Friday, December 28, 2012

Kant and Aliens

Kant wanted to find a reason why math and physics and such must work. Must-ness, i.e., necessity, implies a priori (reasoning from without experience), thus he went looking for it in reason without experience. His solution was that we experience things as in space and time, and as caused and causing, because that is how our reasoning makes them appear to us. Thus, one might think of space and time and cause/effect relations as the General User Interface (GUI) which we have for living in the world.

We can not conceive of other matrices through which to perceive the world, which makes inventing aliens based on that practically impossible. We can, however, conceive of the matrices being ordered differently. We have space and time as relative to the speed of light, because that is as fast as we can perceive things. What if we perceived things more through some other matrix?

Suppose an alien whose reason makes the world appear to him primarily causally, rather than spatially.Here is how such a being might try to explain his perceptual world:

I don’t see as humans see. I see cause, effect. You see events, one, two, three, and so on. I see this causes that, causes the other. For you, everything is displayed as changing spatial dimensions. For me, it is changing causal dimensions. I can see far ahead what will come, just as you can see into the next room. If I am standing in a room, and there is a switch, I can see what happens if I switch it. I don’t see by light, either, but instantaneously, as far as your dimensions are concerned, by particles which you cannot perceive, nor will you ever be able to, apart from special structures. Because I “see” instantaneously, rather than by light, I perceive no relativistic effects.

Because I see causally, rather than spatially, I can see where every particle which has mass is. Each one has an effect on my own mass, pulling it in various directions, and I can see that. I can’t see each particle all that clearly, though, it is just as if you were to look out onto a field: you would see each blade of grass, but not at all clearly. What you could see clearly is where the grass was thick, and where it was thin, at least the extremes.

I don’t move in time in the same way as you. You are pulled along as if by a current. Because I pass through causality the way you pass through space-time, I can go backwards in certain ways. You can walk into and out of a room, but the room has changed due to time. I can walk into and out of an event, in the same way, but the event has changed in the meantime. For me, everything that could happen, does. I just don’t necessarily go to where it is. If I walk into a room, as far as you see, then I see many different directions I could go: where I knock a vase over, where I don’t. Both events happen as much for me as your kitchen and living room exist for you when you are in the dining room. You don’t experience your kitchen when you are in your dining room, and neither do I experience knocking over a vase when I don’t, but I can see it and what comes of it. Even when I do experience it, I can step back in time. I can knock over a vase, then rewind, by walking back through the choices, and then walk through what happens if I do not knock over the vase, or what happens if I knock it over differently.

What are, to you, alternate worlds, are, to me, akin to the future and the past. You measure time by changes in spatial objects. I measure time by changes in causal objects. Spatial objects are like boxes and wardrobes and stuff. Causal objects are openings and closings and knockings and such. I don’t actually see a vase, I see various possible actions tied to a vase, like you see various objects tied to knockings, rather than the knockings themselves. I just have it the other way from you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grace to Speak

It was pointed out to me that in my last post I overemphasized the failings of how one man spoke (I removed that section, since I did not speak with him, he is not a public person, and he would have been identifiable). He did try to speak in such a way as to glorify God, and if you listened you could probably hear it. I did not listen well, in part, because he was preceded by the pastor pointing us to the glory of God in a clear way. This man did not live up to that, and, in that light, his failures were made more visible. If he had done it before, I probably would not have noticed the failings nearly so much. Then again, in light of Christ's perfection, it is likely I would have seen as many failings in the pastor's talk.

Speak, you will fail. Yet you have been commanded to speak. Our God will provide the words to say, as he sees fit. We all fail to point to God as much as we ought. Yet Christ never failed to point to the Father's glory. In this is our hope: even as all our human words fail, the Word has paid the penalty of all those who will believe, and thus, all those who will believe, will believe. Even as we pray for the forgiveness of our various sins, even of inadequately expressing the glories of God, we know that Christ came to perfectly show us how glorious is our God, since Christ is God, and anyone who has seen him has seen the Father, so we, though we have not seen him with human sight, yet we have seen by the Spirit some degree of the glory of God in Christ, since by him we have been saved. Though we cannot express the magnitude of the glory of our Savior, yet he shows himself to those he has chosen, thus granting that they might understand--even in some small way--how great the glory of God is.

I do not wish to say that the failings I spoke of before were absent, but that it was inevitable that there would be failings, and that the failings are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. Further, I ought to have looked harder to see how what he said was already intending to point to God. In this I failed, yet I must hope that what came of it might produce good fruit despite that, for God did not make a mistake in allowing my sin, though I did and am therefore culpable. Therefore I repent, and pray that the Spirit would give me eyes to see more clearly the righteousness he works in others. And because I am hid with Christ Jesus, this sin has been taken from me, so that I no longer need fear the death which would be the just wages of it, since it was taken upon Christ on the cross, and the wages paid to my savior as he died. Therefore, in both these failings, we are each made to depend upon the blood of Christ Jesus our Lord to save us from the penalty of death which we would otherwise deserve. Hallelujah! He is truly a cause for joy to the world.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Gifts

Why should we give gifts if not out of appreciation? Because God gave the greatest gift to us. Because money is really worthless when placed next to that gift anyway. Same reason as God gave us his son: they were made in the image of God, however broken that image now is. It's not like we earned that! Why do you give gifts to those whom you appreciate? Do they have to earn your appreciation? Then they are earning your gifts to them, and those are not gifts! Therefore, this is what a gift means from a Christian: "Remember the gift God gave? The one by which you may be saved? I just couldn't help myself, I know I can't give a gift like that, but this is a picture. I just wanted to be like Christ so much, and this is what I could give of myself." See in that small gift the total giving of Christ for us to save us from our sin. It is like a little child, seeing that his mother is making pie he goes outside and makes a pie in the mud. That is what our gifts are: pies in the mud imitating the real pie which is the gift of Jesus who saves us from our sins. You can't eat a mud pie, but it at least reminds you that there are real pies. So with our gifts: they do not save, but they ought to be a reminder of the gift that does. They are worth little, but they ought to remind us of the gift whose worth we cannot comprehend. And that gift, the one which saved us, was not met with "Oh! That's just what I've always wanted!" But more often with "Oh... um... thanks." followed by checking for a receipt--there is none--then by throwing it back in God's face. But it is met, by ever so few, with "Oh! I can breath! My heart is pumping now!" For it is the gift which brings life, even if some treat it like an ugly sweater. And that is the gift your gift points to, however pale the comparison.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Life When the Dead Die

How do we continue when those we have been reaching out to with the word of the gospel not only reject the gospel, but even die without it, die in their sin? How do we not go crazy when those who are spiritually dead die without being first raised to the newness of life without which there is no life? Where is our joy when we see this, and even know that our Savior wept for this sort of thing? Where is our joy when all that makes sense is a sorrow for the loss of a human soul? A man commits suicide. If you had been witnessing to him, if you had thought he might accept our savior any moment now, and then he goes, shoots, even himself... What does the gospel of our Lord have to keep you alive?

