Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Modernist Philosophy in a Post Modern Society

Introduction to Modernism

In the 19th century all across Europe a new philosophy crept into the halls of learning which has beforehand been dominated by Bible trained scholars.  This new philosophy was unabashed in its challenge to the Bible.  Indeed, the Bible seemed to be its principal target.  Critics became the new intellectual elite.  And as industrialization combined with the age of steel and the age of the locomotive and steam, scholars across Europe and even America adopted a new optimism that science and man could solve all the problems of man.

The war that swept across Europe in the first decades of the 20th century seemingly killed this optimism and even the philosophy resulting in a new take on mankind and its potential.  This new philosophy would become known in part as post-modernism.  The shift was perceptible in more areas than the classrooms of the university.  Professors could no longer say with a straight face that mankind can solve all its own problems by rejecting the old out-dated and out-moded fears created in religion and nurtured by superstition and instead embracing pure logic and science.  The horrors of the world war were memorialized in film and could not as easily be forgotten as wars past.  Further, the atrocities of war were only amplified by science and logic and the rejection of religion.

Science had contributed to the unheard of death toll by the development of mustard gas, the tank, death from above in airplanes, phosphorus rounds and encased munitions capable of lobbying rounds 30 or 40 miles away.  Logic had contributed by the use of Ford’s assembly line to mass produce munitions and the machines of war.  Rejecting religion had produced a war that had no regard for the unique reflection of God in man - human life was completely disregarded.  War always produced mass casualties, but without religion war took on an even more beastly tone.  There was no refuge in the church, no honor among combatants, no regard for historic monuments and ancient buildings.  There was no solace in defeating evil for evil was only a perspective.

Enter Post Modernism

Post modernism was at least honest in its recognition that modernism had failed to produce a solution to the problem of man.  But post-modernism, like modernism failed to produce a better solution because it failed in a singular point.  Once you reject Scripture, you have to redefine the problem of man.  Scripture defined the problem as sin.  Modernism defined the problem as oppression by religion and ignorance.  Post-modernism would redefine the problem as well.  Unlike modernism there was less clarity in the definition.  It would include inequality, racism  sexism, nationalism, and a few other -isms.  But the core concept was that the problem was a lot of things other than sin.

Post-moderism produced another world war, nuclear war, a cold war, and more economic disparity than had ever existed anywhere.  There were no solutions because all the efforts and energies were being focused to the wrong problem.

Enter a Billion Hungry People and the Solution

Today I received an email from a friend with the following statement:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. Jesus sent the answer ... Us!
It occurs to me that this is a return to modernism.  The problem in the statement above is hunger, thirst and clothing.  The solution is people.  This is an extraordinary statement.  Consider if we just change a couple words:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. We have the answer ... Us!
It would not surprise me if the vast majority of atheists in the world would agree with the second statement.  And nothing has changed in the presentment of the problem or the answer.  The only thing that changed was an innocuous statement placed in the middle which is almost unnecessary.  

I changed the two words “Jesus sent” to “We have” to illustrate what the statement above states.  The solution in both cases is human effort.  The problem in both cases is human experience.

Consider this message as opposed to Scripture:
Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. 2:16 Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.”
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 1:25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  1:26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 1:27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 1:29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness,wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 1:31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 1: 32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.
 Here we note that the problem is not defined in Scripture as homelessness, hunger, thirst or economic disparity.  You could easily make the argument that hunger, thirst and economic disparity are results of the problem - but they are not the problem.  Human depravity in heart and mind and psyche is the problem.

So the statement forwarded to me by my friend is deficient in stating the problem.  How well does the statement present the solution?  Again, as someone who believes in the authority of Scripture, let’s go to Scripture for the solution:
1 John 2:1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. 2 ) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, 2:2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.
From the Scripture above, the solution to sin is not us.  The solution is Jesus.

Let’s revisit the seemingly “Christian” statement my friend forwarded me:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. Jesus sent the answer ... Us!
After consulting Scripture we can see that not only is this statement not “Christian” but it is not even true.  The problem is misstated and the solution is directed from the savior to us.  It brings to mind Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”  Who is the solution to the “Christian” statement?  US!  The creation!  The creation is being worshipped for it’s power.  Who sends the solution in the statement?  Jesus!  But who sends the solution in Scripture?  John 3:16 reveals that God the Father sends the Son.  So, let’s revise completely the statement to make it comport with truth - with Scripture:
Today Billions of people are given over in the desires of their hearts to impurity.  They dishonor their bodies among themselves. They continually exchange the truth of God for a modernist and/or post-modernist lie!  Remarkably, they worship and serve the creation - man and his power through government and program and charitable organizations rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  These billions are given over to dishonorable passions which they don't even know are dishonorable!  Billions and billions are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.   God has sent the solution - Jesus!  For more information on how Jesus is the solution, see Scripture!
Compare again to the original statement the contrast is apparent:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. Jesus sent the answer ... Us!
Consider this, the shorter statement may easily be made by the following people:
  1. Atheist
  2. Hindu
  3. Secularist
How can that be you ask?  The first person doesn’t believe Christ is deity, but believes in the power of mankind to solve problems.  However, hunger, thirst, etc.. are problems.  If Jesus teaches that mankind can overcome his own problems - and hunger and thirst are the extent of those problems, then Jesus has taught the solution and thus given/sent the answer.  

