No Shadow of Turning

Shadows are where things hidden lay or where those who wish to hide lurk. These are not characteristics of the Living God:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change [or, turning.] Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin sheds light on our passage:

Do not err. This is an argument from what is opposite; for as God is the author of all good, it is absurd to suppose him to be the author of evil. To do good is what properly belongs to him, and [is] according to his nature; and from him all good things come to us.

…James, leaving to God his right and office of punishing, only removes blame from him. This passage teaches us, that we ought to be so affected by God’s innumerable blessings, which we daily receive from his hand, as to think of nothing but of his glory; and that we should abhor whatever comes to our mind, or is suggested by others, which is not compatible with his praise.

God is called the Father of lights, as possessing all excellency and the highest dignity. And when [James] immediately adds, that there is in him no shadow of turning, he continues the metaphor; so that we may not measure the brightness of God by the irradiation of the sun which appears to us.

Indeed, God’s glory is unlike that of the sun. The sun’s light causes a sundial’s shadow to process around a dial by which we may tell time. His radiance is unchanging; as it were, without shadow. Calvin goes on:

Of his own will. He now brings forward a special proof of the goodness of God which he had mentioned, even that he has regenerated us unto eternal life. This [is an] invaluable benefit [that] every one of the faithful feels in himself. [Therefore,] the goodness of God, when known by experience, ought to remove from [the regenerated] all contrary opinion respecting him.

…This passage teaches us, that as our election before the foundation of the world was [unmerited], so we are illuminated by the grace of God alone as to the knowledge of the truth, so that our calling corresponds with our election. The Scripture shows that we have been gratuitously adopted by God before we were born.

But James expresses here something more, that we obtain the right of adoption, because God…also calls us gratuitously (Ephesians 1:4, 5.) Farther, we…learn, that it is the [unique] office of God…to regenerate us [spiritually…]

That the same thing [(i.e., spiritual regeneration)] is sometimes ascribed to the ministers of the gospel, means [nothing] other…than this, that God acts through them; and it happens indeed through them, but he nevertheless alone does the work.

The word begotten means that we become new men, so that we put off our former nature when we are effectually called by God. He adds how God begets us, even by the word of truth, so that we may know that we cannot enter the kingdom of God by any other door.

And, finally, he says:

That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. The word τινὰ, “some,” has the meaning of likeness, as though he had said, that we are in a manner firstfruits. But this ought not to be restricted to a few of the faithful; but it belongs to all in common.

For as Man excels among all creatures, so the Lord elects some from the whole mass and separates them as a holy offering, to himself. It is no common nobility into which God extols his own children. Then justly are they said to be excellent as firstfruits, when God’s image is renewed in them.

Let us, then, adore the Father of Lights, whose glory we proclaim, whose goodness we acknowledge, and whose unmerited favor we stand amazed and are grateful.

NASA | A View From The Other Side, YouTube, NASA Goddard, Published February 4, 2015

Faith Fail?

This was a critical time in the Lord Jesus Christ’s service to humankind. The ruling leadership was plotting his murder with one of His inner circle of disciples, Judas. Jesus had sent Peter and John ahead to prepare for a significant religious dinner celebration.

Then, at that dinner, while instructing His disciples of His impending death and resurrection, a controversy over who was the greatest disciple broke out. After Jesus taught them the meaning of humility and about their future roles as his disciples, He tells Peter how he will betray Him:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31–34 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin explains:

…When Christ formerly promised to his disciples the spirit of unshaken fortitude, he referred to a new state of things which followed the resurrection; and, therefore, as they were not yet [endowed] with heavenly power, Peter, forming confident expectations from himself, goes beyond the limits of faith.

…This claims our attention, that every man, remembering his own weakness, may earnestly resort to the assistance of the Holy Spirit [through prayer]; and next, that no man may venture to take more upon himself than what the Lord promises. [Thus,] Paul…enjoins us to:

…Work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God that works in us to will and perform, (Philippians 2:12 – 13.)

…Therefore, whenever any temptation is presented to us, let us first remember our weakness, that, being entirely thrown down, we may learn to seek elsewhere [i.e., from God] what we need [i.e., His mercy and grace]; and, next, let us remember the grace which is promised, that it may free us from doubt.

So, we must rely on Christ and not on our own strength. However, this is not the end of the matter. Christ, through His servant Paul, challenges us:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)

And Calvin says:

…But what does Paul say here? He declares, that all are reprobates, who doubt whether they profess Christ and are a part of His body. Let us, therefore, reckon…right faith [is that] which leads us to [rest] in safety in the favor of God, with no wavering opinion, but with a firm and steadfast assurance.