First, know that God's word has not failed in its task, and therefore you can know that you have not failed. No one's salvation is dependent upon your ability, but only on God's mercy. God's mercy never fails, for whoever has been set apart for salvation, chosen by the grace of God, will be united to Christ. This is why we depend on the power of God in his word, not on our own words. This is also why someone like Isaiah could prophesy when God had sent him with a message that made it evident that his would be a fruitless ministry as far as he would be able to see:
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
  Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
  Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
  and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
  And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.--Isaiah 6:8-13
Thus, our continuing in ministry, whether official or simply living as salt and light in the world, ought not be founded in the sort of success which we are used to thinking of as success. Nor should we be unduly distressed by this sort of failure. It is not failure, either our own or God's. Rather, it is God doing as he wills.

This is not to say that we ought not be sad and mourn for the lost, even Christ wept for Jerusalem, and he is not willing that any should perish. Yet, with great sorrow, some are set apart for destruction so that God's justice might be poured out on them to his glory. If no one was condemned, then it would appear as if we had some kind of right to salvation, and what would we then be saved from? Thus, in their punishment, we shall see how great God's mercy toward us is, since we shall see how great a punishment our sin deserves, and thus how great a grace he has shown to us in taking that sin, and thus that punishment, upon himself. We ought to desire, as does Christ, the salvation of all, yet be glad of the final judgment insofar as it constitutes the judgment of sin, which these people would not give up to Christ, but rather held onto their sin, and therefore bear the punishment which goes with it.

We ought not be glad that they rejected Christ our savior, but we ought to be glad that, because they did reject him, we will be able to see in their suffering how great the mercies of God to us are, and how great the sin we have been saved from is. It is not for us to know who is to be saved, but only to know that God in his wisdom has already chosen, and therefore that we can preach without fear of failure, since it is God who saves, through the preaching of the word. Therefore we ought to preach with great zeal, since we preach without fear of failure, but only with the hope that by our feeble words, which so often do not express the true message of the gospel well, some might be saved. It is not we who save, but Christ saves through us, and he is not dependent upon us, yet he uses us, that he might show how his power is made perfect in weakness.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” --Matthew 28:18-20
Thus it is because Jesus has all authority, and it is because he will be with us always, that we are able to go and make disciples. It is not because we are able to, by our zeal or wisdom or other such nonsense, do these things, but because we are in Christ and he is able to do these things even through such foolish and weak people as we are. This is why we seek to preach the good news to all that some might be saved.

It is indeed true that we preach something without which all are dead, and this is fuel for preaching, but if it were merely by our power that this raised the dead (which is a power that no human has on his own) then we would become frustrated by how many it did not raise, and thus fall into despair, and preach no more, for our flesh is weak. Yet, because it is the Word of God which raises the dead, and not we ourselves, we continue to preach to the lost, in the hope that they might hear and believe by the power of God who is able to raise the dead and open the eyes of the blind. We preach, not to save lives, but to see lives saved by our savior and our God, Christ our Lord. Thus the zeal comes, not from the urgency of hell, but from the urgency of God who is coming soon. We seek to spread the word that all might hear and believe. The zeal, the urgency, is good. It ought not depend upon hell, though it is an image which shows us how great our zeal should be. Instead, our zeal is for God, who is worthy to receive glory and honor. We desire that others should be joined to Christ our joy, that his glory might be revealed to the fullest. Preaching with this kind of zeal is like opening a present excitedly: we do so, not in order that the present might be more likely to be what we want, but because we are already expecting that it will be a gift which we will be thankful for.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Our Joy in Another's Salvation

When another person is saved, we rejoice. Why? Does it do us any good?

For one thing, we know the joy it brings them to be saved, and thus share in their joy. This seems like a human sort of joy, however, and is therefore not able to fully account for the proper joy which a Christian has concerning another's salvation. What does scripture say? Paul often speaks of those who came to salvation through his ministry as his joy, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." Christ, too, is said to give us praise and glory and honor.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. --1 Peter 1:6-9
"The tested genuineness of your faith...may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ...obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" This makes sense, in that it is his glory we have, we are united in him, so all that is his is ours. We express his nature in our very being, since it is Christ in us which gives us a heart, a being, of flesh. We can see it more clearly in Luke 15:4-10
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
These are told in the context of Pharisees being annoyed that Jesus is hanging out with sinners as the pharisees say. So, Jesus seems to be saying that of course he is hanging out with sinners, they are the lost people, and there will be great rejoicing in Christ's finding them. Not only that there will be great rejoicing by the angels, but the stories portray Christ, the good shepherd, rejoicing himself when he finds what was lost. "Rejoice with me" he says. Why? So the question is also: why does Christ rejoice in uniting us to himself?

It is entirely possible to say that our joy is found in Christ's joy, for just as Christ rejoices in uniting us to himself, so we rejoice in others being united to us in Christ. I would even argue that all of these joys are Christ's or our enjoyment of Christ. If we are saved, then we are crowned with the glory of God. "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:" John 17:22. This would, then, provide an answer. Why do we and Christ find joy in others being joined to Christ? Because, in joining people to Christ, more of Christ is made visible. Christ's nature shows up in us when we are joined to him. Christ lives in us. In a person's salvation Christ is made visible, so we rejoice, just as we will rejoice so much more when Christ returns, that here is another image of Christ on this earth, another person self-consciously living for that very purpose for which they were made, that is, to the glory of God. Thus, the salvation of another brings joy to all who believe because it is to the glory of God, and because in them we will therefore see the glory of God work itself into the world where we can see it, even in their being changed into Christ's likeness. Thus, our joy in another's being saved is more than merely the change which is wrought in their life by the gospel, but the glory of God being made visible in that change. It is not the change as such, but what we see in and by the change: The grace of God to save sinners, the power of God to change dead lives into living lives, and the image of Christ made visible through them.

