Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's not a Kingdom without the King: part one

Halloween is hear, which means November is tomorrow, which means a new month of Tabletalk.  This month's theme is the first question of WSC: What is man's chief end?  Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

This month's issue isn't merely about the only WSC question that I can ever remember, but it is about the joy of being in God's presence, meaning we should always be joyful because we never leave his presence.

Enjoying God, Coram Deo by Burk Parsons
Tabletalk's editor starts this issue with the myth that the Westminster theologians were so concerned with doctrinal precision that they failed to display the beauty and loveliness of the faith in their documents.  However, these are the same Westminster divines that start their catechisms with the language of glorifying and enjoying God.  Their Standards expressly exist to show believers how they can glorify and enjoy God.  "It was the doctrinal precision of the Standards that made them so beautiful to me."

When I first heard this catechism question, I had only remembered the answer to be "to glorify God."  I was made by God so that I could glorify him.  Then I read the Shorter Catechism again and noticed "and enjoy him forever."  Parsons, over time, came to see the wisdom of those words.  "They capture the all-encompassing nature of our relationship with God; namely, being chosen by God, called by God, united to God in Christ, justified by God, indwelt by the Spirit of God, adopted by God, sanctified by God, and loving God and neighbor to the end that we might glorify God."  I long to see God's chief purpose fully realized and soon.

Faith Has Its Reasons by R.C. Sproul
Too many times people think that if you have faith, then you must be opposed to reason and sense perception.  You cannot sense God, and his logic is beyond reason, so, we Christians must follow him without thinking about why we believe.

RC Sproul is against such nonsense.  Epistemology is the division of philosophy which asks, "How do you know what you know?"  Philosophers answer this question by reason, sense perception, or a combination of the two.

Rationalists stress the mind and reason as the sources of true knowledge.  Empiricists emphasize the five senses as the basis for knowledge.  The scientific method combines reason and empiricism.  "I don't find in Scripture the idea that faith is irrational or anti-sense perception."  Augustine agrees by asking, "how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind?" 

God gave us the Bible.  He would not give us a written document if faith bypassed reason.  In the same Bible, there are words written by people like Dr. Luke who wrote down eye-witness accounts of Jesus's life.  The Bible was written by and affirmed by people who literally heard God speak to them.

Revelation is how we know what we know as Christians.  We have our Scripture canon because at some point, people knew who wrote its words and could testify that they talked to God.  We Prots exclude the Apocrypha because it came out of Alexandria and has no clue who wrote it.  We include Hebrews because of its powerful history.  We believe God because he spoke.

This faith is not blind as it embraces testimony.  Real opposites of faith are not reason and sense perception, but credulity and superstition.

Credulity believers something without ever investigating its reality.  Superstition believes in magical things that have nothing to do with Scripture.  These abound in the church, which is a tragedy.  Real faith investigates what people say and is confirmed by Scripture.  We believe Scripture because we believe the Person revealed in it.

Created to Enjoy God Forever by John D. Currid
Currid notes that all Near Eastern creation accounts believe that humans were created to be a slave to the gods.  As these religions were some of the first to leave the true faith of Adam and Noah, it is not surprising that they would make this caricature of the loving God who originally only had one rule: don't eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  This is a distortion of the God who also must oppose sin and therefore require much of his people before he finally saves them with Jesus.

Genesis 1 shows that man was never meant to be God's slave, but was the crowning glory of his creation.  His creation was only good.  Then he created man and woman and it was very good and he could stop.  He made man simply so that he could walk and talk in God's image.

The Near Eastern gods are distance and impersonal.  The Genesis God molded a man from the dust with his hands and breathed his breath into him.  He walked with Adam and Eve directly in the garden.

Only when Eve and Adam betrayed God did they have a disconnect with God.  Now, his image is completely marred.  Instead of the fellowship that God desired when he created mankind, we were now alienated from him.  But he still promised immediately to send a Redeemer to crush the serpent's head.

The Near Eastern gods would have not cared enough about people to become one and take their deserved punishment.  God the Son became Jesus and lived a perfect human life and suffered our complete punishment and was victorious.

