Archive for the ‘Heavy Duty Fodder’ Category

THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE GOSPEL

       “The gospel not only furnishes transforming power to remold the human heart; it provides also a model after which the new life is to be fashioned, and that model is Christ Himself…. The beginnings of that transformation, which is to change the believing man’s nature from the image of sin to the image of God, are found in conversion when the man is made a partaker of the divine nature. By regeneration and sanctification, by faith and prayer, by suffering and discipline, by the Word and the Spirit, the work goes on till the dream of God has been realized in the Christian heart. Everything that God does in His ransomed children has as its long-range purpose the final restoration of the divine image in human nature. Everything looks forward to the consummation of creation.

 From The Root of the Righteous, by A. W. Tozer

GOD IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST

God is always first, and God will surely be last.

To say this is not to draw God downward into the stream of time and involve Him in the flux and flow of the world. He stands above His own creation and outside of time; but for the convenience of His creatures, who are children of time, He makes free use of time words when referring to Himself. So He says that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last. Man in the plan of God has been granted considerable say; but never is he permitted to utter the first word nor the last. That is the prerogative of the Deity, and one which He will never surrender to His creatures.

 Man has no say about the time or the place of his birth; God determines that without consulting the man himself. One day the little man finds himself in consciousness and accepts the fact that he is. There his volitional life begins. Before that he had nothing to say about anything. After that he struts and boasts and utters his defiant proclamations of individual freedom, and encouraged by the sound of his own voice he may declare his independence of God and call himself an “atheist” or an “agnostic.” Have your fun, little man; you are only chattering in the interim between first and last; you had no voice at the first and you will have none at the last. God reserves the right to take up at the last where He began at the first, and you are in the hands of God whether you will or not.

 This knowledge should humble us and encourage us, too. It should humble us when we remember how frail we are, how utterly dependent upon God; and it should encourage us to know that when everything else has passed we may still have God no less surely than before.

 Adam became a living soul, but that becoming was not of his own volition. It was God who willed it and who executed His will in making Adam a living man. God was there first. And when Adam sinned and wrecked his whole life God was there still. Adam did not know it perhaps, but his whole future peace lay in this – that God was there after he had sinned. The God who was there at Adam’s beginning remained there at his ending. God was there last.

 It would be great wisdom for us to begin to live in the light of this wonderful and terrible truth: God is the first and the last.

 The remembrance of this could save nations from many tragic and bloody decisions. Were notes written by statesmen against the background of such knowledge they might be less inflammatory, less arrogant; and were kings and dictators to think soberly of this great truth they might walk more softly and speak less like gods. For after all they are not really important and the sphere of their freedom is constricted more than they dream.

Shelley tells of the traveler who saw in the desert two vast and trunkless legs of stone, and near them half-buried in the sand lay a shattered face with a “wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command.” On the pedestal where once the proud image had stood were engraven these words: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” And, says the poet, “Nothing else remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.” Shelley was right except for one thing: Something else did remain. It was God. He had been there first to look in gentle pity upon the mad king who could boast so shamelessly in the shadow of the tomb; and He was there when the winds of heaven blew down the statue and by the swirling sands covered with a mantle of pity the evidence of human decay.

God was there last.

from The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer

ETERNAL GOD, ETERNAL COVENANT

Thanks to The Thirsty Theologian for this post:

All of God’s attributes are dependent upon his eternal being. If God has an end, none of his attributes which we recognize as being unlimited can be. What this means to us is that, if God is not eternal, his promises are meaningless; for if he ceases, his covenant ceases.

Stephen Charnock   If God be eternal, his covenant will be so. It is founded upon the eternity of God; the oath whereby he confirms it, is by his life. Since there is none greater than himself, he swears by himself (Heb. vi. 13), or by his own life, which he engageth together with his eternity for the full performance; so that if he lives forever, the covenant shall not be disannulled; it is an “immutable counsel” (ver. 16, 17). The immutability of his counsel follows the immutability of his nature. Immutability and eternity go hand in hand together. The promise of eternal life is as ancient as God himself in regard of the purpose of the promise, or in regard of the promise made to Christ for us. “Eternal life which God promised before the world began.” (Tit. i. 2): As it hath an ante-eternity, so it hath a post-eternity; therefore the gospel, which is the new covenant published, is termed the “everlasting gospel” (Rev. xiv. 6), which can no more be altered and perish, than God can change and vanish into nothing; he can as little morally deny his truth, as he can naturally desert his life. The covenant is there represented in a green color, to note his perpetual verdure; the rainbow, the emblem of the covenant “about the throne, was like to an emerald” (Rev. iv. 3), a stone of a green color, whereas the natural rainbow hath many colors; this but one, to signify its eternity.

—Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (Baker Books, 2005), 1:297.