Pastoral Theology

"I got a physical car" makes about as much sense as "I am studying pastoral theology." What other kind of car is there? An immaterial car? Maybe you just sit in your immaterial... oh, wait, you can't sit in an immaterial anything, you'll just fall right through. Anyway, you sit there, and, well, you drive along, there's immaterial fuel in the immaterial gas tank... moving you, in the immaterial car, immaterially.

So, what is this theology which is not pastoral? Is it anything different from, maybe, what a blueprint of a car is to an actual car? Sure, we can do theology without getting to the pastoral part, but it is like designing a car without ever building it. So what? Sure, nice design, but if you can't drive it, then what good does it do you? So it is with theology, if you cannot pastor with it, then you are missing something. Either it is not biblical, since "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," 2 Timothy 3:16, or it is not finished and will become able to be used pastorally when it is complete.

What do you believe about anything? Can you take that belief and use it in preaching to teach, reprove, correct, and train those around you in righteousness? Do your beliefs come out in Gospel-like ways? Is the reproof filled with reminders that Christ has payed for their sins? Is the correction surrounded by the the reminder that we have the Spirit of God, by whom we are able to do what is right? Or do you preach law? That is not pastoral, that is Pharisaical. That is preaching an incomplete theology, since it is not filled with both truth and grace. If what you have causes mere despair, then what you have is not the truth of the Gospel. If what you have causes mere despair, then it is not the truth of the God who saves, and it is not the truth about the God who became incarnate in order to save us from the despair of sin leading to death.

Pastoral Theology: a tautology.
Ivory Tower Theology: an oxymoron.

Perhaps this is only the case in Christian Theology, but even then, the point is, pastoral theology does not distinguish the sort of theology one is doing from other sorts when it is being done in a Christian context.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


There is, in a recent post by Thabiti Anyabwile, what I assume is a typo, but which is a rather fitting one.
Something is not right. I know the world is so relentlessly and consistently twisted and touched by evil that men and women can become too think-skinned in the face of tragedy. I know that’s possible, but I don’t want to settle for that in my own heart. I don’t want to be so tough, calloused, jaded, or whatever that I can easily “move on” from the wicked shooting of twenty children–children!–and their teachers–teachers! (emphasis added)
There is a struggle to live in this world without adjusting too it in some way. Too be in the world, but not of it. It is easy to start looking at the world as if we are supposed to fit in it, but we are told that we don't, nor are we supposed to, fit in this world, but to be in it and stick out as sore thumbs, or, more appropriately, lighthouses. We are not fit to it, we are of heaven, but we belong in this world in that we are supposed to make it fit us. The way I am most tempted to adjust to this world is by trying to rationalize away the pain and sorrow and evil, to try to explain why it is unavoidable or not really that bad. There are three traditional theodicies which each appear to try to do this: the soul-making defense, the free will defense, and the ultimate harmony defense.


This argument is that, in order for us to grow in godliness, we need suffering. That is, in order for us to be sanctified, we need there to be evil to act as the hammer which fashions us into Christ-likeness. All well and good, but this gives no answer. Isn't this just to say that there must be evil for us to grow away from our evil nature? Why not be rid of the evil nature in the first place? There is some truth to this, we may grow in our suffering, but it does not really offer comfort to us at the root where we need it. We need to know that we are right when we say that the evils of this world are evils, not that they are good because they build us into Christ-likeness.

Free Will

I've argued against this before. I have also argued against it much more vigorously than against the soul-making defense, mostly because I hear it more and find it more seductive. The problem with it is that it provides no comfort. Whether right or not, I would rather be a puppet than have people made in God's own image die. If you say I should accept that there is evil in the world because it is necessary for us to truly love God, then why are we not praising God for this huge display of the free will of man that shows how free we are and thus how real our love for him is? What will we do in heaven? If these things were to continue to happen there, then I doubt I would be alone in being tempted by the consistency of hell. Even Pascal complains about how Creation does not seem to give a clear answer, and asks it to give him a straight yes or no, so that he would at least know what to think. Or if we remain loving by free will in heaven, then why is it not possible that the same force that keeps us from sin there should keep us from sin here? Even if all of these are resolved, however, does the evil remain? Then the sorrow will too, and the evil, the affront to the glory of God, will too, and the defense fails to offer any comfort, and it fails to defend the holiness of God. How can the evil remain as an affront to God? It must be dealt with, this is the point of the cross, on which is payed the penalty of sin for those who believe. But then our sins must be removed. Well, what if the evil goes away? Then this is not by virtue of the free will defense, but something beyond it, and this is not truly the defense.

Ultimate Harmony

Everything must be as it turns out, all is foreordained. This is the one I come closest to agreeing with, but it is not a defense. If it is all foreordained as good, then how can we call anything evil? If it is foreordained evil, then how is God good? If all is necessary, then, like the free will defense, like the atheists' response, "Evil just happens" and that is no defense. How can God create an affront to himself? He must not; or he is not himself, since it would throw himself into contradiction. Any defense must allow us to call evil evil. How can this one do that? Only by the truth that what is evil now will one day cease and be made good in Christ.

The Cross

There is one theodicy which maintains evil as evil, and God as good, and proclaims the death of death. It does not depend upon any of these theodicies. It is that, on the cross, Christ bore the pain and suffering of the world, as he bore the sin of the world which gave birth to death. That we are in Christ and thus share in his suffering as a privilege. That we are raised to newness of life with him and are thus free from the power of sin and death. In him our sins are removed. He is glorified even by our sins because they show how merciful and gracious he is, and how mighty he is that he works through even us. Soon Christ will return, and in that day the evil that fills the world will be made glorifying to God in the same way as our sins have already been made glorifying to him on the cross. In his suffering for our sins, he glorified himself by showing his ability to overcome sin, in that day he will glorify himself by overcoming all the sins that have been committed in the world. In our day, these things are as evil as our sins are in our committing of them, but in that day, they will give greater glory to God just as our sins, since we have been saved from them, give greater glory to God for his mercy and grace in saving us, and in who knows how many other ways. Sin is sin, God is good, and Christ is coming again to cast out sin and death in all ways. There shall be no more evil on the face of the earth. This is a theodicy that does not ask that we stop crying, but is sought through tears. The others suffice only when the tears run out, only when the philosopher ceases to be a man. We stop because we start to slip back into the thinking of this world, that this is the world we have, and we must find a way to cope with it. Instead, says this answer, this is not just the world we have, but that this is a shadow of how the world will be, that this world is the world we have, but not just, for it will be changed, renewed by fire, when the world is judged, when Christ returns, then this world will be one we will fit in, but now we are being fit for that one, and so will find ourselves dissonant with this one. This is not all there is, but the suffering in it is real, and will not cease until that day when Christ makes all things so fully new. Weep with those who weep, be homesick.