The second person doesn't believe Christ is deity either, but like the atheist, the Hindu believes in the power of positive thinking and good karma.  If Jesus teaches positive teaching - which according to Gandhi is the sum of Jesus’ message - then Jesus sent us the answer - US!

The third person doesn't care whether Christ is deity or not, but as a secularist, they believe that the ultimate solution for man’s problems is man.  If Jesus teaches us to do good things, if Jesus is limited to a good teacher teaching positive things, then that person will agree with the statement as well.


The conclusion is that the statement is a modernist view of the world crouched in a poor attempt to be a Christian statement.  It fails as a Christian statement because it presents neither the problem nor the solution.  This indeed is using the name of Christ in a vain attempt.  It’s a modernist statement in that the problem ignores any spiritual element and denies the solution originating from any source other than mankind.

7 Requisites for Freedom

It has been said that men have the freedom to choose, the freedom of the will. Particularly, this has been applied to the matter of salvation within the context of Protestant Christianity. In examining the action of man's free will, it occurs to me that the following 7 precursor requirements must be met, and be met by someone OTHER than the decision maker, before their will can be exercised freely and effectually:


The decision maker must be alive. Dead people don't make decisions for God, they don't choose anything relative to this life.


The decision maker must be conscious. Unconscious people are alive, and therefore better off than a dead person, but they still cannot make a decision or effect their "free" will, as they are unconscious. We don't decide on ice cream flavors, or when we'll leave for work, or who we'll marry while we're in a comma. Decision making - exercising "free" will requires us to be conscious - and like being alive - it is substantially beyond our own powers to make ourselves conscious. We don't decide one day to be alive (although we can decide to continue in that state) and we don't decide one day to be conscious (and we have less power over that continued state than we do living)


The decision maker must be conscious of the decision to be made - they must be aware. One can be alive, conscious and living in Iran and be completely unaware that a court in the US is awaiting their decision on whether to exercise their rights pursuant to a codicil in their great aunt's last will and testament. They have a few elements necessary to exercise their "free" will, but not enough - they lack awareness that a decision is required. Like life and consciousness, awareness is also something which the decision maker is completely powerless to generate. The decision maker cannot get awareness on their own - some one else must of necessity intervene to provide the awareness.


The decision maker must have information concerning the decision - its particulars, its parameters, its nature, what the decision requires, what the decision allows, what the entirety of the decision is. Receiving a letter from the Estate's Executor noting that the court is awaiting the decision of the beneficiary is insufficient for the decision maker. Indeed, the decision maker is now frustrated and the bubbling up of emotions contrary to the decision maker's will is evidence that the decision maker is now cognizant of his or her inability to fulfill the decision and possibly to miss out on the inheritance. He - the decision maker - needs more, and he - the decision maker - is incapable of meeting his own need. He must of necessity seek out the assistance of another - someone from whom the necessary information may be obtained. He is entirely dependent upon this other person. His "free" will is a slave to the whims of the information giver - to the life giver - to the consciousness giver - to the awareness giver.


The decision maker must have appropriate comprehension of the decision - it is insufficient that one receive the information if one doesn't comprehend and understand the information. If the explanation is in Swahili and I don't speak Swahili, I have the information but it is incomprehensible. Again, the decision maker is entirely dependent upon another for the necessary comprehension of the details of the decision and what the decision requires. Without sufficient comprehension, the decision maker's success in making the correct decision is entirely a matter of chance.


The decision maker must have an appetite for decision - a desire to decide - an inward favor towards making the decision. Assuming the decision maker is alive, conscious, aware of the decision, has obtained the requisite information and comprehends the nature of the decision - he or she must still have an innate desire to decide. This is no small matter. Psychologist have for centuries noted the inability to decide in certain circumstances among certain people. Put them in the seat of a bus driver with 10 seriously disabled children who will never recover on board the bus driving down a road in the Amazon jungle and coming around the corner where precisely in the middle of the road is a parade of 40 young nuns dedicated to feeding the starving villagers around the area - they cannot swerve to the right - an embankment will throw them back into the middle of the road - the brakes are useless on this incline, to the left is a 1000 foot precipice. They must decide - 10 innocent but permanently and lifelong disabled youth who will never contribute to society or 40 active, young nuns particularly useful to society... etc. etc. you get the idea - some people freeze and they cannot decide because they lack the desire to decide. Their "free" will is held captive to an emotional need to avoid the pain and consequences their decision will invariably produce. This is not hypothetical either. Many people live decades with a close family member in bondage to sin - never saying anything that will produce conflict because their emotional need for peace prevents them from either approving or disapproving of the family member's life choices. To decide, one must have sufficient desire to enter into the decision process, and that is not something that can be taken for granted, nor something that can be produced sufficiently by the decision maker. You either have the appetite for the decision or you don't. Sure, something may happen along the line to cure your refrain, but the decision maker is in bondage to their own appetites - their "free" will is a slave to their desires.