They admonish us because God supplies saving faith; it is not our own doing:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Yet, facing ourselves more deeply, let us not forget the parable of the soils. As Christ explains:

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

Luke 8:11-15 (ESV)

Let us therefore exercise patience in our calling because He cannot fail; though we may:

My flesh and my heart may fail,

   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)

To this, Calvin reveals:

…There is here a contrast between the failing which David felt in himself and the strength with which he was divinely supplied; as if he had said, “Separated from God I am nothing, and all that I attempt to do ends in nothing; but when I come to him, I find an abundant supply of strength.”

It is highly necessary for us to consider what we are without God; for no man will cast himself wholly upon God, but he…who despairs of the sufficiency of his own powers. We will seek nothing from God but what we are conscious of [lacking] in ourselves.

Then, let us cast ourselves wholly upon Him that our faith may not fail.

The Denial of Saint Peter - Carravagio (1610)

The Denial of Saint Peter, circa 1610, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 – 1610), public domain in the United States

Thanksgiving – 2015

Last Year, we posted “The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving Day“.

This year we quote from President James Madison’s 1815 Thanksgiving proclamation:

No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States.

His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days.

Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of His benign interposition…

And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.

An early example of God’s kind providence for what has become the United States is the Patuxet native named Tisquantum, or Squanto. Eric Metaxas relates the miracle of Squanto’s life. The following is a Reader’s Digest version of Metaxas’s story:

Around 1608 an English crew captured a number of Patuxet warriors and sold them into slavery in Spain. One young man, Squanto, was bought by Catholic friars, who treated him well and freed him. Around 1612, Squanto stayed with John Slany in London and learned English customs and language. In 1618, Squanto returned home aboard a ship in return for his services as an interpreter.

After his 10 year journey, Squanto found that the Patuxets had perished from smallpox brought by European ships. Although he was spared from death through his kidnapping, he was not consoled. He tried living with an adjacent tribe but eventually lived alone in the woods.

In November of 1620, the Mayflower passengers, unable to reach Virginia, settled at Plymouth, the area where Squanto had grown up. They had come in search of religious freedom, hoping to found a colony based on Christian principles.

However, half of them died during the terrible winter. They must have wondered how the God they trusted and followed could lead them to these grim circumstances. They considered returning to Europe.

In the spring of 1621, Squanto walked out of the woods to greet them. He spoke perfect English, having lived in London more recently than did the settlers. He knew everything about how to survive in Plymouth; not only how to plant corn and squash, but how to find fish, lobsters, eels, and much else.

The Pilgrims adopted Squanto as their own and he lived with them. He helped broker a peace with the local tribes that lasted 50 years, a staggering accomplishment considering the troubles settlers would face later.

So the question is: Can all of this have been sheer happenstance, as most versions of the story would have us believe? The Pilgrims did not think so. To them, Squanto was a living answer to their tearful prayers, an outrageous miracle of God. Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford declared in his journal that Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God” who didn’t leave them “till he died [in 1622].”

Perhaps our reflection on this historical truth can dispel our current distrust of the direction in which we see our country headed.

Now and Not Yet

I recently read Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism. In it, he surveys ways Christians understand (or misunderstand) end times prophesy. I recommend the book for those interested in working through what they believe about the end.

He treats the subject fairly, in my opinion, although he does have a vested interest in Amillennialism. Throughout the text, he explores the concept of multiple fulfillments over time of individual Bible prophesies termed: ‘the now and not yet.’

While reading, it occurred to me that everyone you meet has their own ‘now and not yet.’ Perhaps the following statement seems alien to you:

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 1:8-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

Certainly, it’s true that those alive today have not seen the Lord Jesus Christ. This is ‘a now and not yet’ for those who trust Him for salvation.

However, what struck me is that many do not love or even believe in Him. Consider this: perhaps it is not yet your time to believe and be saved from God’s wrath. But it could be, soon; perhaps even today.

Of course, you will be saved not because of anything you have done, but according to His mercy and purpose for you:

Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— Romans 9:11 (ESV)

What am I trying to get at? Let’s approach it this way. The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

And those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified [i.e., made righteous], and those whom He justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)

Paul speaks of a progressive reveal of those who become His children: from time in eternity past, through our lives, and to eternity future. One commentator points out (see note 270) how Paul describes this process in the past tense to show the certainty of its accomplishment because, by God’s decree, it is as good as already done. There is an element of ‘the now and a not yet’ for each of us as we journey through our lives.

To embark on the next step of your journey, you must believe that God exists and He rewards those that seek Him.

Then, consider:

…He appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

Do not harden your hearts.”

Hebrews 4:7 (ESV)

And He calls to us from heaven:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (ESV)

Please receive Him today and make your ‘not yet’ into ‘now.’ Come out of the darkness and into the light, for it has not yet appeared what we shall become.