Be A Passionate Philosopher

The logic may work, but if it does not answer the question, then we must keep looking. There is always the possibility that we are overlooking premises, that we are presuming that things must be a certain way, when in fact they are another way. Not that we should reject answers that we cannot bear, necessarily, but that, if we cannot bear the answer, then we do not have the whole answer. It may be that we have all the facts of the matter, but if we cannot see them in the right light, then we will reject them. Look carefully, and all the more because you are crying. Look with the eyes of the ones who are hurt. Look with the eyes of a cynic. But in all things, look with the eyes of a worshiper of the God who is full of Grace and Truth, the God who is Love. Look, as well as you can, with the eyes you are given in Christ, and see how wrong this world is, see how much different this is from what we want to see, and know that you are not home yet, that you are a stranger in a foreign land, and call others to come with you. Be homesick, you aren't there yet, but it is coming soon. Do not be satisfied, do not settle down, as good as things are, they are wretched compared with how they will be when Christ returns. As bad as things are, Christ will be glorified in them and through them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hope Everlasting

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. --Revelation 22:6-21
 Well, then, my response has been: Come, but why the wait? Why not now?
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
  How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
  lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
  I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. --Psalm 13
 Why does the psalmist let God's steadfast love and salvation be enough in his time of trouble? Surely, this is the salvation of the Lord through Christ, and so he is right to rejoice in it, but what makes that enough of a comfort?
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. --2 Peter 3
Yes, he is coming, but he waits patiently in order that some may be saved. He is patient toward you.

But what of those who have been born, some of whom, whether you believe in predestination or not, will surely be among those who die without God? Do they count as nothing? Why not rather end the world, that fewer may be lost? What hope do we have? That by allowing the world to continue on more will be saved than damned? Can you promise me that? I do not want the ungodly destroyed by hell, I want them destroyed in the destruction of Christ, that they may also live in the life of Christ, in whom I also I live.

I can come up with theories that make sense of the world ending, or of the world continuing to be, but of the world now continuing, and yet coming to an end at a certain appointed time? This is too great for me, a glorious absurdity. Why not now? Why later? I can only assume that in this way my God will be shown more glorious, and thus my joy made greater. And I can look to this: when Christ returns, all the pain of suffering, all the sin and death, will not be allowed to blemish anything that is. Indeed, even my memories will be made perfect--not that they will be altered, but that they will be refocused--so that I will see in all that has happened the glory of God, even in what is now evil. What is evil will be made right, the enemy will be slain in fullness, just as we shall live in fullness, and death and sin and suffering will be no more. We will not have amnesia concerning these things, rather, we will see these things rightly, and in light of the light of the world. Now we see little of what God is doing, let alone what he will do. Now we see as things are, then we will also see as things are, but not as they are now, rather, when the end comes we will see things as they are then. Thus, the evil of this time will kill itself, just as Satan killed himself by hoisting Christ onto the cross.

"is everything sad going to come untrue?"--Sam Gamgee
It is for the world as it is for us "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21, so I want to live as long as possible, yet I cannot wait for the time when I will see my savior and my God face to face. So it is with the world, we desire that the world continue on as long as possible, that God's glory and works might be done in it, yet we cannot wait for the time when both we and it are released from our agony and when everything sad will have become untrue.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Let rivers of living water flow, from the tear ducts of our eyes.

We are united to Christ in his suffering for sin. We weep in him.

We also laugh in him, because we know the end. Death inevitably kills itself. The power of death was killed by Christ's death, and the very existence of death will have been killed by Christ's death when he returns in victory to make the world new. All the pain and suffering will, at that end, somehow, someway, inexplicably, by the power of God, kill itself and give way to the glory of God.

That day is not yet come, and so we do still weep. Evil is still evil, but it will not be allowed to remain in this world, because this world, ultimately, is God's. Though it is under the power of the prince of darkness now, he has no more power over it than he did over Job, whom he had to ask permission from God in order to be able to take even one ox from. Yet evil is a shadow. It will pass away in the light of the dawn of the coming of the King. We are Christians, we ought to feel the most pain in this, yet also the most joy in the good that flows from it. We ought to be the most even-tempered, bipolar, stoic, passionate people on the face of this earth.

Leave just the spiritual evil:
--An affront to God's image in us. However blemished that image is by the fall, there is enough that God sent his only Son to remove that blemish from us.
--A man cutting himself off from all hope of redemption.
--People tempted, some certainly falling to the temptation, to call God unjust, unloving, impotent, or finite. They were children, how much more innocent can you get!? Even allowing for original sin: were these worse than others? They're guns, how much easier to stop can you get? They can jam! There are already those who say he did not stop it because "he's not allowed in schools." Unloving, impotent, finite, and pretty hard to argue that that is a just god, too. I'd rather a loving, just, omnipotent God who is called a jerk than this "gentleman god."

So we must cry for this, even as we cry with others for all the physical and psychological evil.

Leave just the spiritual good:
--Proof of the moral worth of humans beings. No one would dare say "they were just children." The reaction to this is many times greater than if they had been any other form of animal life.
--An opportunity for Christians to show how much they desire that many would inherit the life everlasting, and to declare the mercies of God to even the worst of sinners. We ought to openly cry because of Adam Lanza's sin and even more his death, since it cuts him off from any possibility of reconciliation of God.
--People are seeking answers to this, surely some will find God to be the answer.

So we must rejoice in this.

Bipolar, just... both at the same time.

Crying dehydrates. Christ is the living water, "but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14. Perhaps this is beyond what is warranted by the text, but he is, nevertheless, our sustenance in suffering. We cannot carry this pain alone, we must, and can only, carry it in Christ who carried all our pain and is making all things right. As we are made right in Christ, so the world is made right in him. As we are being sanctified, so the world is being made new. Ours is not despair, it is sorrow and hope and joy unexplainable.