These articles in Tabletalk are accompanied by a sidebar with a question that is answered in catechetical style.  Ra McLaughlin writes these.  The first is Why did God create man in the first place? God's goal was to extend his heavenly kingdom to earth and to receive glory from its citizens.  God invented humans so that they could fill the earth with them and extend the geographical borders until they filled this whole sphere and could all enjoy God from everywhere.

The Promise of God's Presence by John R. Sittema
"Out of the blue, the old man heard the voice of God."  He means Abram, later to be Abraham.  This voice was different than his Near Eastern gods.  This one talked.  This God with a real voice told Abe to leave his family and travel to an unknown place named Canaan and there have many children who would become the greatest nation.

To Glorify God and Enjoy Him
This was the beginning of God bringing his people back to the original state in Eden where they could completely enjoy God and glorify him.Abe's people learn that he is not just a god, but the only God that all the other gods imitate and insult.  Mankind made these gods, and they cannot come back to his full presence until their sin has been removed.  The serpent promised life and wisdom to Eve if she ate the fruit, the life and wisdom God was apparently keeping from her.  She ate and learned that this actually deconstructed lifeGod banned them from the garden, and there is no true life or wisdom apart from him. 

In Genesis 1-11, God uses the word "curse" five times.  In Genesis 12:2-3, he uses "bless" for Abraham five times, showing God's plan to restore creation to its original purpose.

Bloody Shadows of Hope
With God's blessings would come great bloodshed.  First Abe cut animal carcasses in half.  Then, God walked between the halves making a promise that if he did not follow through, then he would become like the carcasses.  Abraham did not walk through the bodies.  God kept his promise and still sent Jesus to suffer the punishment because sin must be punished.

After that, God began the ritual of circumcision: Abraham and all his sons must go through the pain for cutting off their foreskins lest they should be cut off from God.  This continued until Jesus came and took the complete punishment, now cancelling the need for circumcision.

Finally, God asked Abraham, after he finally had a son with Sarah, to sacrifice Isaac on an altar.  Both this and circumcision could greatly place Abraham's descendants in danger of not existing.  But Abraham obeyed, and God sent a ram to die in Isaac's place.  That is how he had saving faith.  God showed him what he would do with Jesus.

A Continuing Mission
On this side of the cross, we take for granted how much it cost for us to have the access to God that we enjoy today in the Holy Spirit.  This is a completely generous gift, not an obligation.  God has been cosmically offended by the people he created to bear his image.  They must suffer his wrath.  He faced the idea of creating humans in vain and having no enduring seed.  But God does not, waste his time.  God became man and took God the Father's wrath.  Let us never take this gift for granted.

Why did Abraham have to wait so long for the fulfillment of the promise?
Abraham did not actually receive his complete promise in his lifetime.  Probably because the complete promise is not granted until we are completely in God's presence again, which will not happen in this lifetime.  "God never promised that Abraham would receive all the benefits of God's presence in this lifetime."  However, they were fulfilled in Christ, and they will be completed when Christ returns.

The Holy of Holies by Daniel R. Hyde
"That I may dwell in their midst" (Exodus 25:8).  At this point, Abraham's descendants completed their 400 years of slavery in Egypt.  Now God appeared to them as a burning bush, a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and a thick cloud with lightning, thunder, and a trumpet blast.

"Yet with the tabernacle there was something new.  God's presence was no longer like a visitor who came and went, but like a resident who dwelled in a a tent just as they did, in their midst."  Now God lived with his people in a way that Abraham could not know.  This presence could only be enjoyed on God's terms.  Only the priests could enter that presence and only once a year.  Any careless move, and they could be dead.  God blessed his nation with him, but Jesus still had not come, so they still had to be aware of his holiness and their total depravity.  They could only come to God with animal sacrifices and then would have to leave.

