Me Close to You." The song has zero theological content and could be sung in a nightclub, for that matter. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed at us and said in a cheerful voice, "Let’s sing that again, shall we?" "No!" I shouted loudly. Heads all around me spun while my wife cringed."

Go click the link at David's blog to read the rest.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Making the Rounds

There are several interesting things happening in "blogland." First, at Nelmezzo's blog, David Wright has been posting a series on Ecclessiology, Succession, Scripture, and Tradition. You can see these posts here, here, here, here, and here (btw - all the "heres" as I have listed them are the sequences of the posts).

Also, Alastair at Adversaria has posted two very interesting articles on his views of the doctrine of election here and here. He has some interesting ideas regarding election and has sparked some lively exchange with a few other bloggers.

On the lighter side, Chris Tilling has posted his final, and perhaps funniest, Winds of Worship tune geared to youth groups and sunday schools. You really have to see this one, and be sure to scroll through his blog to view the other tunes as well, they're a real hoot!

Herman Bavinck on Theologians

I was looking through Herman Bavinck's The Doctrine of God and ran across this quote. I love what Bavinck has to say about the theologian:

"A theologian is a person who makes bold to speak about God because he speaks out of God and through God. To profess theology is to do holy work. It is a priestly ministration in the house of the Lord. It is itself a service of worship, a consecration of mind and heart to the honour of His name."

Reading quotes like this ought to make the theologian's task much more important in that we are not performing or studying theology in vain, but we do so to honour and Glorify the very Person of whom we study.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Paul’s Basic Kerygma in First Corinthians 15:3-8

I wanted to post this and get my questions out there to see how you all might answer. I am posting this in hopes that your thoughts may help me develop more thoroughly my thoughts on these passages from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian Church.

It seems clear; to me anyway, that Paul’s audiences in both his epistles to the Church at Corinth are to Pagan converts to Christianity. That being the case, is Paul’s basic kerygma, which seems to be centrally focused in his first epistle around chapter 15, verses 3 through 8, one of pure fact being a list of events within a certain framework (as N.T. Wright seems to declare) in an attempt to explain to his pagan converts the importance of these events? Or, is this a type of creed which could ultimately be considered the gospel in so far as agreeing to these things/facts we are “saved?” Or is it perhaps, both? [I hope these questions make sense – if not post a comment and I’ll try to clarify them].

Also, when Paul declares, in these passages, according to the Scriptures, is Paul referring to the Old Testament Scriptures? Or is he essentially calling the deposit of the Apostles which was given to them from Christ, Scriptures?

Kant and the ‘One Possible Way’ (Part 1)

In December of 1762 Immanuel Kant completed an important essay titled The One Possible Basis for a Demonstration of the Existence of God, which Kant himself declared was the result of long reflection. In this essay, Kant examines the current ‘proofs’ for the existence of God, with particular emphasis upon the ontological argument put forth by Descartes, and makes several declarations in an attempt to ‘clean up’ what Kant believed to be a metaphysical mess. The importance of this work cannot be overstated since it sets the stage for the development of Kant’s later assessments of the classical proofs for the existence of God put forth in The Critique of Pure Reason. Thus, scholars have aptly called the period in which Kant wrote his early essays, the pre-critical period.

The intent of this short series is to examine Kant’s pre-critical assertions regarding what Kant calls the ‘one possible way’ in which one might potentially demonstrate God’s existence. It should be pointed out at this stage of this article/series that Kant’s assessments and attempts to rework or improve what he thinks is lacking in the Cartesian ontological argument is purely speculative. In the end Kant does not fully embrace the possibility that God’s existence is something for which a demonstration is possible (except perhaps through the practical). This becomes more clear when Kant writes his famous Critique of Pure Reason. However, in this pre-critical period, Kant is at least playing with the idea that the ontological argument, while primarily faulty in its overall assessment, has some merit to it, and this is the very thing which occupies Kant in The One Possible Basis for a Demonstration of the Existence of God.

