16
Sep
16

Islam and Christianity. The dilemma.

26
Apr
16

eu referendum for what it’s worth

For a clear expression of the issues regarding the coming British referendum I cannot do better than refer you to the following post by Free Church Moderator David Robertson.  I agree fully with his conclusions.

https://theweeflea.com/2016/04/26/european-referendum-the-tipping-point/

I should add for my European friends that although I wish Britain to be out of the EU that in no way suggests hostility to my European neighbours.  I have had many happy holidays in many areas of Europe.  Europe and the EU are two different entities.  

22
Apr
16

Jesus… the son of man (4)

All truth is moral. That is, all truth has implications for living. We speak of abstract truth but there really is no such thing if we take this to mean some truth is divorced from real life. Every ‘truth’ is a part of reality that impacts to a greater or lesser extent on the rest of reality. Every ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ demands that other realities adjust to it and take account of it. Truth is what IS, and in our universe, an IS creates an OUGHT. I ought to treat my father with respect because he is my father. I ought to love my wife and cherish her because she is my wife. What is, shapes and informs what ought to be. What is fact shapes what is fitting, that is, what is right and proper.

This is why ‘truth systems’ (what we believe to be true) are so important for at a rudimentary level at least we are all shaped by what we think to be true. And it is why some so-called ‘truths’ are very dangerous. For instance, if we believe that evolution is the true cosmogony then we will champion a ruthless ethic of the survival of the fittest and assume that what now is, by definition, is superior to what came before. This is the logical imperative of atheistic evolution.

Many step back from these conclusions but in so doing they are being inconsistent with ‘truth’ as they perceive it. Unfortunately, many are only too willing to think and act consistent with this ‘truth’ and the results are frightening: ruthless unbridled capitalism, assumed modern western cultural superiority to other cultures past and present, the celebration of a dog-eat-dog ethos, the demise and dismissal  of traditional Christian values that stress submission to and self-giving for the other (the Nietzschean belief that such values vice and are weak and to be despised), are just a few misguided beliefs and practices that have roots in an atheistic evolutionary world view.

Incidentally, the moral imperative of evolution is one reason why I am less than comfortable with theistic evolution. Theistic evolution assumes the mechanism of the survival of the fittest is God’s original design and intention. It assumes death and extinction, nature red in tooth and claw, to be right and good, the way, in fact, God meant things to be. Of such a world, evolving by his express creatorial fiat, presumably God declared his pleasure in the words, ‘good… good… good… very good’ (Gen 1). Violence, destruction and death in this version of ‘truth’ are not an anomaly, an intrusion, a hideous deformity in creation resulting from a space-time fall but are intrinsic to it; evolution is how it is and therefore how it ought to be. Such thinking seems to me far from Genesis One and the God of the Bible.

But, I digress.

To return: truth shapes obligation. Design has an intrinsic impulse or intention. An IS creates an OUGHT. This is why theology is never irrelevant. It is never, merely abstract. Our beliefs (what we think to be true) mould, and ought to mould, our behaviour. In the last few posts we have explored what it means for Jesus to be ‘the Son of Man’. How should this ‘truth’ shape our lives? How will It impact on other aspects of reality? What demands will it make? If it is a huge truth, as it clearly is, what seismic effects will it have on the rest of reality? What will be its implications for humanity?

We need not guess about the implications. Scripture itself draws the implications. We are left in no doubt

to reject the son of man has horrendous consequences

Seems a no-brainier really.  If God is good and the Son of Man brings in God’s kingdom of good there can be no good for any who reject it; there is no good outside of God.  By definition all who reject the Son of Man side with evil and identify themselves as evil (Jn 3:20); for such there can be no happy future.  They are weeds destined for burning (Matt 13:38-41).  For those who betray him, it had been better that they were never born (Mk 14:21).  When he judges men, separating the sheep from the goats, it is only those who have demonstrated love to him (and so the good that belongs to the kingdom. Cf. Lk 6:45) who will enter his kingdom; all others will be cast into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:34-44).  Those who have done good in the day of resurrection and judgement (both executed by the Son of Man) will rise to life and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (Jn 5:29,30.). Those who have no love of him and no submission to him will face wrath at his coming (Matt 24:34-37; Ps 2).

only those who prove themselves to be truly followers of the son of man will enter his kingdom

True followers will be identified by a number of criteria.  They will be marked by: faith in the strange glory of the Son of Man lifted up on a cross as an object for faith (Jn 3:14,15; 8:28); feeding spiritually on him as the source of their life  (Jn 6:53); unashamed open devotion to him (Lk 9:26, 12:8); continual alert expectation of his return (Matt 24:44); obedient service that goes beyond lip service  (Matt 21:28); fruit-bearing lives that bring pleasure to God (Matt 13:23); and love expressed to him in acts of unconscious kindness to his people  (Matt 25:34-40).