The Now and the Not Yet, Amy Grant, YouTube

Confess with Your Mouth, Believe In Your Heart

In case you don’t already know, an elevator speech is a short summary description of a product or service and the benefits that result from receiving them. The Apostle Paul offers us just such a statement:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I’ve always wondered; is that one sentence enough? Is its prescription adequate to attain eternal life?

First, where does this statement come from? The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Now, it’s important to realize that Paul is paraphrasing the prophet Moses and elaborating on what he said long ago:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 (ESV)

Moses was giving the people of his day the same Gospel. However, it was veiled. It was only a type and shadow of good things to come. Paul lifts the veil of Moses’s statement.

Further, Paul explains the sentence we are discussing by way of his very next:

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

The first clause: For with the heart one believes and is justified (i.e., made righteous) follows from another of Paul’s writings in the same letter, Romans 4:3, 23-25 (ESV):

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

But how is Jesus the Lord? The Apostle Peter proclaimed to those of his day:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36 (ESV)

The second clause: with the mouth one confesses and is saved is related to the first clause, as the Lord Jesus explains:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (ESV)

That accounts for the relation between our hearts and mouths. But what is the benefit of confessing Jesus as Lord? The Lord Jesus makes this starkly clear:

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV)

And what is one saved from? Paul explains:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:9-10 (ESV)

As with any elevator speech, it’s meant to win an opportunity for a longer hearing.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

But, if you only have one chance, it’s a pretty good seed to plant.

“Oklahoma”, The Call (Likely lyrics, the Band, this Video)

Judgment and Condemnation

I was speaking with someone at church a few weeks back and we both wondered what 2 Corinthians 5:10 meant:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Are believers judged? Rather than guess, I offered to look into it. Here’s what I found Calvin had to say:

We must be manifested. Though this is common to all, yet all without distinction do not raise their views in such a way as to consider every moment, that they must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ…For then the books, which are now shut, will be opened (Daniel 7:10).

That every one may give account. As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness.

For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins.

After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtain eternal life gratuitously…

So, here, I think we have half the explanation. All humankind is judged for the good and bad that they’ve done in this life. Any good we can do is only good insofar as God does not count our sins against us. This is only possible through faith in Christ’s saving work on the cross. And that, too, is freely given by Him alone to those who do not merit it.

But what of the condemnation due for the bad that we do? The scriptures say:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 (ESV)

Calvin says about this verse:

He that heareth my word. Here is described the way and manner of honoring God, that no one may think that it consists solely in any outward performance, or in frivolous ceremonies. …But here Christ demands from us no other honor than to obey his Gospel…

Hath eternal life. By these words he likewise commends the fruit of obedience, that we may be more willing to render it…

And shall not come into condemnation. There is here an implied contrast between the guilt to which we are all naturally liable, and the unconditional acquittal which we obtain through Christ; for if all were not liable to condemnation, what purpose would it serve to free from it those who believe in Christ?

The meaning therefore is, that we are beyond the danger of death, because we are acquitted through the grace of Christ; and, therefore, though Christ sanctifies and regenerates us, by his Spirit, to newness of life, yet here he specially mentions the unconditional forgiveness of sins, in which alone the happiness of men consists. For then does a man begin to live when he has God reconciled to him; and how would God love us, if he did not pardon our sins?

…Though life be only begun in us, Christ declares that believers are so certain of obtaining it, that they ought not to fear death; and we need not wonder at this, since they are united to him who is the inexhaustible fountain of life.

But what shall we do with such confidence? I suggest, with Calvin, that we cast off fear and live a life worthy of our gracious God’s gift.

The Last Judgment, Martin, 1853

The Last Judgment, 1853, John Martin (1789-1854), Tate Britain, Public Domain in US

Schadenfreude

Have you ever laughed when someone trips up, makes a mistake, or some other calamity befalls them? That’s an example of Schadenfreude.

Wikipedia defines it as:

Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is taken from German and literally means ‘harm-joy.’ It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. It is also borrowed by some other languages.

But it’s not something we should practice towards those we call brothers and sisters.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12:15-16 English Standard Version (ESV)

We shouldn’t practice it toward those who do us wrong either.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,

and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,

lest the Lord see it and be displeased,

and turn away his anger from him.

Proverbs 24:17-18 (ESV)

And not because we wish them harm, but because we’re commanded:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 (ESV)

and

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (ESV)

But if we do persist, we’re on a slippery slope. Soon, we may find ourselves siding with the Pharisees and looking down on the Tax Collectors in our midst:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

What does John Calvin think of the passage in Luke?

There are two faults at which Christ glances, and which he intended to condemn, — wicked confidence in ourselves, and the pride of despising brethren, the one of which springs out of the other. It is impossible that he who deceives himself with vain confidence should not lift himself up above his brethren. Nor is it wonderful that it should be so; for how should that man not despise his equals, who vaunts against God himself? Every man that is puffed up with self-confidence carries on open war with God, to whom we cannot be reconciled in any other way than by denial of ourselves; that is, by laying aside all confidence in our own virtue and righteousness, and relying on his mercy alone.