Since Kant’s essay was in part a response to the Cartesian ontological argument an examination and exposition of his contention with that argument will also be delineated. While there are other "proofs" for God’s existence which were asserted and used prior to Kant’s day, and which Kant responded to, it would be out of the scope and beyond the length of this series to probe Kant’s responses to those arguments. Thus, Kant’s pre-critical assessment of the ontological argument will be the basis of this series.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

So Many Blogs, So Little Time!

I'm slapping myself over here because I promised myself I would not browse around for anymore blogs to read. I have a core group of blogs that I read and respond to, adding another is pushing me to the edge of overload.

However, and this is a big however, I found a really cool blog today. The name of the blog is Per Caritatem and is operated by Cynthia Nielsen. She is a Westminister Theological Seminary graduate, she has an impressive Curriculum Vitae, and has done work in both theology and philosophy.

Her blog is academically based and has some great posts on Augustine, Aquinas, John Calvin, apologetics, Biblical Theology, etc. If you have not seen her blog then I highly recomment it.

Now, nobody else make anymore blogs. I have way too many to read as it is right now! 8-)

Pretty soon from all the blog reading I have been doing I'm going to permanently look like this:

Preview of What's to Come

I just wanted to provide a short preview of some upcoming posts. I am actually a little tired of posting on John Calvin (especially after nine posts in the series). Not that I ever get tired of Calvin, I just need a bit of a break from the series. However, I will pick it back up and actually finish that series in the near future (I only have about four or so more posts to finish).

I actually wanted to post a small series on the ideas of Immanuel Kant in his work titled The
One Possible Basis for a Demonstration of the Existence of God. This work is, believe it or not, what many scholars call a pre-critical work by Kant and he has some very interesting things to say in this work. So, I wanted to spend some time on that work (but only briefly).

Also, I am currently reading several works that I would like to post my thoughts on (in perhaps a review type format). These works are N. T. Wright's What Saint Paul Really Said and Robert W. Jenson's Systematic Theology: Volume 1 The Triune God. My thoughts on these works will be in the near future, perhaps between the Kant series and the continuation of the Calvin series, or thereabouts. If you are interested in either of these works, and I do recommend them, so I have provided links to them at Amazon below.

I also intend to do a very small series on Jonathan Edward's theology/philosophy of human desires and dispositions (which I have found very intriguing for many years). This will probably be in the distant future (but not too distant) so please be patient.

One last thing. I am going to begin a new feature on this blog. I am not sure what I am going to call it, so any suggestions are welcomed. I want to periodically post a type of profile on an individual from Church history, presenting what kind of impact this individual had upon Christianity and Church history, their major works, etc. So look for that was well. I hope you enjoy these things as much as I have enjoyed researching and reading them (whichever the case may have been).


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It's Supper Time!!!!

Oh . . . the Irony!!

Just when I did not think it could get worse (of course I'm speaking in hyperbole). In the mail today, we received an "advertisement card" from a Church close to our home. The name of this "Church" is called MetroQuest (OOOUUUUU!! Catchy!) These are the "strong points" of their church (as advertised on the card):

  • Casual atmosphere
  • Relevant Message
  • Contemporary music
  • Exciting kid activities
  • Awesome refreshments
  • Safe, loving nursery

And to top off all those amenities above, the message (well, what they call a Life Lesson) for this Sunday is titled Growing to Greatness!

The ad for this message tells me, the reader of the cute little card, that everyone in life has areas where they would like to grow - these areas include financial, in our relationships, and even in our sense of purpose, everyone has room to develop, and this message is relevant to my personal development!

WOW!!! Very tempting but . . . . . .

NAW!! I'll Pass!

[Ok, I really need to stop lamenting over this issue. But, DAG!!! Whenever they send me an invitation in the mail to participate in their silliness, its sort of difficult to not get worked up!]