Why was Uzzah Killed?
This was the man in 2 Samuel 6 who was helping carry the Ark of the Covenant on an ox cart.  He touched it as it was falling, and God killed him.  Uzzah forgot that this ark is the footstool of God's heavenly throne.  To be around the Ark was to look directly into heaven.  This was the holiest relic on earth.  A relic that God said should only be carried on the shoulders of priests.  If anyone touched it, they would die.  God gave Uzzah what was promised.  Uzzah was not more holy than dirt and had no need of protection.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Solving Deadly Fears

October comes to a close and an exciting new November Tabletalk is upon us.  In this post, I will conclude October's issue on the Seven Deadly Fears by commenting on the four articles at the end.

First is "How then Should We Love?" by Kelly Kapic
"Has it ever struck you how strange it sounds to be commanded to love?"  In Sunday School this week, and at this point, it is a legitimate prayer request, one lady prayed for the Atlanta Falcons to win.  She also joked that she did not pray nice things for the Denver Broncos.  Joking aside, the Falcons really do need to win something.  And as a Christian, this fine woman is commanded to love both the Falcons and the Broncos.  She has no option.  She may cringe, but she must love them.  To do that, she must pray for them, and God will change her heart.  And it is amazing how gradually he moves, too.

"Scripture does not merely invited us to love God and neighbor; we are commanded to do so."  Why? "We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)."  Ever since before Deuteronomy, the two greatest commands have been to love God and to love our neighbors.  "This is the his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another. (3:23)."  This is not a mere commitment.  This should involve emotions too.  The same way I'm glad that Tim is committed to me and that he feels an intense love for me.  Love is more than a feeling, but feelings are important too.

So, the Deadly Fears?  What is scarier than love?  What is scarier than making yourself vulnerable and open to someone with no guarantee that the openness will be returned, or that you won't be rejected?  But the best thing about love, is it erases fear.  "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (4:18-19)."  How can love be perfect?  Only if it comes from God.  When we walk around filled with God's love, we will be less afraid of our friends and of the world as we walk around with the stability of God's promises.

"Not Hearers Only" by Harry Reeder
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."  That is what James says in his first chapter, verses 22-24.  This is nothing more frightening for pastors and true believers than seeing God's flock deceived by people who have no love for the Church, and therefore have no love for Christ.  If they did, the people would never criticize God's people and suggest that they need anything other than Christ.

But the first cure is the perfect love that God pours on his people.  The next is this: hear the Word, but do not stop at hearing.  Do the word.  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15).  If you have Christ's love, then you have the perfect love that casts out fear, and you can tell people the truth so that they will not remain deceived.

The interview with Paul Washer
Paul Washer is an honorable man who preaches the truth.  Many of my generation like him.  I cannot get into him, but I also have not heard more than that one sermon where he screams.  Just the same, Washer induces holy fear in those who hear him speak.  He's absolutely right.  Contemporary "Christians" have become so comfortable with American culture that they have melted into deists who cannot face the fact that people will die and go to hell because they have not enforced the name of Christ in the lives of their children.

The result of this danger, is preaching, also a dangerous thing.  It is very dangerous to expose people as frauds.  They will take revenge.  It is dangerous to speak against popes and general assembly moderators.  Doing so can ruin friendships and bring about demotions, and people will hide you on facebook so that they can't hear you at all.  Still, Christ commands us to love him more than anything else, and that means speaking out when people insult him and his martyrs as liars and lunatics because all people can get to heaven after all.

Preaching is dangerous in that way, and it is also dangerous because of what James says.  Not all people should presume to be teachers because they will bring greater judgment on themselves.  Either people risk sending people to hell by speaking all comfort and no justice for sin, or they completely spread lies, or they do not give enough truth.  As a Bible teacher, I run this risk.  I don't want to insult people, but woe is me if I do not deliver the true Gospel, which is pretty insulting.  However, dangerous preaching doesn't grow overnight.  It starts with Christ pouring his love into someone, erasing their fear, causing them to take his Word seriously, which says that Christ is the only way to the Father, which causes his true follows to be enabled to preach the truth to the people.