The decision maker must have the capacity to decide. It is insufficient to pretend to decide something when one does not have the capacity to actually decide. One may, for example, be alive, conscious, aware with sufficient information and comprehension that they are being asked to fly or not fly - and they deeply desire to decide. But their capacity has already answered the decision. No matter what their "free" will might suggest, their nature and capacity prevents them from flapping their arms and taking flight (unless the decision maker is a bird, in which case, that bird has more "FREE" will than a human). The decision maker is entirely dependent upon another - the one who provides capacity. This is so often taken for granted. We're asked to decide whom to marry - but if we're 6 our decision is ineffectual as the law prevents us from marrying here in the US. If we are 26 and we decide to marry, we may deceive ourselves that the decision was all ours, but marriage takes the consent of another.

Marriage Example Consider for a moment the 26 year old who marries. They believe in their mind that they have exercised their free will, but in reality here's the credit for the decision:
  1. God for giving the 26 year old life - after all, dead people don't get married
  2. God for giving the 26 year old consciousness - after all, unconscious people may not enter into marriage
  3. God for giving the 26 year old awareness - after all, you may not marry someone if you're unaware that marriage is an option
  4. God for giving the 26 year old the information - after all, you may not marry someone if you don't know how to marry, the process, the institution, what it requires, the ceremony, etc...
  5. God for giving the 26 year old the comprehension - after all, in most states, you may not marry someone if you don't understand and comprehend marriage. If you're of so simple mind that the idea of marriage escapes your comprehension, you may not marry - in order to give your informed and meaningful consent, you must comprehend the implications of the decision - the nature of the institution - the identity of the other partner, etc. etc.
  6. God for giving the 26 year old the desire - after all, not everyone desires to be married. This desire is hidden within their heart and while external factors give rise to the desire and appetite for marriage, nothing intrinsic to the decision maker can give life to that appetite in and of itself
  7. God for giving the 26 year old the capacity and the power to be married. If one attempts to marry a dog - they will lack the power to do so. If (in Texas or Missouri or a few other sane states) one attempts to marry another of their same gender, they will lack the power to do so. This power comes from without - from their maker. They cannot obtain unto the power themselves.
So lastly, the decision maker arrives at the alter, looks across at his bride (in the case of a Christian - across at the bridegroom - the very one who initiated everything - from life, to consciousness, to awareness, to information, to comprehension, to desire, to power, to the proposal itself) and pretends that the decision is one of their "free" will. Remarkably, this person looking across the aisle at God and gives himself credit instead of God.

Review and Conclusion Let's review - here's what I did:

  1. decide
Here's what God did:
  1. give me life (Psalm 139) before new life in Christ I am dead in my trespasses
  2. give me consciousness - more than alive, I am now no longer a sleeper, but awakened by the Spirit
  3. give me awareness - more than alive and awake, I now hear - and have become aware of a Savior, and a desperate death in my own life - I am the Pilgrim who has read the book and learned I am unwilling to die and go to judgment, unable to face the judgment and wrath to come - unable to face my maker
  4. give me information - the Gospel has now been shared with me - unlike 90+% of humanity that never and will never hear the Gospel, I have heard and that by the Gospel - information as to the requisite for repentance has come to my attention
  5. give me comprehension - but more than information, I now have comprehension - the dead in the world do not understand the things of the spirit - for they are of the flesh - but I have been become born again, and received the spirit and now I understand and comprehend the things of the Spirit
  6. give me desire - where before I loved sin and my master the devil, now my desires have been changed - suddenly I want to do something I cannot do, I hate doing the things I'm doing - my desires have changed, have become new - I am a new creation
  7. give me power - and according to Romans 8:1 I now have the power to choose, I am no longer condemned - if God has chosen me - I can exercise a choice, I can choose God - I now have that power that alludes all of creation in slavery to sin and the devil.. and according to 1 John 3:9 - that is the ONLY thing I have the power to do - I don't even retain the power to decide against choosing God, for I am become a son of God
  8. propose to me in the first place (John 6:37,44) No one comes to Jesus except that the Father call him first.
And I take the credit... funny in a sick sorta way.

Abigail and David, an Exemplary Romance or a Cautionary Tale?

Recently I’ve heard a few sermons on the exemplary romance between David and Abigail the widow of Nabal.  The sermon usually exhorts Abigail’s beauty and wisdom and David’s chivalry and justice.  Sometimes wives in abusive relationships or who find themselves married to foolish men are encouraged to “pray for their David.”  However, I'm not sure the story demonstrates anything good about Abigail or David.  And I’m pretty sure that “praying for your David” will only lead to ruin.

The principal scripture we're dealing with is 1 Samuel 25.  As a background I remind myself who the players are and what sort of people they are.