Monday, February 06, 2006

Quote of the Week

"The Church has a mission: to see to the speaking of the gospel, whether to the world as message of salvation, or to God as appeal and praise."

- - Robert W. Jenson

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My Frustration Continues

We visited another Church today (I will refrain from giving the name of the church or its denomination). We actually found this one after looking in our local phone book, there was no mention at all about a "contemporary" worship. However, when we arrived and the service began, the first thing that happened was the minister (pastor/preacher) of the church yelled out and said "Look, here comes insert the person's name!" Suddenly, running up the center isle of the church was a man with a warm up suit on and a back-pack on his back.

As soon as the man, who was running up the isle, reached the front of the sanctuary the minister said, "You look like you have a load of unforgiveness on your back!" And the man replied, "yes, and it's weighing me down." The minister replied, "Here, let me help you," and he proceeded to dig through the backpack and pull out a big rock that had the word "Unforgiveness" carved into it.

Now, this was all done, we were told, to stress the importance of the sermon for today. The sermon, of course, was appropriately titled "How to Lose the Weight of Unforgiveness." As soon as this "drama" was over, I turn to my wife and said, "Let's go!" However, she wanted to stay so she could see how they performed the Lord's Table, so I agreed, and we stayed. While the service itself and the sermon was not "heretical" (for lack of a better term), it did only get worse from that point. I will refrain from any further detail.

However, here was one of the songs we sang during the service. I post it here because it reminds me of the songs that Chris Tilling has been posting at his own blog. This was one of the songs:

"I Could Sing of Your Love Forever"
Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free.
I'm happy to be in the truth,
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down.

I could sing of Your Love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever.
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever.

Oh I feel like dancing, it's foolish I know.
But when the world has seen the light,
They will dance with joy like we're dancing now.

(repeat chorus over and over until you want to strangle the person next to you)

We repeated the chorus over and over like a mantra until by the eight time we had repeated it I was ready to pull my hair out. Needless to say, we continue to look for a church home.

"Who Said It?" - The Answer

"The words, 'I want to be holy' mean: I will divest myself of everything that is not of God; I will divest myself and empty my heart of material things. I will renounce my own will, my inclininations, my whims, my fickleness; and I will become a generous slave to God's will."

- - Mother Teresa

Yes, that's correct, Mother Teresa. While having read much of what she has written and a bunch of what has been written about her, I do not agree with everything Mother Teresa has stated or claimed. I do, however, agree with the above quote.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Blogger Troubles

For whatever bizarre reason, Blogger is weirding out on me. Has anyone on their own blog (assuming you use "Blogger") been having trouble posting comments and they are not showing up in the comments section?

This has happened to me at several other Blogger sites (i.e. Faith and Theology) so I'm wondering if Blogger is having technical troubles. Oh well, what more can I expect from a free service?

BTW - any typos you might see in any of these posts . . . well . . . those are Blogger's fault too!!


Friday, February 03, 2006

Who Said It?

Can anyone out there guess who said this:

"The words, 'I want to be holy' mean: I will divest myself of everything that is not of God; I will divest myself and empty my heart of material things. I will renounce my own will, my inclininations, my whims, my fickleness; and I will become a generous slave to God's will."

Take your best stab at it and see if you can guess who said this.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Churches in America

Ok, I’m frustrated! My wife and I have been searching for a church home for the last ten months. What frustrates me is that we live an area where there are about 6 million people and there is a church on almost every corner. That being the case you would think we could find a church home fairly quick and close to home. Not so!

Most of the churches in our area are “contemporary.” What I mean by that is these churches exchange choirs for praise bands, they use buildings that look like office spaces, or build buildings that have a “contemporary look” to them; in other words, if they did not have a sign out front you would never know it was a church. Moreover, the sermons are short and shallow at best; most are geared to make the listeners “feel better about themselves.” What is more, this is a “phenomenon” that crosses denominational borders. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Church of Christ, Methodist, all have turned to this type or style of service. Why?