"Dragons and Holiness" by Tony Reinke
I honestly did not care for this article.  "The incredible imaginative power of the human mind connects us."  It is true, when you read through John's Revelation, you do find a lot of imagery such as horses, cherubim, and even dragons, all which symbolize something that is very real.  However, if we celebrate imagination as something that unites all humanity, then we reduce the reality of the Almighty God to mythology, and that is not cool.

But this leads to my last thing about fear.  Only Christ's love can overwhelm a person that they are not afraid to look like loonies if they support 6 literal days of creation, a literal Genesis 1-11, and claim that dragons were real and got rediscovered as dinosaurs in 1840.  People may want to get me hired at National Inquirer, but I believe God's word, and I believe nothing died before man sinned, and I believe that dinosaurs lived as dragons with humans up until the middle ages when daring knights slayed them.  There were no endangered species programs then.  I believe the Loch Ness monster is a fact, and any other dragon legends as they appear all over the world alongside other creatures such as horses.  The best thing about God's imagination is that it makes things real.  It made me, this world, my cats, and it gave us imaginations that can invent Hobbits and Elves.  And God is always truthful.  The images he feeds us are always truthful even if they are symbolic.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Justin and Trypho: Justin Doesn't Follow the Old Law

I reflect on my past three years of teaching the children at Trinity EPC, and I swell with pride as I think that soon they will be in a real building and will have space.  They can play outside.  They don't have to negotiate with others to use the conference room.  They won't pay rent.  They are free.

What if, however, while still meeting in the office suites by Dollar General, someone came and said they have a building now, already paid for, and ready to use?  He gives them the key and asks them to follow.  What if they insisted on still meeting in the office suites and earning money to pay for a church building even though this man came and gave them the building with no strings attached?  That would be insulting.

This is what it is like when people insist on following old customs and rituals after the fact that Jesus has come and removed the need to follow the details of the law and insists that we simply follow him.  These people would rather eat a kosher diet, make animal sacrifices, do the purity rituals, but they will not leave them behind to enjoy life and to enjoy the Lord who has followed the law perfectly and cancelled the ritual laws.  He will write the law on their hearts, and then they can obey it, but they would rather have a million rules about what not to do on the Sabbath.

When we left Justin Martyr and Trypho, Justin had given a beautiful testimony about how he came to believe in Jesus.  Trypho's only response was to ask why he still does not get circumcised, celebrate Passover, and why he eats pork.

The dwarfs are for the dwarfs.  They have been taken in by idols before, and now that they follow the rules, the Jews fear being taken in so they won't be taken out.

Justin calmly explains to Trypho God's redemption plan in the Old Testament.  Only God led their fathers out of Egypt.  There is not just one God for the Jews, one for the Greeks, and one for the newly-formed Christians.  He is the same God for all people and this same God rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.  The Christians have not trusted any other God except the one in the Old Testament.  This same God gave his people a final and eternal law.  His name is Christ.  He was given.

Trypho reads Isaiah.  In Isaiah 51:4-5, God says that a law will go out from him and that righteousness draws near.  The people won't have to seek it.  He will come settle among them.  Trypho's other friend, Jeremiah shows how God promises a new Covenant and not like the one he gave the people when he saved them from Egypt (Jeremiah 31:31-32).

In Isaiah 55:3, God clearly tells his Israel that he will make an everlasting covenant with them.  Now he has sent Jesus, the only man who followed the law completely, and they killed him on a cross.  By doing so, they despised their holy covenant.

Isaiah did not say that one day the Jews would have a bath and wash off all their filth.  Water and soap can never clean a soul.  They will be cleaned by faith in the blood of Jesus.  His blood is perfect and has never been defiled.  Only he can give us the transfusion to where we can live before the Almighty Father.  Isaiah even foretold that God would go before them.  And so he has.  Jesus, the God man, completed the law before his people did, and that is the only way to salvation.

Christians might follow the old ritual laws, but they know why they were given.  Kosher diets and cleanliness practices were given to point people to Jesus.  They taught the people their inability to be clean before God on their own initiative.  When Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead, he put an end to those ritual laws, and now they are able to follow Him.  If people still follow those rules, then they do not know Jesus, the only way to the Father.