The victory is won, it is accomplished, Christ has accomplished the victory to come. There is no question, Christ shall return in victory over the world and establish his kingdom of life over it, which shall have no end. Our joy is unshakeable, for it is found in our unshakeable union with Christ the king. Stoic, but in a fully loving way. Indeed, it is this joy which enables us to love, since our happiness is found in Christ, not in what others think, or in some other thing which humans could take away. No, our children are not our joy, and so our joy is not shaken by this. Yet our sorrow is still stirred by it, because it is an affront to our God whom we love. These were made in the image of God, yet they were murdered. Christ, too, broken for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. Sorrow and joy. Love. Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Friday, December 14, 2012


I was born and raised in Connecticut. I have not cried like this for over 2 years. I have for a long time been almost obsessed with trying to answer the problem of evil. I am a philosopher, I want answers, looking for answers is a sort of coping mechanism for me. Let the answer be centered on God: if there is no such answer, then God is nothing, if there is none which yields hope, then the God of all hope offers no hope, in either case, I become an atheist.

What then? What can we say? "Be still and know that he is God"? "God will work all things together for good"? All very true, but they sound as mere platitudes.

Death was crushed to death, how long until we find ourselves where this is true in every sense? Where is the goodness of God? Come Lord Jesus! Oh, but come off it, that time is far off, how can we be encouraged by it now? Look! Christ came as a child, Mary saw her perfectly innocent son murdered. God knows the evil that took place today: his son was killed. But how is this hopeful? How is the mere fact that God knows what we go through enough? I thought he was omnipotent! Why not use some of that boundless power to fulfill the desire of that boundless love? Surely he knows how, since he made us!

"But he knows our suffering, he even feels it with us" Oh, shut it. If he's not going to do anything about, what do I care? "But he has done something about it: The Cross!" Bah, how does that help? It only promises life to an individual, I cannot save those children by my belief.

Look: death came into the world through sin, and sin came into the world through the one man, Adam. On the cross, the one man Jesus killed death by stripping sin of its power in us. I will not say that the shooting took place because of our sins, though perhaps it did, but certainly did because humanity is sinful. If this is the problem, what is the solution? Be sinless. You cannot do it yourself, but in Christ is sinlessness. Be joined to him, then, in the cross. Thus you must die to yourself, as Christ died for you, and live to Christ, as he was raised from the dead. Then you shall be the salt and light, from whom will come no death. Strive, then, that all the world may be saved to the glory of God, for only on that day will children be safe anywhere.

Ah, so... no real comfort? Just commands? Laws. "No, not Laws, it is by grace. The world is being made new!" Well get on with it! Why doesn't God just finish the job? What is the delay? "God is patient, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should be saved." What about all those children who perished today! His patience meant their deaths. "Yet if he were impatient, if the world had ended beforehand, there would be many who would have died apart from the love of God, would you doom them to hell for the sake of these children?" And yet you still have not answered: why did those guns work? "If I answer that it is in order that some may be saved, you ask 'why not some other way?' If I say it is for consistency's sake, then I lose all miracles, and you have every right to say 'inconsistency be damned!' It is a judgement." What? Then why not everywhere? Or why Newtown specifically? "Who knows? Why did God allow so many children to be murdered in seeking to kill the Christ? But this I know:"

The salvation from Christ brings fullness of life. We are all dead, indeed we are all as dead as that shooter, and all, apart from the grace of God, just as bad. Would that he had lived to receive the grace of God, that grace which is for the ugly and the wicked, which makes them righteous before God and brings about a heart of flesh to replace the heart of stone, this grace, this salvation, is for those like him. Yet there must be justice, if not in this life, then the next, and so the shooter, since his punishment was not taken by Christ, must bear the infinite weight of it on his own person. But we all stand able to do the same sorts of things. Who will bear that punishment? God stands ready and able to take the burden on himself, this was the reason Christ came to die. Come to the cross, receive the life which no human can take away, lest you receive the death which no human can escape. Yes, you must have faith, but this will be accomplished by God.

I am not an atheist. No, but rather, this is my hope, this is why I am still alive, this is what I live for.

Semester End

The semester is coming to a close, thus people are stressed. At my college, this seems to mean an increase in people quoting such verses as Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." And thus, my wondering whether I would agree with those people about what they think those verses mean.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. --Philippians 4:11-13
The sort of doing involved here seems to me, from the context, to be that of one who says that he can lose a game. It is not that I can pass my tests through him who gives me strength, though that is not outside his power, but the pint is that I can fail my finals through him who gives me strength because the reason for my taking the finals is his glory, and I know that whatever the end my rock, my salvation, will be glorified whether by my life or my death, my smartness or idiocy. Whether I pass my finals or not is not the point, the point is whether God is glorified. I want to go to pass, but I can fail to do so, through him who gives me strength to live in the world as one who is dead to the world, and if his glory is made more visible by my utter "failure," then I would rather "fail" than succeed as the world counts success. For to me, to succeed is Christ, and to fail is gain. His power is made perfect in weakness. My success is by his power and for his name's sake, my weakness is to show his power and for his name's sake.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Love of Life

If you were immortal, what would it be like?

Begin your life in ancient Babylon, live a life that passes until you find yourself in Greece, talking to Socrates. Every day would be a new experience. Another part of you, so that there would be so much more in others that you could see in yourself. You would meet so many people. Each one different, and they would get more different as you learned what people are like. They would be more people-like. Yet, because you will come to experience all those things that people experience, they would all be like you. You would come to love people like none of us can imagine. Every time someone died, then, so would you. And it would be beautiful. You would share in all their hopes, joys, pains, sorrows, frustration, laughter, weeping...

Or you would become numb. You would no longer see people, but idiot dogs. You would become proud. Except you wouldn't. Everyone looks like you, acts like you, loves and hates like you. Yes, there might be some numbness, but only because there would be none.

If you were immortal, you would die over and over and over. Every time someone you knew died, so would you. The world would end. People would keep dieing.