  1. David, not yet king.  He had surrounded himself with men of ill repute - 1 Samuel 22:2 - debtors, malcontents and such.  David wasn't the Messiah and he was far from perfect, even at this very young age. David was running from Saul, continually bouncing from fear of Saul and others on the one hand (1 Samuel 21:10, 12 - even pretending to be crazy) to trusting in the Lord on the other and all the while knowing that innocent people would die because he kept running 1 Samuel 22:22.  While David was certainly much better than Saul, he was hardly the poster child of faith and Godliness.
  2. Nabal, a man of wealth who behaved badly and was harsh (1 Samuel 25:3)  While he was harsh and behaved badly, he is not the Anti-Christ.  He took care of his family and his workers (verse 11).  
  3. Abigail, the wife of Nabal commended for her discernment and her beauty but never for her Godliness or virtue.  

Herein is the story - David asks Nabal for protection money.  It was a shakedown.  David and his 600 men, mentioned before as malcontents and debtors who couldn't pay their debts, were continually running in fear for their lives from the lawful king of Israel.  God had never yet displaced King Saul - God had not yet installed David as king.  While living in the hills running away from the law - which act David was never explicitly told by God to do, and which acts cost the lives of many innocents including priests - David apparently made sure none of his men or any other men stole sheep from Nabal, and now he wanted payment.  It is important that Nabal never asked for this protection.  While it is undoubted that Nabal received benefit from David’s actions, the basis for David then demanding payment for that protection is dubious.  

When Nabal rebuffed David's demand for protection money, David immediately and quite rashly told 400 of his men to get the guns out (swords actually - verse 13).  What was he going to do?  What had David put into his heart to do to Nabal, a man whose sheep did NOT belong to David and which the law provided nothing that David should have a claim on those sheep?  David was acting horribly here!  He was getting ready to massacre Nabal and Nabal's servants and family.  If David is named "Don Corleon" and this is NYC in the 1950's we call this a mob hit.  But because David was so often a man after God's own heart Christians are constantly mixing this up with righteous behavior.

One of the principles of Scripture interpretation is reading Scripture for the purpose it was written.  History is to be read as history; poetry as poetry; didactic writings as teaching.  1 Samuel is history.  Just as it would be foolish to say "well, Saul did it so I can too" it is just as foolish to say "well, David did it, so it must have been good."  Nowhere in this whole passage is David commended by the writer (likely the prophet Samuel) for what he does - and there is clear evidence that David was not acting properly.

So, what about Abigail?  She's discerning.  Discerning people get things - they see the consequences, they see the ramifications - they understand politics.  Nabal has spurned the local mob boss's demand for protection money and now his hit squad is headed for town.  Abigail gets it.  She also knows that David's not been pillaging the area like others might.  She discerns that a beautiful woman going out humbling might just keep everyone from doing something stupid - David included.  And she does.  Abigail exercises a great deal of worldly wisdom here.  But Abigail also sins.  

We don't know her sin from this Scripture - just as we don't know David's shake down for protection money is sin from this Scripture.  But Scripture has to be read as a whole.  It is sin to murder in Genesis and it is sin to murder in 1 Samuel.  It is sin to dishonor your spouse in Ephesians 5 and it is sin to dishonor your spouse in 1 Samuel 25.  

Now, remember - David is acting cowardly at this chapter of his life.  He's feigning mental illness to avoid harm.  He's hiding in caves.  And now poor little Nabal has rebuffed his demand for protection money and he's all "I'm going to kill every male" - verse 22 and then he invokes the name of God and special privilege.  David is out of control.  If you doubt me, I'll demonstrate more of this in a couple paragraphs.

Abigail knows he's out of control - just like she knows that Nabal is out of control.  Nabal won't listen to anyone and David is acting rashly and with a hot head.  So, she wisely interrupts David's plan to commit murder (remember, David is not above murder, see Uriah), and suggests that her husband is a fool (a sin per Ephesians 5 as it was unnecessary to her plan) and that God has prevented David from murder (verse 26) and that all David's enemies should perish.  She feeds David's ego and wisely reminds him that God is in control here.  

David has several weaknesses, women, his pride and his love for God.  Abigail hits on all of them.  But I don't believe Abigail does this because she's a particularly Godly woman - that is omitted and we have no evidence that she was.  She could have simply reminded David that God was in control - as Nathan did - and trusted in the Lord.  But instead she also went to feeding David's ego by rebuking her husband and dishonoring him and the institution of marriage.  Even though Nabal was a fool, it was wrong of her to so rebuke him.  We know this because Paul refused to rebuke an ungodly High Priest.  
Abigail does save the day.  And for her worldly wisdom I think everyone may commend her.  But there is a very sad ending to this story.

First, Abigail is deprived of her family - her husband dies.  And if that weren't enough, all of Abigail's wisdom is thrown away when David asks her to marry him.  Wisdom would have said "David, aren't you already married?  Doesn't Hebrew law prohibit polygamy?"  But she falls prey to her own worldly wisdom and accepts.  Ironically David doesn't even marry her alone - he offends her dignity by marrying another the very same day.  David is collecting a harem and Abigail falls victim to her own sin.  