MARY KASSIAN ON THE SHACK

I had not intended to post any more on The Shack. However, the following article approaches the book from a different perspective that should not be neglected. The emphases are mine. ~jb

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood — www.cbmw.org

Re-imagining God in the Shack

Mary Kassian
April 17, 2009

Summary: Mary Kassian is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  Mary is also the founder of Girls Gone Wise, an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and distinguished professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

The book “The Shack” has had a significant impact on the culture and the church. This good cautionary post originally appeared on Mary’s website marykassian.com April 6th, 2009. We reproduce it here with permission and gratitude.

If you would like to read other careful reviews of “The Shack” consider those by Dr. R. Albert Mohler and by Tim Challies.

This week, Christians around the world will commemorate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It was at a Maundy Thursday service at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, in 1984, that a four-foot bronze statue of Jesus on the cross was unveiled. But to the shock of the congregation, the image of Christ on the cross was, in fact, an image of Christa. It portrayed Christ as a woman, complete with undraped breasts and rounded hips.

Betty Friedan, the main force behind modern day feminism, predicted that the question of the eighties would be: “Is God HE?” The Christa sculpture was the liberal church’s response to the question. And although Evangelical Christians have been much slower to consider female gendered God imagery, the recent phenomenon of the multi-million best-seller, “The Shack,” indicates that Evangelicals, too, are succumbing to the feminist pressure to image God in feminine ways. It’s a scenario that I predicted almost 25 years ago.

If you haven’t read it yet, and are amongst the un-Shacked evangelical minority, here’s the story in a nutshell.  Mack’s  youngest daughter Missy is kidnapped and murdered in a remote mountain shack by a serial slime, called the Daisy Bug Killer.  Mack goes through a denial-grief-anger-bitterness cycle until he receives a letter in his mailbox from God who tells him to go back to the shack to confront his point of pain and suffering.  When Mack gets to the shack he blacks out and awakens to find himself in a cabin complete with a manifestation of the Godhead.  But this is no ordinary Godhead.

God the Father, called “Papa,” is a She.  An Aunt Jemima pancake cooking Mother. Think Whoopee Goldberg in an apron. And Sarayu, the Holy Spirit with an Assyrian name, is a wispy, ethereal female. Think life-sized Tinkerbell emitting rainbows and sparkles.  Jesus is a human “male” – the one the three members of the Godhead collaboratively spoke into existence as the Son of God (umm…  go figure).  Then, in a bizarre twist that defies the orthodox image of the pre-incarnate Christ, another woman, “Sophia” appears as the divine personification of God’s wisdom.  And in the end, Papa contributes to the gender-bent confusing mess by setting aside his/her female cross dressing persona for a slightly more familiar masculine one- a grey haired man with a hip ponytail.

Forgiveness and healing from pain is a valid biblical motif – one to which I am profoundly committed.  But the way we heal is by running toward the God of the Bible, not by killing off or altering the parts of his character that we find politically incorrect. Not by coming up with an image of a God that is more palatable to our modern-day sensibilities. Not by altering God-revealed truth about the Trinity. Not by thinking we need to “help” God with his image. Over the years, I’ve witnessed thousands of women come to a place of healing and wholeness through the redeeming power of the unvarnished foolishness of the gospel.

The Shack contains terribly wrong concepts about God. Plain and simple. If you think it doesn’t, then you’re well on your way to accepting the image of the Christa on the cross.  In a few years, you’ll be hanging her up in your church. I don’t think I’m overstating the case. In my book I’ve carefully documented the way it happened in mainline churches. The arguments used to justify their feminist Christa are the same ones the Shack uses to justify its feminized version of God. In essence, there’s no difference between the artistic image of a feminized Jesus (a.k.a. “Sophia”) hanging on a cross and the artistic image of a feminized Aunt Jemima Papa god in a book.  If the latter doesn’t offend you, then the former really shouldn’t.

I’ve had good friends tell me that I’m missing the point of the Shack. Maybe I am. But maybe, just maybe, they are. Maybe they are getting caught up in the emotion of a heart-wrenching story and are failing to notice the horrendous theology that under girds it.  The authors claim that “at its core the book is one long Bible Study.” This isn’t an ordinary story book. It’s a book that seeks to transform people’s ideas about God. The fiction is merely a vehicle for the theology.

How we image God matters. So the image of God the book presents matters. It matters a great deal.  I seem to recall that God wasn’t terribly amused when his people imaged him in the wrong way, as a golden calf. If you’re not convinced that we should refrain from imaging God as female, and are interested in understanding more about the feminist theology rampant in the Shack, check into my book, The Feminist Mistake. If you take the time to understand the impact that feminism has had on society and church, then maybe you’ll understand my distaste for the Shack’s feminine god rendition.