For these, the faithful, the reward will be the blessings of God’s kingdom, the Son of Man’s kingdom (for they are one and the same) to which they receive entry (Matt 25:34).

True followers are not simply those who have heard the Son of Man but those who have obeyed (Matt 7:21,24,27).  It is not the claim to faith that marks one out as a child of the kingdom, not even religious activity performed in the name of Christ but the life of faith, a life that resembles Jesus.  Likeness to Christ is the ‘good fruit’ that identifies the true child of the Kingdom (Matt 7:15-20).  Such people the Son of Man will not be ashamed to own as his brothers and welcome into his kingdom (Hebs 2:11; Mk 8:38).  Those who have lived not for the present but for a kingdom to come, a better country in the future, God will not be ashamed to be called their God (Hebs 11:16).

conclusion

The ramifications of Jesus as the Son of Man are immense.  God’s rights as God are at stake.  He has given to the Son of Man, to Jesus, all his authority.  If Jesus does not reign then God does not reign.  God’s sovereignty (his will) is executed through Jesus (Jn 5:16-28). The reign of the Son of Man is nothing less than the reign of God (Ps 2, 8; Hebs 2:5-9).

Of course, if we do not believe this we will live as most of the world does but if we do believe this, genuinely believe, well, it changes everything.

 

 

 

13
Apr
16

corinth… a distant mirror (1)

The Corinthian church lived in a culture not unlike ours. Corinth was a city renowned for its excess and promiscuity. Even today ‘a Corinthian’ denotes someone given to luxury and dissolute living. Like the church in any culture, the Corinthian church was not immune to the influence of its surrounding culture. In fact, many of the problems Paul perceives in this church are a direct consequence of the surrounding culture invading the church. Given the similarities in cultural values between Corinth and the modern Western World the Corinthian church serves well as a distant mirror revealing some of the big problems that plague the modern church. Paul’s letter provides the inspired critique and counter to these problems.

 

Firstly, we should note how thoroughly at least a some in Corinth had bought into a root philosophical assumption of their society. The gospel had taught the Corinthians that life in Christ was life in the Spirit. They had enthusiastically embraced this. However, when it came to defining what it meant to be ‘spiritual’ their understanding was framed by their culture rather than Christ. The Greco-Roman culture believed that the spiritual world was superior to the created material world. In fact they believed that what was material and physical was not only inferior but was in some sense intrinsically evil. True maturity and completeness lay in shedding the physical altogether. Until then spirituality lay in pursuing the non-physical pursuits of mind and spirit (the mystical). Paul reveals that much upon which they celebrated as ‘spiritual, as mature and exalted, was in fact symptomatic of unspirituality, was immature, and ‘fleshly’ (3:1).  Paul’s choice of the word ‘fleshly’ was particularly damning for people who believed that the physical was abhorrent. Paul’s definition of ‘fleshly’, however, was somewhat different from that of the Corinthians. This is clearly the case since he considers non-physical activities, which they deemed highly spiritual, reveal their unspirituality immaturity.

 

Of course, it’s easy in retrospect and from the vantage point of those outside a culture to criticise the Corinthians. We wonder at how easily they confused cultural assumptions with Christ. We are bemused by the way they carry Greco-Roman cultural baggage uncritically, even enthusiastically, into the gospel. But before we get too smug we should consider how the church through the ages has smuggled cultural values into the gospel, baptising what was merely cultural as Christian truth. And the bigger and deeper the cultural value the less obvious to the church was their compromise and culpability. For example, it’s interesting to note how forms of church government change as forms of civil government change. Episcopacy echoes the monarchical governments in which it was conceived while forms of Congregationalism flourish as democracy gains ascendancy.

And, of course, our own era is no more immune. Time will tell how far the church has compromised by buying into the unquestioned macro-cultural trends of the day. Even identifying what these are is difficult from within. In the West, these may include individualism, hedonism, relativism, scientism (the belief that empirical science is the most authoritative source of truth), feminism, egalitarianism, capitalism, materialism, postmodernism etc. Many of these are obvious and already arouse suspicion. The really dangerous ones are those so endemic to our culture (such as scientism?), so apparently clearly right and self-evident, that even Christians scarcely question them. This was the error of the Corinthians. They accepted uncritically their culture’s understanding of spirituality (philosophy was viewed in the first century as science is in the 21st –  beyond question) rather than subjecting it to the critique of the gospel. Paul counters their error by showing how it is refuted by (and inconsistent with) the gospel, and particularly the gospel of the cross (2:2).