One day I talked to a young lady with piercings, tattoos, and a history.  She was raised by strict parents who told her it was a sin to get a tattoo.  I was even raised thinking shrimp was a sin, even though we have always loved seafood.  Among all those rules, those parents did not win their daughter to Jesus, but only led her away not believing in God at all.  Hopefully, now that I've talked to her, she will look to obeying Jesus because of him, not because her parents gave her rules.  God only knows.  He does his work and keeps reminding me that people don't need to be told to abstain from premarital sex, drugs, and alcohol.  They need to be told to love Jesus and to love people because they love Jesus.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Name and Def of the Ref

Part the second of chapter 26 of the Earle Cairns text.  It is about the name and the definition of the Reformation.  Luther was not the only one to stir the pot, but he got all Christians examining their faith to see if it really follows the church of the New Testament.  A definition of the Reformation, says Cairns, is conditioned by the outlook of the historian.

The RCs see it as a revolt by Protestants against the universal church.  The Prots see a reformation that brought religious life nearer to the pattern of the New Testament.  Amazingly, there's a third category from a polity or church government perspective: it was a revolt against the authority of the church of Rome and its head.

Ultimately, however, the Christian religion was no longer confined to just Rome after Luther made headlines.  It did succeed in getting the Romans to examine their practices in the Counter Reformation as a check against the Protestants.  It did do some good in cleaning up abuses, but ultimately it did not reunite the professing believers of Christ.  They could no reunite on important issues such as justification by faith that is alone from grace that is alone which is only from Christ.  They could not come to an agreement about whether the Bible alone is the authority or if the church is included.  It also induced the Catholics to send missionary movements that converted Central and South America, Quebec, Indochina, and the Philippines to their system.

In the year 2013, I see the Roman Catholics growing to believe more evangelical beliefs (listen to Matt Maher) and Protestants going back to more Catholic beliefs.  As Presbyterian who married into a non-denominational church, I increasingly see the two sides as one Christianity who both emphasize salvation by works.  They are mixed by people who rely on the works of Jesus alone for salvation and people who think they can contribute something.  However, sometimes I feel like God is slowly bringing the two halves together over political issues such as abortion, and perhaps we will come to understand that Jesus is the only solution to any problem and look forward to when he brings his Kingdom to earth and visibly rules.  He rules the church now, and we should listen to him and ignore anybody who slanders Christ or his bride as not having compassion or doing enough for the world.  We need to continue to care about life and love since God is defined by both and both of them are highly devalued today.  And do not forget that there is no church apart from the one led by Jesus.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Generation that Seeks for a Sign

The time is right.  John MacArthur holds a conference called "Strange Fire."  I work at a LifeWay in a neighborhood that must have charismatic signs and wonders.  I just read an article about the regulative principle of worship.  I must go from here and recount how I came to believe what I believe about tongues and signs and wonders for today.

I was raised in a conservative PCUSA church, aka, a church with good politics but no theology.  I had solid parents who raised me on the Bible and on orthodox Christianity.  They did their job of keeping the promise they made when they baptized me before I was two months old.

I will always consider that my home even though I've moved on.  I greatly honor my parents, especially my mother, but they erred just like all humans.  I spent high school watching the 700 Club and believing in their Words on Knowledge.  I would sit and yearn for some breakthrough from that.

Fastforward to past college.  I was in seminary and had a professor named James McGoldrick at Erskine who just seemed to not believe that miracles existed at all today.  I hated the guy.  I was like, "how can he not see God's hand in everyday things?"  I would rely on my mother who started to like Joel Osteen (he wasn't a full-blown heretic yet), Smith Wigglesworth, and just about anyone on TBN.  Not Paul and Jan Crouch, but people like James Robison.  I also was weaned on Beth Moore's bible studies.

Then my mother got cancer.  She went to doctors, but she also prayed and prayed for healing like she saw on 700 Club.  Some friends took her to a ministry in Augusta called the Healing Center.  They believe that with enough wrestling with God, our prayers can cure cancer and even grow back diabetic toes.  If mom happened to die, then people just didn't have enough faith.