When it comes down to it, my primary interest is not to engage in a debate about the merits of the Shack. It’s OK if you liked the book. There are some good messages in it, and parts that I liked very much.  And it’s apparently helped people in some significant ways. So that’s the good part. But I do want you to think about the false gender-blended image of God this book insidiously presents. And I do want you to base your thinking about God and masculinity and femininity on Scripture, and not on the spirit of this age. The thing that bothers me the most about the Shack is that it wraps destructive ideas up in an appealing package and feeds it to people who have neither the discernment nor the desire to carefully separate truth from error. Most Shackites don’t have a clue about the magnitude of the implications of messing with Trinitarian imagery.

Here’s the thing.  In the Old Testament, God instructed his people to reject female goddess images and images of God as a bi-sexual or a dual-sexual Baal/Ashtoreth-type collaboration. God hated this imagery so much that he had his people destroy it and all those who promoted it. The New Testament Church also fought hard against teachings that sought to incorporate female images of God alongside the male images – the Gnostic heresy, in particular. And now, it seems that the same ideas are knocking once again…. and many are throwing the Church doors wide open and welcoming them in.

What’s the big deal? Why can’t we image God as female? The main reason is that God defines who God is and how we are to image him and relate to him. God has chosen to reveal himself with male imagery.  Father is HE. Son is HE. Holy Spirit is HE. That’s not to say that God is male.  He encompasses everything that is good about masculinity and femininity. But that doesn’t mean that we have the liberty to think or refer to him as female. That’s crossing a line we have no right to cross.

The gender imagery that God has given us is highly important. It reflects critical truths about the nature of the Trinity. Calling him “she” violates his character and important imagery about the nature of our relationship to him. As C.S. Lewis observes,

Common sense, disregarding the discomfort, or even the horror, which the idea of turning all our theological language into the feminine gender arouses in most Christians, will ask “Why not? Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?”

But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument …  against Christianity. It is also surely based on a shallow view of imagery. Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.

The innovators are really implying that sex is something superficial, irrelevant to the spiritual life… [But] one of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize to us the hidden things of God. One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures… [God images himself as masculine because]…we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him.

…The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.

(Quotes from C.S. Lewis Essays Notes on the Way and That Hideous Strength.)

There’s a whole lot more to be said about the importance of accurate gender imagery and the importance of honoring and preserving masculine imagery for God. But I’ll leave it at that for now. Hopefully this post has alerted you to some popular false ways of thinking that are both insidious and dangerous.  The nearly universal frothing of the Christian community over the Shack shows me how very much the philosophy of feminism has influenced even the Evangelical church.

 

GRACE CREATES A TRULY FREE WILL – AUGUSTINE

from Reformation Theology:

Do we by grace destroy free will? God forbid! We establish free will. For even as the law is not destroyed but established by faith, so free will is not destroyed but established by grace. The law is fulfilled only by a free will. And yet the law brings the knowledge of sin; faith brings the acquisition of grace against sin; grace brings the healing of the soul from the disease of sin; the health of the soul brings freedom of will; free will brings the love of righteousness; and the love of righteousness fulfils the law. Thus the law is not destroyed but established through faith, since faith obtains grace by which the law is fulfilled. Likewise, free will is not destroyed through grace, but is established, since grace cures the will so that righteousness is freely loved. Now all the stages which I have here connected together in their successive links, are each spoken of individually in the sacred Scriptures. The law says: ‘You shall not covet’ (Ex.20:17). Faith says: ‘Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You’ (Ps.41:4). Grace says: ‘See, you have been made well: sin no more, in case a worse thing comes upon you’ (Jn.5:14). Health says: ‘O Lord my God, I cried to You, and You have healed me’ (Ps.30:2). Free will says: ‘I will freely sacrifice to You’ (Ps.54:6). Love of righteousness says: ‘Transgressors told me pleasant tales, but not according to Your law, O Lord’ (Ps. 119:85).

How is it then that miserable human beings dare to be proud, either of their free will, before they are set free, or of their own strength, if they have been set free? They do not observe that in the very mention of free will they pronounce the name of liberty. But ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Cor.3:17). If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will? For ‘by whatever a person is overcome, to that he is delivered as a slave’ (2 Pet.2:19). But if they have been set free, why do they puff themselves up as if it were by their own doing? Why do they boast, as if their freedom were not a gift? Or are they so free that they will not have Him for their Lord Who says to them, ‘Without Me, you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5), and, ‘If the Son sets you free, you shall be truly free?’ (Jn.8:36).

Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 52

————————

Note: From this quote, we clearly see that Augustine understood “free will” to mean free from the bondage of sin. But to those without the Spirit he asks this rhetorical question showing he affirms that the unregerate have no true free will: “If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will?”