Abigail sinned against God when she dishonored Nabal.  And her punishment was spending another marriage with a man who would dishonor her by 1) marrying another the very same day, 2) breaking God's law and keeping multiple wives and 3) need we mention Bathsheba?  Abigail bears David children but she also has to deal with David the home-wrecker, David the murderer (God would not prevent David from murdering forever), David the exhibitionist, David the adulterer, David the rager, David the fool.  Abigail would have the indignity of seeing David do all of the things that Nabal did.  In the end, Abigail was hardly better excepting that she exchanged one rich fool for another.

I recognize that David did have a heart for God.  However, that heart for God did not characterize David's whole life.  The verse is 1 Samuel 13:14.  That was a statement concerning David before he disobeyed God concerning the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant which cost Uzzah his life and then railed against God for being Holy.  Before he disobeyed God and numbered the people.  Before he disobeyed God and accumulated horses and gold.  Before he disobeyed God and took multiple wives.  Before he disobeyed God and committed murder.  Before he disobeyed God and committed adultery.  

Please don't get me wrong - David is one of my heroes.  But not because he was perfect and certainly not because he was such a great sinner.  The marked difference between Saul - another king who sinned greatly, and David was not their sin - for they both sinned egregiously.  But David was sorrowful over his sin.  It broke his heart.  He really did love God.  He lived Romans 7.

So in the end, the tale of Abigail and David is more a cautionary tale than an exemplary tale of Godly romance.  It is not OK to dishonor your spouse even if they really are a fool.  And I caution those women stuck in back relationships to be careful what you wish for.  God may indeed reward you with a David, and who wants to be married to a David?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Hello. My name is Kevin Ritchey and these are my random and oft inadequate attempts to cull out the dross of worldliness and reflect on deep draughts from the fountain of truth in Scripture. Herein I hope to meditate on God without reference to cultural shifts, popular thinking, humanistic philosophies or other extra-biblical distractions. Accordingly, as these are primarily my own reflections and meditations, you the reader should exercise caution, caveat emptor, examining and holding every assertion to the light of God’s word, accepting only those thoughts that can withstand the scrutiny of Scripture. Psalms 138:2 informs us that God’s word is exalted above even His own name. My prayer is that God will keep me from asserting error, quickly bring to me friends and counsel who will correct my error, and allow this space to the glory of God. Sola Scriptura, Sola fide, Sola gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo gloria.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 4 or 4

It’s all about worship

The last and most particularly dangerous expression of naivete that comes to mind is the "it's all about worship" expression.  And by worship, these young Christians have in mind song and corporate music and all the accouterments thereof.  

The problem with this expression is not the focus on worship - for worship is of primacy in the believer’s life.  The problem is the distortion of what it means to worship God.  Scripture teaches us that worship begins with and ends with obedience.  We worship God when we obey him first.  the OT teaches us so often that great emotional worship services are worthless, even vile in the mind and face of God, if there is no obedience.  God despises worship services from those who do not obey His word.  

One way to think about worship is to see it as the ascription of worth to another.  We cannot make God out to be worthy in our lives and minds and hearts if we despise his commands.  The mature begin with the commandment. the young and naive begin with the emotional expression.  Again, it's not that they're evil or bad Christians (if in fact, they are Christians - something we should never take for granted); they're just immature and inexperienced and their emotions are going to be so useful one day, when obedience guides them.  

A good analogy is young love.  We all remember that teenagers fall more deeply "in love" than anyone - e.g. Romeo and Juliet.  But without maturity, that powerful emotion leads to not to true love, but death as Shakespeare demonstrates poetically if not figuratively.  The mature love is one that is guided by principal first and allows the emotion to express it, not define it.  It is universal to see youth get particularly emotional in worship service only to sink into sexual sin and worldliness the next day and I wonder, when and how will they learn to seek Godliness first?  I see young men confuse lust for love and clamor for an ungodly woman they're not suited for simply because their hormones are confused and excited.  I see young women confuse emotional immaturity and neediness for love and desire ungodly men.  These children in the faith have not thought it through, prayed it through or obeyed it through.  They're not seeking Godly advice or parental guidance.  They're being carried away, as Scripture says, with every enticing doctrine and style of expression.  And they feel OK about it because they can have a powerful worship experience on Saturday night or on Sunday at the contemporary service.

But emotional entanglements with the opposite (or indeed, in today’s church - same) sex is only one sin that so easily entangles our young in the Faith.  The principal sin I see ubiquitously tolerated and embraced by Christians everywhere is the sin of worldliness - that sin of taking what the world gives and embracing it into our hearts and minds.  Television, romance novels, morbid fascination with blood sucking vampires and morphing beasts and teens, movies about torture, movies about adultery, movies about deception, immodest dress, uncouth speech, lack of respect for elders, disregard for serious study of Scripture - all of these things more mark the average youth group in today’s churches than do the fruits of the Spirit.  And sadly, these are the marks of so many older Christians who have no excuse for their immaturity.

Sinful disobedience prevents true worship.  If you have sin in your heart that you have not fully repented of - turned away from - hated in your heart - confessed to your sisters and brothers - abhorred in your spirit, devised plans to prevent yourself from falling back into - if this sin still infects your heart - God does not hear your singing praise songs... He does not delight in your waving of flags or spilling of tears; God is not amenable to your ministry work, your evangelism, your short term ministry trips abroad, your digging of wells, or your feeding of the hungry.  God despises and desires obedience.  Get over yourself and stop sinning.