You are immortal, people do keep dieing. Dead people keep dieing, and they are still dead. You have the life without which everyone will die dead. If they hear the Word, and receive it, then they too will inherit eternal life. What is it to be immortal? Why do we want it? Immortal life is life in Christ, who feels, felt, all of our suffering, yet considers us people, even taking the form of a man. How great his love must be--what I said about you, if you were immortal, exists a thousandfold in Christ. If you were immortal, you would never reach perfection. Christ, unrestricted by time, started at perfection. We are united in the life of Christ, that love which we would have for others if we had lived from ancient Babylon through to the present, that is a love much smaller than the love with which he loved us, and it is smaller than the love with which we ought to love others, since we are united in the same love with which Christ loves us. No matter how long a fallen human being lives, they will never love perfectly until they have lived forever, but in Christ we have the forever of life, since in him there is a love unbounded by time, he has lived forever and still loves us who he made in his own image.

Only Christ truly loves life, and we know this because he died for the sake of life. We have life because we, in Christ, died. The only life worth loving is the life of Christ which we are joined into by the grace of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory and praise of his name.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ethics as Truth Speaking

What does it mean that I can speak, or write, English? The Turing test suggests testing for sapience by having a computer dialogue with a tester and, if it can fool the tester into thinking it is a human (generally, the tester talks to many computers and humans, and has to guess which is which), then it ought to be considered sapient. The test was originally presented by Alan Turing in this article:, one interesting reaction was that of John Searle, where he used his, now famous, Chinese Room argument against the Turing Test.

The Chinese Room argument goes something like this: suppose I am in a room, and you send a page through with various symbols on it, in the room, I have a set of instructions for writing other symbols on another page of paper, which I then send out of the room. As it turns out, the pages that get sent into the room and the pages I send out of the room form a conversation in Chinese that anyone who didn't know any better would think took place between two native speakers of Chinese. But I do not know one word of Chinese. Even if the rules were for spoken Chinese and I learned the rules so well that I could walk around and have conversations in Chinese, I still would not know what I was saying. Now, this appears to be all the computer needs to do in order to pass the Turing Test, and thus it would not necessarily understand what it was saying.

However, I would know how people converse in Chinese. I would not know that this was what I knew, but I would know it all. Once you tel me "that is a conversation in Chinese" then I can say "I understand how speakers of Chinese converse" despite the fact that I cannot say that I understand Chinese. What if, as I am walking around, talking Chinese, I go to a restaurant and the waiter says something to me, to which I reply as my instructions dictate. The waiter then says something else, to which I again respond, after some time, he leaves. I have no idea what just happened, though I think that I just ordered something. Later, the waiter brings me food. Now, all I know is that, through that string of interaction, I just ordered this food. Later, I enter a  fast food place, and, again have a conversation. This one is much shorter, and I receive a hamburger at the end. As I go through this process many times, in many environments, I will eventually learn how to ask for various foods in particular, whether the instructions point them out or not. With the instructions, it seems, I cannot ask for a hamburger because I want a hamburger, but only because someone has asked me what I want to eat.

To understand, and to speak, a language, then, I must be able to use it to get certain responses according to my desires. Now, if this is how language works, it seems odd not to include body language in it, since I reach out my hand to shake someone else's as a greeting. Thus, there is a way in which anything we do in order to get certain responses is an attempt at speaking a sort of language. I would argue that there is, therefore, a sense in which all of our actions constitute a sort of language. In other words, for every action I do, I do that action because of something, which that act therefore displays. So, if I do action x, based on y, then action x is an, even if only partial, display of y, which is usually a sort of desire, which is to say, a value judgement: "I want this" is equivalent to "I value this." Language, as the term is usually used, is used to refer to spoken actions, such as when I make a statement or ask a question. Ethics may be considered the study of how to tell the truth about the nature of things in all actions. This is not to say that speech is no more important than action. Speech has a certain clarity which actions lack, and is thus better for articulating, especially nuances about, what is true.

That which is of utmost value is God, and thus the most valuable actions are those which display a form of godliness, since those display what our idea of the most valuable is. In all our acts, then, we either speak truths or lies about God. This is sin: to lie about God. God is love, therefore we ought to display his love. What, then, of those attributes of God which we ought not, and cannot, hold? God is omniscient, omnipotent, therefore we ought to love his knowledge, and love his power. We ought not seek knowledge for itself, but seek God's knowledge because it is of God, and God's power, in and through his Spirit, because it is God's. There is not, therefore, in the end, a distinction between God's communicable and incommunicable attributes. In all God's attributes we, in some way, partake of them in our union with Christ. Not fully, as of yet, but to the extent that we are united to Christ. Thus, we love in part, we know God in part, and we act with the power of God in part--we have the power to move mountains, because it is the very power which raised Christ from the dead which now enlivens us to love and good works, and it is by the knowledge of God imparted to us that we are thus united.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Who Has the Real Priviledge?

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake," Philippians 1:29
I have often heard people pray, thanking God for the privilege of being able to worship him without fear of persecution. What, then, when we lose that privilege? It is only a privilege in human terms. Let us praise God all the more when we receive the privilege of sharing in the suffering of Christ, and let us prepare with eagerness for that time, striving to be worthy of the name of Christ, that those who hated our master would see us as so similar to him that their hatred would be applied to us as well. If we believe that the enemy is strong, then why do we give thanks for the privilege of having him ignore us, as if we are no threat to him? Instead, give thanks that we have time to prepare, and that we are, in our weakness, hid from the thorns which might so thoroughly devastate us. Let us, then, grow in the strength of Christ, though we may then grow into his suffering.

Do not grow weary of godliness, rather be weary of sin. Our joy is in the Lord, thus our suffering will be happy. Let us worry, for our safety from persecution is not what was promised. Let us strive, then, that we might, by the power of God, appear as Christ: a danger to those who love darkness. What stops us from striving like this? It is not as though we are helpless to appear as our master, for he lives in us. Our life is hid with Christ, and we are joined to him. Therefore we have the power of Christ by which he raised the dead and the wisdom of Christ by which he refuted pharisees. Let us not be afraid of the world, but rather have the boldness of Christ who raises the dead, making disciples of all nations, for the glory of God.

Let us praise God for those who are persecuted, who are showing, whether in life or death, how great the glory of God is. These are examples to us, as the cloud of witnesses, showing how worthy Christ is of our lives by showing how much our brothers have given up for him. Let us thank our God that there are those, even in our time, who have been counted worthy to share so greatly in the suffering of Christ.