TAKING ERROR WITH APOSTOLIC SERIOUSNESS

Martin Downes emphasizes a perennial need in the Church, but perhaps never more important than now simply because the lack of discernment among pastors and laymen alike is pronounced.

Every generation of the church needs to cultivate doctrinal discernment with regard to truth and error. Every generation of church leaders need to practice pastoral vigilance in the nurture and protection of the flock. God’s Word on these matters must be understood and applied.

In this regard there are unchanging positive calls to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2), to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), to hold fast to the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2), to follow the pattern of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13; 1 Tim. 4:6), to guard the good deposit (2 Tim. 1:14; 1 Tim. 6:20), to appoint faithful men able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2), and to teach disciples all that Jesus has commanded them to obey (Matt. 28:19-20).

These imperatives set the tone and direction of Christian ministry. They call for a wholehearted commitment to love the Lord our God, to be faithful stewards of the gospel, and to feed his sheep (Jer. 3:15; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Titus 1:9; 1 Peter 5:2).

Alongside these positive calls are the unrelenting warnings about the presence of false teachers, and clear instructions about how to deal with them (Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 2 Tim. 2:16, 22-26; Titus 1:11; 3:9-11; 2 Peter 2:1-3). These warnings are clothed in powerful images. False teachers are wolves, dogs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves, wandering stars, and their teaching will eat up like gangrene (Matt. 7:15-20; Acts 20:29; Phil. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:17; Jude 12-13) .

It is required of church leaders that they keep a watch on themselves, their teaching, and the flock entrusted to their care (Acts 20:28, 31; 1 Tim. 4:16). They must have a solid grasp of sound doctrine, held with a clear conscience, and an ability to mix it with false teachers (1 Tim. 1:5, 19; Titus 1:9). Truth must be taught and those in error must be rebuked and their teaching refuted.

Scripture never soft pedals the true nature and effects of heresy. It regards the most virulent forms of error as soul destroying and insidiously evil (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:1-4, 12-15; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:25-26; 1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). Harold O. J. Brown underlined the seriousness of rejecting the true gospel and embracing a different one:

 

…just as there are doctrines that are true, and that can bring salvation, there are those that are false, so false that they can spell eternal damnation for those who have the misfortune to be entrapped by them.

 

 

Nevertheless, in God’s providence, these errors have been the occasion of producing greater clarity in the articulation of the essential articles of the Christian faith. They have also provoked some of the most substantial responses to be found in the theological literature of the Church. Alfred North Whitehead, of all people, rightly remarked that “wherever there is a creed, there is a heretic round the corner or in his grave.”

Rather more positively, Martin Luther was right to say that “If heresies and offenses come, Christendom will only profit thereby, for they make Christians to read diligently the Holy Writ and ponder the same with industry…Thus through heretics and offenses we are kept alert and stouthearted and amid wrangles and battles understand God’s word better than before

WHAT DOES CORAM DEO MEAN?

February 23, 2009 @ 6:10 AM  |  Posted By: Tim Challies

by R.C. Sproul

I remember Mama standing in front of me, her hands poised on her hips, her eyes glaring with hot coals of fire and saying in stentorian tones, “Just what is the big idea, young man?”

Instinctively I knew my mother was not asking me an abstract question about theory. Her question was not a question at all–it was a thinly veiled accusation. Her words were easily translated to mean, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” She was challenging me to justify my behavior with a valid idea. I had none.

Recently a friend asked me in all earnestness the same question. He asked, “What’s the big idea of the Christian life?” He was interested in the overarching, ultimate goal of the Christian life.

To answer his question, I fell back on the theologian’s prerogative and gave him a Latin term. I said, “The big idea of the Christian life is coram Deo. Coram Deo captures the essence of the Christian life.”

This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.

To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognize that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign. When Saul was confronted by the refulgent glory of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, his immediate question was, “Who is it, Lord?” He wasn’t sure who was speaking to him, but he knew that whomever it was, was certainly sovereign over him.

Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honor to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude.

To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos.

The Christian who compartmentalizes his or her life into two sections of the religious and the nonreligious has failed to grasp the big idea. The big idea is that all of life is religious or none of life is religious. To divide life between the religious and the nonreligious is itself a sacrilege.

This means that if a person fulfills his or her vocation as a steelmaker, attorney, or homemaker coram Deo, then that person is acting every bit as religiously as a soul-winning evangelist who fulfills his vocation. It means that David was as religious when he obeyed God’s call to be a shepherd as he was when he was anointed with the special grace of kingship. It means that Jesus was every bit as religious when He worked in His father’s carpenter shop as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.

Coram Deo . . . before the face of God. That’s the big idea. Next to this idea our other goals and ambitions become mere trifles.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2009/02/what-does-coram-deo-mean.html accessed 23 February 2009