Concluding remarks

The Gospel is simple in that you sin, God hates sin, God provides a sacrifice for sin, God wants you to stop sinning.  The Gospel is divinely complicated and mysterious insofar as it involves God Himself acting of His own accord, accomplishing all that is Salvation - giving us faith - giving us the Spirit and providing a means out of sin.  It is simple from ten thousand miles away, but the closer you get to God, the bigger He is - the more majestic He is, the more mysterious He is, the more Glory He has, the more Godlike He becomes.  If your god is simple - you’re still too far from God - stop sinning and go to God.  Therein are the deep waters.  Therein are the mysteries.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 3 of 4

In this four part series on the deficiencies of being young in the faith and the traps that Satan lays out for us, we have so far examined the first lie which so often besets our youth - the "everything is simple" lie.  The second deception most often follows on the footsteps - the rationalisation that "none of that stuff is important, I don't think about that.. I just try to love Jesus."  It sounds great, but we examined how it's so destructive to the Christian life.  Today we look at a close cousin of the first two lies.

You just need Jesus - that will fix everything

The third of the naive expressions I'll address herein is the "hey, you just need Jesus - that'll fix everything" expression.  For the naive, Jesus only came to save people from hell, feed the hungry, heal the sick and make people happy - their best them now.  For the naive, Jesus came to give everybody a better life by doing away with all the rules and making it simple and all about them.  For the naive, Jesus came to heal everyone - if they just have enough faith; to bless everyone with wealth - if they just claim it; to bless everyone with happy relationships, if they just love each other.  For the naive, it's all about a "personal relationship with Jesus" - a phrase found nowhere in Scripture.  

Persecutions perplex these naive ones, as do afflictions and trials.  The Christians who die every day by being hacked to death for their faith, who die of sickness and disease, who are afflicted with poverty, who are divorced by hateful spouses, who are abandoned by loveless parents, who are unjustly fired by greedy bosses, who are misunderstood, who are condemned, who are ostracized - these Christian are the exception to the rule.  But Jesus himself promises persecutions, afflictions and trials.  Jesus promised that the World will hate us.  Jesus promised that we would be tried as it were by fire.  With the exception of John, every Apostle was martyred.  The one who penned by the Spirit that all things work together for good was shipwrecked  beaten to within an inch of his life, stoned, imprisoned, rejected, ostracized, publicly humiliated and impoverished.  

Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus did not come to make our lives better as we understand it - but to make our lives better in one way - by the killing of sin in our hearts and souls (Matthew 1:21).  However, these naive ones, these little Christians who need patience and instruction and care, these little ones forget that the principal and determinative reason why Jesus came was "sin" - they forget that in the end it’s all about sin because that is what separates us from God.  The simple gospel gives lip service to sin, but does not address sin in the believer’s life.  It’s as though sin were not really important.  The puritan father John Owen famously said "be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  Today the simple mock and deride the puritans and live in bondage to sin because sin isn't even their focus; it's not even on their radar.  If they truly have faith that God will take away their sins, they're not evil (they're redeemed) - they're not bad Christians, they're just young and inexperienced and immature.  We, as older mature Christians, should suffer them and love them and instruct them - disciple them towards Godliness.  However, if their faith does not involve a desperate hope that God will indeed remove the sin from their hearts - if instead their hope and faith is that God will make their lives better, heal their marriage, provide wealth and comfort, heal their bodies, and guarantee them a ticket to heaven - then they do not have saving faith.

That is a remarkable statement, I know, these days.  Principally it is remarkable because the gospel has been so distorted by so-called evangelicals.  I could write tomes arguing why they do not have saving faith, but instead I will only point to one example.

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, he asked one thing - “how do I obtain eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).  Jesus does not invite the young ruler to ask Him into his heart.  Jesus does not invite the rich young man home to supper with him - the beginning of a life-long personal relationship with Christ.  Jesus does not give the young man a sinner’s prayer.  Jesus does none of these things.  Instead, Jesus requires absolute and complete adherence to the Law in every respect.  The rich young ruler should have been devastated!  He should have seen the iniquity in his heart and his own inability to do anything about it.  He should have known how evil he was when no one was looking, that he never for even one moment truly sought after God.  But he didn’t.  He really thought he was doing well.  Jesus had to give him an extreme example to even get his attention.  Only then did the rich young man come to terms with some grief, but it was grief over money not sin.  The rich young man leaves that day without salvation - even though he desperately needed and wanted it - because he didn’t think sin was a big deal.  Million and hundreds of millions of pretend fake Christians in America today desperately need and want salvation and they think they have it because of 4 Spiritual Flaw booklets - but they lack and they die and they perish forever in hell because they do not really think sin is a big deal.  This is the perennial birthmark of the immature.