I simply do not understand why churches feel the need to become “contemporary.” Call me a fuddy duddy if you like, but I prefer real sermons with weighty messages preached from the Scriptures which represent the Church Fathers and Church history in its truest sense. I prefer sermons which direct my thoughts toward God, the gospel, and which cause me to desire repentance. I also prefer traditional services, with liturgy (does anyone in this country know what that is any longer?), and a regular practice of the Lord’s Table (the Eucharist); which should be performed every week. Why don't these churches ever have a time for the members to confess their sins? Perhaps they think confession is bad for our self esteem.

Churches have reduce themselves to entertaining their members. Look, if I want to be entertained I'll skip church and go see a movie every Sunday morning. Where did we get this notion that we need to be entertained on Sunday morning at church? Are we not entertained enough during the regular week that we have to entertain ourselves at church as well?

Churches in America have lost a true sense of worship. People no longer, it seems, in this country anyway, attend church services in order to focus their attention on God. The focus of both worship and the sermons are directed to the individual; how you can feel better about yourself, or how you can improve your life because “gosh darn it” you are important. We, in the U.S.A. have what I like to call, “The Joel Osteen” effect. If you have ever heard Joel Osteen preach you will know exactly what I mean. His sermons are entirely “ego-centric, self help, let me tell you how wonderful you are” type sermons. Where is God in all of this? Where is the genuine worship of the Triune God, the crucified Christ, and the resurrected Messiah? Are people that afraid to put their thoughts toward heaven and the things of God?

It should be pointed out that this “epidemic” is not merely indicative of churches in our area. This was also the case when we lived in North Carolina and in Wisconsin. In fact, my wife and I have visited dozens upon dozens of churches in about eight different states in the U.S. and the landscape is practically the same as what I described here in our own area.

Is this typical of America only? Those of you who live in other countries, do you see these same features in the churches in your area? Can you tell that I am bit frustrated about all this? Ok, well, I’ll now get off my soap box, I just had to get that off my back!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Nine) – Christ as Redeemer in Procuring Our Salvation

In his Institutes Calvin declares that it is necessary for us to consider in what way we obtain salvation from Christ. This is so for two reasons; first, that we may not only be persuaded that Christ is the author of our salvation, but second, having embraced whatever is sufficient as a sure foundation (for our salvation), this may eschew all factors that might make us waver. Bottom line here, Calvin is declaring that our understanding of Christ and how He is the author of our salvation and embracing that as our certainty helps us to avoid anything that would take us away from that sure foundation.

The interesting thing about the above is it certainly does not sound like the contemporary five point Calvinistic view. What could possibly take us away from genuine salvation in Christ? In this chapter of the Institutes Calvin declares, “Therefore, the moment we turn aside from him [Christ] in the minutest degree, salvation, which resides entirely in him [Christ], gradually disappears; so that all who do not rest in him voluntarily deprive themselves of all grace.” These are Calvin’s very words, and of course, prima facie they do not sound like words with which a contemporary Calvinist would agree.

So what is Calvin saying when he makes this claim? I do not think Calvin is declaring that one can “lose” their salvation, as taken at first glance the claim seem to be such. No, Calvin is declaring these words in the context of how and why Christ is our redeemer. Calvin, just prior to this claim, and elsewhere in other contexts, declares, “. . . redemption would be defective if it did not conduct us by an uninterrupted progression to the final goal of safety.” (Emphasis mine)

Calvin declares that everything needful for man’s salvation exists in Christ and His work (i.e. the life, death, resurrection, and ascension). To fail to understand this is simply clinging to a deception that will ultimately cost us God’s grace. Thus, the turning aside from Christ and voluntarily depriving ourselves of all grace is a defective form of grace. So from where does this defective form of grace come? Calvin does not answer in this chapter. However, Calvin declares that grace from God fulfills its work in the individual and this is why Calvin declares everything needful for us exists in Christ.

[Stay tuned . . . more to come!]