Well, mom passed away in January of 2009.  It was not because of lack of faith.  God is sovereign and has his own plan and he doesn't have to follow mine.  And I know that I had faith in God even though it was shaky at that point.  All the same, because of the charismatic ministries and their magic shows, this led me to doubt my standing with God and even God's faithfulness.

The good news is that I took it straight to God and through the years he got me to where I don't have answers, but I'm alright.  He has greatly blessed me, and I look forward to what he does further on.  But the thing is, God is not a genii.  You can't rub his lamp hard enough for him to grant you your wish.  He does all things for his glory, and if he says "yes" to a prayer, then it is for his glory and for our benefit.  If he answers "no" or "not yet" then it is the same reason.

So at this point, no, I do not believe in signs, wonders, or tongues for today because I believe God is sovereign and that his revelation is complete in the pages of Scripture.  We must seek no more or no less.  I actually am thankful for folks like James McGoldrick who are bold enough to say that these things are not for the time since the death of the apostles.

So, what if someone comes to me and claims they had surgery and saw heaven for 4 minutes?  What if someone I really trust claims that he's spoken in tongues and seen dead people raised to life?  Are they liars?  Are they condemned?  Some are.  I think most people are just hypnotized.  Unlike MacArthur, I'm amillennial, believe in paedobaptism, and I believe in some remote part of the world maybe someone will say something in a tongue and someone will come up claiming he said the Lord's Prayer in Nepalese.  However, this is to point to the veracity of Christ.  If miracles were common and expected, then they would not be miracles.  If something otherworldly happens, it is the exception and not the rule.

Okay, suppose MacArthur and I are wrong and someone does speak tongues somewhere.  1 Corinthians 14 is adamant that tongues are useless unless someone understands what you are saying.  It must be intelligible and not vain repetition.  All worship should be done in decency and order (1 Cor. 14:40).  This does not mean that we can never have guitars or drums in the sanctuary during Sunday worship, but it does mean we need to have a reason for what we do, and it has to be precedented in the Bible.

And as for the charismatic ministries that take captive whole ethnicities and continents, people go to those ministries to see signs and wonders.  They seek healing, improved relationships, and other cool things, but they do not seek Christ.  They want some dose of God's presence as their weekly high, but they do not seek to have Christ permanently alter their daily routines.  They don't learn that the Holy Spirit is not a magic charm but moves as he pleases to the glory of God.

And over and over, I see people come from these churches with shallow faiths, they do not know that Jesus was actually a man and he was God, and their judgment of true believers is if they are nice or not.  And people among them that God does call have shattered faiths because God did not answer "yes" in a timely manner or they feel like he is punishing them if their mother should happen to die of cancer.

So, if you are John MacArthur and are a complete cessationist, or if you are John Piper and believe these signs still happen here or there, the point is that the cool signs should not be the focus of worship.  The fireworks and sensations should not be part of church, at least not on Sunday morning.  People need to bow before a holy God, realize that they can't make him send rain to the earth unless he wants to do so.  God could have let us all perish in hell, but he gave Christ to take the place of his elect.  We should come to church joyful, but trembling.  We most certainly should not have chaos and madness during that time because our Holy Spirit is one of order.

And yes, charismatic beliefs are dangerous to people, even if they come from well-meaning people who might even be true Christians.  You must seek the Lord from Scripture alone and not demand that he perform some sign.  Just sit and enjoy the way he works in ordinary life and how he gradually changes the world one person at a time.

"“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:39-40

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Justin's Dialogue with Trypho

So far, I have read two apologies by Justin Martyr and loved them.  Now that I'm reading his dialogue with a Jewish man named Trypho, I'm liking it even more.  First, Justin meets Trypho who asks him about God and philosophy.

Justin first says, "Philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honourable before God, to whom it leads us and alone commends u; and these are truly holy men who have bestowed attention on philosophy."  He goes on to say that the first people to handle philosophy passed down their art to people who made no investigation concerning the truth.  They simply followed their leaders without question, not making sure they believe the teachings for themselves.