Even the immature Christian, who knows that sin is a big deal, will be deceived by sin into forgetting how important sin is in their lives and the primacy of killing sin daily in their lives. (Hebrews 3:13)  It is not compassion to these young in the Faith to ignore their irreverence for God’s Holiness and indifference to their own sinfulness.  It is indeed, the most harsh hatred to fail to admonish these youngsters to stop sinning - to kill sin daily - every day - while it is still called today.  Don’t go to bed tonight if you haven’t yet admonished a brother to stop sinning.

This mark of immaturity - this expression of naivete - is akin to the others in that it relies upon a half-truth.  For indeed, Jesus is the answer and He will fix everything - if by everything you mean the sin and hatred for God in your own heart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 2 of 4

In my last post we examined the first marked deficiency of being inadequately trained up in Christ - the "Everything is simple" mindset.  Today we'll look at the next trap set for our young people.

None of that is important.. I don’t think about that, I just try to love Jesus

The second expression common among the naive and immature Christian is "I don't think about that, I just try to love Jesus" -- or "just be like Jesus and everything else will fall in line.”  It’s the simple "it's just Jesus" line.  This is a particularly deceptive lie because it combines profound truth with simplistic expression.  It really is, after all, all about Jesus.  

From where do we get this idea?  The Revelation of Christ given to John tells us that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega.  Jesus himself tells his disciples “I am the Truth.”  In this regard, because Christ is God - it is all about Christ.  But we cannot commune with Christ as we are.  Something is in the way - sin.  Yes, it’s that old fiend which constantly rears its head while we’re just trying to worship God.  It’s an irritation - a constant source of trouble.  And often, we attempt to circumvent dealing with sin by making it just about God - just about Jesus in particular.  This is the error of the new prophets like Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo.  The particular problem that accompanies this error is the failure to know anything about Jesus.

One can study Scripture for 100 years every day and not know enough about Jesus.  However, most often, it’s not the failure of diligent study of Scripture which leads to a lack of understanding of Jesus, it’s the arrogant refusal to submit to the Holy Spirit as a guide to learn about Jesus.  The Breath of God gave us Scripture - all of it.  All of Scripture reveals Jesus.  However, the new prophets stick only to the Gospels.  And indeed, only to the parts of the Gospels they like.

To these new prophets, Scripture is a supporting reference for their Jesus.  They go to Scripture like a fat man goes to a buffet.  The fat man ignores the vegetables and the healthy meats and goes instead straight for the fried chicken, the buttery rolls and the dessert bar.  The new prophet goes to Scripture likewise, ignoring the law, ignoring the Righteousness of God, ignoring the Holiness of God and goes straight to the Grace of God and the Love of God.  To the new prophet, these are the only source of nutrition and just as the fat man becomes fatter and more useless, the one who comes to Scripture without submitting himself to all of Scripture becomes a fat and useless Christian.

The reality is that the Jesus of Scripture is not simple, and he’s not an impotent emotional wreck trying his best to get everyone into heaven but being frustrated by the omnipotent free will of man.  He’s not someone who takes everyone just as they are, requiring no change, requiring nothing of man - only willing to give everything of Himself so that man can commune with God just as he is - in the pig pen, in the filth that is his sin, in the mire of grotesque disobedience and hatred of all that God really is.  Indeed, to the new prophet, we still hate all that God is, so rather than deal with that sin lying prostrate on our faces seeking new hearts, we instead change God to something we don’t hate.

Knowing God is not easy.  Aside of learning new things that stretch our minds, knowing God requires two things that are equally impossible for anyone aside of the indwelling work of the Holy spirit.  First, it requires an understanding of the things of God.  Paul teaches us that we are spiritually dead and incapable of understanding the things of the Spirit.  It is, in fact, impossible to know the things of God without God’s divine work in our hearts.  And lest anyone believe in a god that is excited to do that in every one’s heart - let’s remind ourselves that Jesus confounds the simple and wicked - he hides the truth in parables only revealing the truth to his disciples in private.  Jesus tells us the reason for his parables, and it’s not to make things more clear!  It’s to intentionally hide the truth.  Shane and the new prophets do not know this Jesus.  To them, Jesus uses parables to make things more clear.  To them, the use of parables is an instrumental tool of discipleship - never mind that Jesus did not use parables for his disciples and no one else after Jesus uses parables as a discipleship tool.  To the simple, to the naive, to the new prophet, Jesus is simple and knowing him is simple.  The truth is, that Jesus himself teaches us that He is not simple, that the Father is not simple and that knowing Him is hard and consists of knowledge of Scripture, fellowship with the Father, the Son, the Spirit and other believers and obedience to His will - particularly loving the brethren and hating the world.  