But what does this look like? What is it to be in the strength of Christ, and thus appear like him? It is nothing more than to have him as our joy and hope, and to depend on him for our salvation. If he is our strength, then our own weakness does not matter, except as far is it shows that it is God who works in us. Thus our weakness, even in how greatly we fail in depending upon him who is our strength, is merely another cause to go to him for the strength to depend on him. This salvation he brings is not limited merely to our being made righteous such that we may enter into the presence of the Most High, but extends even to salvation from the bondage to sin, so that we may continue the work of the ministry of Christ. Because we are freed from sin, and are no longer captive to it, we need no longer obey our sinful nature which calls us to act as if we were never saved from it, but since we died to it, instead we may, by the life of Christ in which we were raised, do that which we are both made and commanded, by the grace of God, to do: glorify God in our being, whether in life or death or whatever we do.

Must we suffer, though? We must be ready for it, but is it guaranteed? Some may suffer less, or in other ways, I will not guarantee that those who appear most like Christ will suffer most like Christ in their body. Christ's suffering was not limited merely to his body, and thus neither should we expect ours to be.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12
Yet we will suffer, as we share in the agony of Christ as he wept over Jerusalem, since he wept over Jerusalem for the same reason that we pray for the salvation of others. Some suffer in mind, some in body, some in their inmost being, but all Christians suffer for Christ to the degree that they are counted worthy in Christ to bear the suffering of Christ.

Impeccability of Christ

The impeccability of Christ refers to it being impossible that Christ should have sinned. For Christ to be impeccable means that there was never any final danger of his falling, as Adam did, when he was tempted by the devil.

That Christ Both Is and Was Impeccable

For God to sin would be a contradiction, for it would be for him to declare, by his actions, something true which is not. If God says that a thing is true, then he does so out of his character. God created what is because of his character, and thus what God says and what God has said is true are both due to the same thing: God's character.

Christ lost none of the essential attributes of God when he was born as a man. If he had lost an essential attribute of God, then he would no longer be God, but Christ is God. If he were not God, then he would not have had the ability to bear the degree and amount of suffering which is due to us on account of our sin.

That Christ's Struggles with Sin Were Still Just as Great as Ours

To suggest that, because Christ could not sin, his temptations were such that he cannot really understand our struggles is to confuse the process with the outcome. It is true that Christ himself never sinned, but this does not diminish his struggle with it any more than his resurrection diminishes his suffering on the cross. His struggle was, itself, just as great as ours. His power to overcome it, however, was such that he overcame the temptation every time, for it would have been, at root, contrary to his character to fail to overcome any temptation to sin.

That Christ Even Understands Our Sinning

While Christ himself never sinned, he did experience what we experience when we sin, since he himself bore all of our sins on the cross. Thus, insofar as he payed for them, he knows what it is to have done them. Therefore, for any sin which we struggle with, he understands the struggle, and any sin we commit, he understands the ensuing guilt, since he bore that very guilt. Indeed, he understands our individual feelings of guilt better by virtue of having born them in his person on the cross than he could have by merely committing his own sins, even if that were possible.

That Christ's Impeccability is the Source of Our Power Over Sin

In our union with Christ, we are united with his righteousness both in his status and in his ability. In our union with him, we have the same power over sin by which Christ overcame every temptation (and by which he is impeccable). Not to say that we who are united with Christ are impeccable, until Christ returns, for we are still affected by a residue of sin, which is the desires of the flesh against which we strive.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Total Depravity and Definitions

In light of these:
 I think there is a need for a clearer definition of what is meant by total depravity, and probably a separation of the term into two distinct terms. Both articles do this. There is total depravity in the sense of incapability to do good, which both articles affirm to be missing in the regenerate Christian, and there is the total depravity in the sense of depravity effecting every part of the human. These could be thought of as the depth and the breadth of depravity. Again, they both seem to hold that even in regenerate lives there is depravity of the same breadth, that is, we are still effected by sin in all parts of our being.They also both seem to agree that there is a lesser depth in Christians than in non-regenerate people, though still with non-zero depth until Christ returns.

The problem is that a total depravity person is defined as being a person who is depraved both as deeply and as broadly as possible, and Tchividjian is separating it to say that we are still totally depraved in breadth, though not in depth. The point that there are still residual effects of total depravity everywhere it has touched is well taken, but it might be better to refer to it as residual depravity instead of total depravity, since total depravity has established itself most thoroughly in reference to the depth of depravity.

If Total Depravity is defined as both breadth and depth, then Christians are not totally depraved. If it is defined as either depth or breadth, then we are, but definitions composed of or's cease to be especially useful. If we want to be clear in our theology, we ought to use clear definitions. While Tchividjian does define the aspects of total depravity that Christians still carry, his use of the term "total depravity" to characterize us is easily confusing, which I expect was what prompted the response by Phillips.

There is a further disagreement which Phillips brings up: whether we grow stronger when we grow in holiness. Well, what is meant by "stronger"? If it means, in both cases, that the amount of strength we have in ourselves increases, which is what I took it to mean in Tchividjian's article, then there is a real disagreement. However, if it is meant by Phillips to be our strength in God that is growing, then there is no contradiction between the two: God's power is made perfect on weakness, so it makes sense that the more we realize how weak we are on our own, the more Christ's power would shine in us. Not that we would necessarily find it easier to overcome sin, but that God's glory would shine more clearly. Whether that would satisfy Phillips, I am not sure. He makes a comment about Psalm 1:3
"Here is a picture of growth, strength, and spiritual competency. Yet it would be utterly wrong to say that this means such a person has become self-reliant at the expense of Christ-reliance."
Which makes it unclear whether he wants to say that Christians are in some way self-reliant, or whether he is merely defending his view from the charge that it makes us rely less on Christ. If he wants to say that we can be stronger without relying less on Christ, then there is no necessary disagreement.

Friday, November 30, 2012


"Frustration" is a theologically vague term. By that I mean that one can easily condemn it as indicating a lack of trust in God, without considering the frustration which the psalms so often give voice to. The psalms look rather bipolar: feelings of lostness and despair one moment, affirmations of the goodness of God and the rest we have in him the next. How? It is evident that the psalmist believes that God is in control. The questions are based on God's sovereignty, "How long?" "Why?" So the frustration does not arise from doubt. What then? Incomprehension. The psalmist brings God's promises to God, asking "how is it that you are this way, and yet these things are happening?" and ends in an affirmation that God is who he says he is, even if we cannot see how.