This Greco-Roman (Platonic) view of spirituality lies at the root of many of the problems in Corinth. Paul reminds us that ‘Bad company (or wrong views) corrupt good manners’ (15:33).  Certainly in Corinth this was the case. Their misguided notions about spirituality led to them placing undue value on wisdom, especially wisdom as defined by their culture, the power of reasoning and rhetoric; these were considered activities of the mind not the body and so intrinsically superior (1,2). Personalities were also lionised, at least by some for their oratorical gifts (3). By contrast the activities of the body were either dismissed as irrelevant to spirituality (5,6) or a hindrance to spirituality (7). The abuse of ‘knowledge’is the focus of (8-10,12). Female emancipation also flowed from their wrong views of life in the age of the Spirit (7,11,14). Spiritual gifts were also stood on their heads through a view of spirituality that dissociated it from the material world; tongues, a lesser gift, is treated as the most important because of its emphasis on the mystical and esoteric (12-14). Finally, the logic of the inferiority of the material and physical leads to them denying the bodily resurrection of believers from the dead (15). Bodily resurrection would be retrogressive if your view of spirituality is based on Plato rather than Paul, philosophy rather than apostolic preaching.

In future posts I hope to expand the issues of this last paragraph and show how the Corinthian mistakes find themselves occurring in the C21 church.  I hope we will see too the apostolic way to combat them.

22
Feb
16

the watchmaker argument for a creator

Is the watchmaker argument for the existence of God childish?  Should Christians abandon it?  Or is it biblical?

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 

Hebs 3:4

and

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  
Romans 3:18-20

19
Feb
16

jesus… the son of man (3)

We have been reflecting on the important role Daniel 7’s vision of someone ‘like a son of man’ has in explicating the messianic mission of Jesus.  It is the designation most used by Jesus to define himself and we have observed how he clearly uses the designation as a messianic title.  At first glance it is a title connoting humility.  It identifies Jesus as ‘human’, or more accurately as ‘the human’ (since he is always ‘the son of man’).  Psalm 8 expresses the essential humility of the designation… ‘what is man that you regard him?’  It is therefore fitting for a messiah who is ‘meek and lowly of heart’, who has come ‘not to be served but serve’.

Yet we have noticed too that For this ‘son of man’ Jesus makes astonishing claims.  For while, on the face of it, this title was a claim to be human, for those willing to see it declared much more.  It was a tacit claim to a key and exalted role in the history of salvation.  As a title it fitted well with Jesus constantly subtle way (particularly to those of Israel) of declaring his messianic credentials.  Only when on trial for his life before Jewish authorities will Jesus leave them without excuse by stating unambiguously that  his claim to be ‘the Son of Man’ is nothing less than a claim to be ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ whom they will yet see coming ‘in the clouds of heaven’ (Lk 22:69). The Son of Man will suffer and die (at their hands) but resurrection and unrivalled glory will be his ultimate destiny.  Further, elsewhere he affirmed, this destiny he will share with his messianic people, those who through faith are united to him in a union of life and destiny.  All of this, we saw, is implied in Dan 7 ( though other strands of messianic revelation feed into this composite picture too).

I want to unpack now a further implication of Daniel 7.  Daniel 7’s ‘son of man’ vision gives weight to Jesus’ claim to be ‘the Christ, the son of the living God’, son, that is, in the fullest and most profound sense; he the Son of Man, he signals, is a divine person. We noted this claim by Jesus in our first post.  His first use of the title in Mark’s gospel involves the astonishing authority to forgive sins; if he has authority over all sickness he must also have authority over its source, sin (Mk 2:10).  This claim those who hear him rightly recognise is God’s prerogative, an observation Jesus makes no attempt to deny (Mk 2:7).

On another occasion when challenged by the Pharisees that his disciples were law-breaking by pulling ears of corn and eating them on the Sabbath ( though, in fact,  they were merely breaking traditional interpretations of the law and not the law itself) Jesus gives a two-pronged defence.  Firstly he argues from royal rights.  He points out that David and his followers did something similar when David was a rejected King whose life was threatened.  He is drawing an implicit parallel that effectively accuses the Pharisees; Jesus like David is a rejected King whose life and those of his followers is under threat by the current establishment.  Secondly, and even more startling, he argues from divine rights; ‘the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’.  Only God was Lord of the Sabbath for the Sabbath (of creation and that given to Israel) belonged to God (Mk 2: 23-27. Cf. Exod 20:10; Isa 58:13).