Jesus confounds us on every level and in every dynamic of living.  The naive want to reduce Jesus and simplify Jesus - they make Jesus into the man in the pictures in their childhood bibles sitting on a rock wearing a perfectly spotless white robe with a blue sash smiling and entertaining children on his lap, that's Jesus to them.  To the simple, anything complex about God, anything difficult about God, anything mysterious about God is an iniquity - a defect - a problem to be solved rather than a virtue to be emulated.  They have a deep seated problem with God being anything but like themselves.. simple.  Their sin has so infected their thinking that they rebel against the Holiness of God in their minds and theology and living.  They don't want to think about a Jesus who curses trees, curses cities, leaves rich young rulers without answers, drives money changers out of the temple, refuses to give the gospel to gentiles, hides truth in parables, requires absolute obedience to the law, allows money to be spent on worship of Him rather than feeding the poor, a Jesus who comes in judgment on a white horse with a sword killing all who sin.  They don't want to talk about Jesus who specifically refuses to pray for the lost in the last recorded prayer (John 17:9).  They want only to worship a jesus who loves everybody the same all the time - grandpa jesus... Santa Claus jesus... Ghandi jesus... buddha jesus... any jesus except Jesus!

Someone recently pointed out that this sounds like the Rob Bell "there is no hell" controversy.  To be fair, Rob Bell does not argue that there is no hell, but he does argue that in the end, hell is unnecessary, trivial, of little consequence and eventually unneeded.  The naive forget that Jesus is God! And as God, He is creator of hell.  As God, He is the one on the road to destroy Sodom when He speaks with Abraham.  He is the one to destroy all living creatures, man and beast alike, in the deluge.  He is the one who judges and eventually passes sentence.  He is the one whom the world will run from in terror, hiding in caves and in darkness.  He is infinite! He is Holy! He is majestic! He is mysterious.  He is terrifying to anyone and everyone who still has any small amount of sin in their heart.  If He is not terrifying to you, right now, then you don’t know Jesus.

My eight year old son recently felt this pain of terror when he realized that one of his best friends would be destroyed by Jesus if Jesus were to come back today.  This truly hurt my son - to think that God would kill and destroy forever his friend.  I am reminded that if we love our father, our child, or our friend more than we love God, then we are unworthy - we do not love God, we cannot be said to love God in any way or fashion.  And most of us are stuck at this place my eight year old son finds himself.  He has compassion for his friend!  The question is whether my son will be able to embrace and cherish and love the Holiness of God more than his compassion for his friend.  It is not iniquity to have compassion - indeed, it is a virtue.  The  iniquity is putting that compassion at the forefront and despising God’s Holiness.  The iniquity is in changing God so that His Holiness is not a problem - robbing God of His Holiness and Righteousness.  The iniquity is in loving the World.  If any man loves the World, the love of the Father is not in him.  

But the simple will cry out “God so loved the World!”  They will race as fast as they can to a cross where Jesus dies for everyone but is impotent and might have died for no one because it’s not really up to Jesus in the end, the all powerful and determinative force which ultimately figures in where a person spends eternity is not Jesus, but a person’s own free will.  They cannot see different kinds of love in God.  They require God to love equally in all respects.  They require God to set aside His Holiness and His Righteousness in order to satisfy an inherent right to salvation available to all men.  In the end, they require God to be fair.

It is remarkable that they do so.  The hallmark of immaturity is a focus on fairness.  Every school yard child will evoke the doctrine of fairness, and every adult knows that it is a rues meant to disclaim responsibility for the true doctrine underneath “fairness” - “me too!”  It should not surprise us that the hallmark of Christian immaturity is also an appeal to the doctrine of fairness.  No where in Scripture do we find God saying “I’m fair.”  He’s truth.  He’s justice.  He’s righteousness.  He’s love.  But no where do we find that he’s fair.  The doctrine that God loves all people at all times in all places equally is an appeal to fairness.  It does not survive even the most inexperienced rational observation though.  No one would suggest that those who perished in the holocaust experienced the same grace from God as those living the good life in twenty-first century America.  Fairness is simply not.  It does not exist.  God is not fair in his distribution of wealth, he is not fair in his distribution of grace, he is not fair in his distribution of the Spirit and he even makes it a point to illustrate to his disciples that He is not fair!  The parable of the workers coming at different times during the day illustrates this truth.  Some work for a very small period of time and receive the same reward - God does not have to be fair.  The simple will twist this to mean that God is fair and everyone deserves the same regardless of what they bring...  Well, some people are going to argue that the sky is green no matter what you say.

Jesus is beyond our simple understanding.  He is not fair.  He comes in judgment.  He kills people.  He refuses to pray for the lost.  He whips people.  He creates hell.  He begs not to have to go to the cross.  He rebukes his best friend Peter and lets Peter fail miserably.  He leaves Paul with a debilitating illness.  He lets Lazarus die and his sisters suffer in pain.  He destroys Sodom.  He doesn’t do enough for Tyre - knowing that if He did more, they would be saved (Matthew 11:21).  He removes lamp stands.  He refuses to allow repentance after death.  He gives the Gospel to some countries, leaving others without it for centuries and even millennia.  He is not what the simple expect, nor what they desire.  He is not the God of the simple.  And the simple must be instructed in who God is, and how He is to be worshiped and how we are to commune and fellowship with God.  

Jesus is the answer - He is the Alfa and the Omega.  However, that does not make it any less difficult or simplify the matter at all.  In fact it requires more.  The Christian life becomes more challenging the more we understand that it is all about Christ.