What is the sort of frustration that is bad then? There is a sort of frustration that is indicative of a lack of trust in God. A frustration with self. "Why can't I do this?" rather than, "Why is God allowing this?" "Why doesn't God do something about this?" How are they different? The first assumes that my ability is the deciding factor, it is not. Why can't you? Because it is better for you not to, for whatever reason, perhaps because you are relying on yourself instead of God--even Aquinas prayed to God for help in his philosophy--perhaps for some other reason. The second assumes that God's will is the deciding factor, and that God is good. If God is good, and God is in control, then there is a good reason and we can rest in our good God's love for us. The very assumption underlying the questions of the psalmist provides him with the theological foundation to accept an apparently silent God, because he knows that God is good. He may still be frustrated, the questions don't necessarily go away, but it is a frustration based on faith, based on God's sovereign goodness. It is a sort of peaceful frustration.

Growth in Holiness

The pursuit of holiness inherently involves self-forgetfulness. You cannot pursue holiness by mere introspection, as it is basically the process of becoming like Christ. We can only grow in this way by Christospection, otherwise we are running the race blindfolded. Certainly, it is not only by Christospection, we ought to consider our fellows as well, but that is because they ought to be reflecting Christ, and so it is still a form of Christospection. What about looking at ourselves? We are to put sinful acts away, and not do those things anymore. Does that entail some form of introspection? Not necessarily. If one were to really know, deep down, what Christ is like, then one would see with a sort of immediacy when their own actions did not fit with that picture. It would be like identifying tastes, no one needs to meditate upon whether the food is bitter, we can just tell. Now, no one has that perfect a knowledge of Christ, but the point stands: we are conscious of what we consciously think, so, to the extent that we are also united to Christ by the Spirit of God that we think in Christ, we will automatically know when we act contrary to the way we ought to live as children of God.

Introspection, however, is not necessarily harmful. We do not have a perfect grasp of Christ, he has a perfect grasp of us. Thus it makes sense to go looking for ways in which we might grow into he who is our head. We cannot put to death what we do not know about, and we have been told that we ought to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5) Our introspection, however, ought to still be Christospective. It is a comparing of our own state with what it will be, i.e., perfect imagers of God, in light of, because of, by virtue of, God's grace. A depressing introspection ignores that what will be will, in fact, actually come to be, in Christ it is already--we have the righteous of Christ--and in heaven we shall experience the righteousness of Christ in us fully. A self-righteous introspection ignores that it is by virtue of our union with Christ, i.e., the power of Christ in us, that we grow in holiness. Growth in holiness and repentance of sin are hardly more than synonyms, and, at the least, Growth in holiness necessarily involves repentance. Therefore it, by its very nature, involves a constant reminder that God is God and we are not, that we are not yet perfectly holy, and thus points us to the day when all shall be made new, even our human natures, such that we shall be able to image God to fullest that we were made to, as Adam did in the garden, and even more than that in light of how God has worked to redeem us and our world.

In all this there is a working that we do, which is good acting, thus entailing praise. In light of my previous post, it seems that an explanation of how we can be called to do this sort of thing, that is, how we can be called to do good and all the entailed praise, which, if we are entirely the ones acting, ought to go to us, going to God. First, I have no problem with praise going to people, what I have a problem with is praise not going to God. Growth in holiness, and our acceptance of salvation, occurs totally by virtue of God's immanent acting, and thus all praise for it must go to him. It does, however, occur by human action, thus, it is not wrong for praise to go to humans for doing what is right. That praise must, however, go through the human actor to God himself. The praising of a human ought to be the praising of the Holy Spirit's work in that human. It is not as though God working means that we are not, nor does God's doing all good things mean that we do no good thing, it merely means that all that good which we do is also done by God. Our doing of it is done by God, and yet we still are the ones doing it. Thus, the entailed praise goes through the human actor and all goes to God. Just as all power and authority is God's, and yet others still have some power. From him, and to him, and through him are all things, our growth in holiness and the praise due our good works. Indeed, God entails more praise than we do in our good works, for his motives are pure, whereas ours are often mixed, and it is rare that we do an act purely for the love of God, though perhaps repentance might, on occasion, count.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two False Extremes

A couple of weeks ago, this article of "50 things to love about religion" was posted:

To which a guy I met during my year at community college responded with this list of "50 things to hate about religion":

I do not really agree with either list. Not only that, I do not find such lists to be in any way helpful to such a discussion. First off, note that neither list is really about religion. They are both about how Christianity comes across to certain people. Second, neither starts with God. This is to be expected from Justin Grey's list, but it is contradictory to a Christian perception of Christianity. Third, partly because they are both man-centered lists, they are each lopsided. 50 things to love is all about God's grace to us, his love to us, etc., while 50 things to hate is about the wrath of God on the one hand, and the implications of believing something that is false. This is the fourth: each assumes, in Justin Grey's case that Christianity is false (in which case we are of all people most to be pitied), in the Huffington Post's case that it is true, that it's truth is irrelevant, or that its truth is subjective, I'm not quite sure. Fifth, lists are inherently vague and unsupported. I'm not entirely sure what is meant by "3. No one preaches at me", "8. Jesus", "16. Silence", "17. Mystery", "22. No dogma","25. Oneness of God", "27. Hatred for none", "29. Inclusive", "39. Creativity of the Spirit", "42. Simplicity", or "45. Consciousness", to note the ones that jumped out most to me in the 50 things to love list. Not to say I don't agree in some way, just that merely stating such labels is misleading: there are many things that might be meant by, for example, "Inclusive," some of which I agree with, some of which I do not. Sixth, both lists mix doctrines (God's grace/wrath, etc.) and human things (beautiful liturgy, ugly sermons, etc.). The doctrines are fair game, so long as we are allowed to say, "but I don't believe those doctrines" or "what is wrong with that doctrine?" The ways in which people have misapplied them, not so much, unless we are allowed, similarly, to say "but we should not have behaved that way, and here is how acting like that contradicts our doctrines."

Both lists apply to false, human centered religions. Neither God's grace, in the way represented, nor his wrath, in the way that was represented, constitute the whole beauty of religion. Only the glory of God can satisfy, and the glory of God shows itself quite well in the cross: God's wrath poured out against sin, and God himself taking that wrath in order that he might save a people for his own possession, that we might have the immense privilege of glorifying him for his ultimate value--for he created us--for his grace to us--for we deserved that wrath--and for his justice against sin--that our guilt has been removed, and the world made right again--and these, his glory, we shall praise him for, forever and ever, thanks be to God.