We saw too, in a previous post, other claims made by Jesus for the Son of Man that put him in a category way beyond the merely human.  He insists came from God and was soon to return to God… hardly normal claims for someone merely human; they indicate someone who really belongs to heaven and not earth (Jn 3:13; 6:62).   Indeed,  he claimed for himself divine prerogatives.  He claimed: to have life in himself and the authority to give life; the authority to judge all men; the authority to rule over everything; the right to honour that the Father received (Jn 5).

This divine identity of the son of man is tacit in Dan 7.  Firstly, we notice that he is not simply identified as a ‘son of man’ rather he is ‘like a son of man’.  Room for an identity beyond the merely human is implied.  This figure approaches God (the Ancient of Days) on ‘the clouds of heaven’.  In Scripture, it is God who rides in the clouds (Ps 68:4; 104:3,4; Isa 19:1; Nah 1:3).  Further, he enters directly into the divine presence, an audacious act in itself.  Jesus develops  (from Psalm 2) what the Son of Man in the presence of God implies and involves; it means to be seated at his right hand.  No ordinary creature is seated in God’s presence.  Further, such a seat makes the recipient the rightful heir to God’s throne, God’s dominion.  In Dan 7, the Son of Man is given universal dominion, the rule that only God possesses.  The Jewish authorities who heard Jesus’ sonship claims in Jn 5 had no doubts about what he was implicitly claiming… he was blasphemously claiming equality with God (Jn 5:18).

Thus, when Dan 7 says that the Son of Man is universally worshipped (Dan 7:14) we should give this reference to worship its fullest meaning.  Jesus insists that all must honour the Son as they do the Father (Jn 5:23).  The God who will not share his glory with another (Isa 42:8; 48:11) shares it with Jesus (Jn 17:5).  All will bow to Christ and declare that he is Lord (Yahweh Cf. Isa 45 whole chapter ) to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2).  Father and Son find their glory in the other.  The glory of the Father is revealed in the Son and the glory of the Son is in revealing the Father.  Further, the glory that the Son had with the Father before the world was, before he ‘came from God, from heaven… into the world’, and  before he was , properly speaking, ‘the Son of Man’ (human) he now has as ‘the Son of Man’ who has now ‘left the world… and returned to God, to the Father’ (Jn 17:24).  The Son of Man who ascended to the Father in the clouds of heaven (Dan 7; Acts 1) was returning  to where he had previously been though now as a human being (Jn 3:13, 6:62).  That intrinsic glory that he had eternally as one equal with God (Phil 2) he has retaken and indeed has added to it all the glory that redemption secured for God, both Father and Son.  Thus the honour Jesus receives is the honour due not merely to a divine representative but to a divine person.  John makes this point well in the climactic confession of  worship by Thomas to a resurrected Christ: my Lord and my God.

The Son of Man is, in the fullest sense of the expression, the Son of God.  Daniel’s Ancient of Days and John’s Patmos vision of someone ‘like a son of man’ share the same characteristic (Dan 7:9; Rev 1:14) .  Indeed many of the characteristics, titles, and roles ascribed to this ‘son of man’ in Revelation are, in the OT, ascribed to God (Rev 1: 12-18; Ezek 1:24; 43:2; Isa 60:19; Isa 41:4; Dan 4:34).

The Son of Man motif, especially as found in Dan 7, while not directly and explicitly  affirming the messianic divine identity, like many other OT motifs points inexorably to it.  The full definite revelation must await the arrival of this ‘son’ himself.  He will reveal that the incarnate  son is the eternal son, the adopted son is the natural son, and the functional son is the actual or essential (ontological) son.

And so, in Revelation, the cry of the whole of creation is one of worship and praise to God and Christ.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”  

 Rev 5:13

Who is this Son of Man?  He is a divine person, the word become flesh. He reveals the Father and has God the Father’s seal of approval (Jn 6:27).

I had hoped to comment on the implications of all this in this post but I think I will leave this for a further post.

05
Feb
16

giving

The treasurer stood up and spoke on behalf of the church elders, ‘I have good news and bad news.  The good news is we have enough money to build the extension. The bad news is, it is in your pockets’.




the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.

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