Then, Justin relates the story of when he converted to Christ.  He was in a field seeking solitude, when the man who lived there came and talked to him.  The man asks him what is philosophy, and what is happiness?

Justin replied, "Philosophy is the knowledge of that which really exists and a clear perception of the truth.  Happiness is the reward of such knowledge and wisdom."

What do you call God?

"That which always maintains the same nature, and in the same manner, and is the cause of all other things."

The anonymous man then asks that if there was an animal described in another country, and people who have never seen it describe it, do they really know the animal?  In the same way, how can philosophers judge correctly about God or speak any truth, when they have no knowledge of him having neither seen him at any time nor hear him?

Justin was still following Plato who says that the Deity can only be discerned with the mind.

The men keep talking and soon discuss if the soul can see God.  Can our inner beings see God on their own?  The man concludes that souls neither see God nor transmigrate into other bodies for they would know that they are so punished and they would be afraid to commit even the most trivial sin afterwards.  But they can perceive that God exists.  But no, they cannot see God in all his glory.

Furthermore, the soul is not immortal because it was begotten.  It had a beginning.  Platonists think that the soul is immortal and unbegotten.  They say the same thing about the world, but even Justin agrees that it is not so.

"For to live is not the soul's attribute as it is God's."

Finally, Justin breaks down and says, "should anyone then employ a teacher or whence may one be helped if not even in them there is truth?"  The man assures him that before this time, ancient men, both righteous and beloved by God who spoke to them by the Divine Spirit.  Apart from God's revelation they would not know the exact truth of God.  They would only know of him.  "These things cannot be perceived or understood by all but only by the man to whom God and his Christ have imparted wisdom."

At that, Justin believed in Jesus and followed him since.  Trypho's friends laugh at Justin, and even Trypho still wants to stick the the Jewish beliefs and rituals, believing that Christ didn't even know Christ.  Justin forgives the guy and says, "You know not what you say and have been persuaded by teachers who do not understand the Scriptures."  Soon, Justin walks away as Trypho's friends keep laughing, but Trypho follows, so they go off by themselves.  Trypho asks him why he does not get circumcised and follow the feasts and rites?  Justin will answer in the next post about this.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cairns chapter 26: Background

This time I really have reached the Reformation section of my church history book.  My blogs about it will be from my perspective.  They will be less frequent because of my new job, but I still carry on Martin Luther's spirit in my life.  Today, we will just focus on the paradigm shifts brought in by the Renaissance.

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  He discovered the Americas.  The world went from potomac civilizations based on rivers, to oceanic civilizations.  The world had expanded.  By the time Luther nailed his 95 Theses, Magellan had circled the world, or at least his ship had.  The more Catholic nations such as Portugal, Spain, and France conquered South and Central America and even Quebec.  Protestant forces such as England and Holland took the United States and Canada.

The mindset had changed from feudalism and lordship to the new concept of a territorial nation-state.  Their motives were most likely not pure, but states such as Germany supported the Reformation because it wanted the churches under national control.  They did not want to keep sending money to Rome.

Towns cropped up.  Markets and capitalism gave way to a middle class merchant society.  There was money.  They had discovered raw materials in the new world.  This began an era of international trade.

Before the Renaissance, if you were born in a serf family, you would remain a serf.  Now, serfs could rise above their situation, earn money, and own property.  People had more independence.

The scholars rediscovered Greek and Latin and decided to read all literature in its original sources.  This lead to reading the Bible in its original Greek and Hebrew.  Individuals began reading the scriptures and noticed differences between the New Testament church versus the Renaissance church.  This led to disadvantages to the Medieval papacy.  Soon, people expressed an emphasis on personal, individual salvation and the need for them to come to Jesus, not a priest.

People began to be diverse in their beliefs.  This was the first time life became divided between secular and sacred.  People would attend church but not really believe or understand.  People led church and took advantage of people not really understanding.  And rebels began questioning authorities of the Church and going with the Bible's authority if they clashed.  This all stirred the pot to begin an outright revolution and a call to bring people back to following Jesus and not man.