I urge you to read what else Calvin says about the passage.

It always seems to come down to: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” And it needs to start with me.

The Swallow's Nest Castle near Gaspra

The Swallow’s Nest Castle near Gaspra, Yalta municipality. Republic of Crimea, 4 April 2014, A. Savin, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The Sower

The first 23 verses of the Book of Matthew, chapter 13, record the Lord Jesus’s parable of the sower, His reasoning behind speaking in parables, and His explanation of the sower parable. This is His explanation:

“Hear then the parable of the sower:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Matthew 13:18-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin comments on the parable as a whole:

…He only intended to warn us, that, in many persons, the seed of life is lost on account of various defects, in consequence of which it is either destroyed immediately, or it withers, or it gradually degenerates.

That we may derive the greater advantage from this warning, we ought to bear in mind, that he makes no mention of despisers who openly reject the word of God, but describes those only in whom there is some appearance of docility.

But if the greater part of such men perishes, what shall become of the rest of the world, by whom the doctrine of salvation is openly rejected?

And relative to the good soil:

But he that received the seed into a good soil… None are compared by Christ to a good and fertile soil, but those in whom the word of God not only strikes its roots deep and solid, but overcomes every obstacle that would prevent it from yielding fruit.

Is it objected that it is impossible to find anyone who is pure and free from thorns? It is easy to reply, that Christ does not now speak of the perfection of faith, but only points out those in whom the word of God yields fruit. Though the produce may not be great, yet everyone who does not fall off from the sincere worship of God is reckoned a good and fertile soil

Hence too we learn that we have no right to despise those who occupy a lower degree of excellence; for the master of the house himself, though he gives to one the preference above another on account of more abundant produce, yet bestows the general designation, good, even on inferior soils…

Therefore, please:

…Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21 (ESV)

The Sower - Tissot

The Sower, 1886 – 1894, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum, PD-Art-US

Why Do They Call Evil That Which Is Good?

Chris Mooney says in his article ‘Science Deniers Are Freaking Out About “Cosmos”’

Indeed, the science denial crowd hasn’t been happy with Cosmos in general. Here are some principal lines of attack:

  • Denying the Big Bang
  • Denying evolution
  • Denying climate change

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster, and the host of MJ’s Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. You can read the rest at Bill Moyer’s site and Mother Jones, if you like this sort of thing.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, a more subtle critic, says in his article: ‘In Defense of Creationists – Sure, they’re misreading Genesis. But for all the right reasons.’

My own view is that a literal one-week creation should be ruled out because, combined with the best knowledge we have of science, it would make God into a devil, a trickster. “Haha, mortals, I only buried these dinosaur bones and set the galaxies in explosive motion so the unbelievers would damn themselves to Hell,” doesn’t sound like a great or loving God. It seems to me that the very idea of good, eternal, law-giving God endowing man with rational abilities was the historical prerequisite for scientific exploration.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative. You can read the rest of this article at The Week.

In the act of creation, God demonstrated overwhelming creative power throughout time and space (and whatever else there might be that we have yet to discover). We reviewed this concept in-depth in our post ‘Every Good Story – Thysdor Ya’Rosel’ and more succinctly in ‘All the world’s a stage…

So far as misreading Genesis, we covered that issue in the recent post ‘Nip ‘Em in the Bud.’

We live in a universe governed by laws which the Law Giver can suspend as it suits His good pleasure. We’ve covered this concept in another recent post ‘Instrumentality.’

For those of us old enough to remember, both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits television series’ had episodes where that which existed had no reality behind it. How creepy would it be to dig into the ground and find nothing (i.e. no precious metals and gems, petrochemicals, fossils, etc.)?

To this point, the scriptures describe treasures in the sand and deep beneath the ground. As described in Scripture, the world is meant to communicate two major lessons concerning God:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Romans 1:20 English Standard Version (ESV)

On the fossils front, death certainly entered creation when the Lord God made garments of skins to clothe Adam and Eve after their fall from grace.  We also read that the creation was subjected to futility by God because of Adam’s sin. So, we can say with confidence that sin had far-reaching consequences for creation!

It’s helpful to see the Scriptures as an accommodation to us by an infinite and unknowable God. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ is described as the image of the invisible God and declares Himself of one essence with the Father. He appeared to us in human form to identify with us more fully than we sometimes appreciate.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught often through parables:

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.

When asked, the Lord Jesus Christ explained to His followers why He spoke in parables:

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Matthew 13:13 (ESV)

He spoke this to remind His followers of Isaiah’s prophecy:

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.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (ESV)

Again, reiterating today’s opening statements, isn’t He evil for not revealing all? In the parable about Lazarus and the rich man, concerning warnings about the place of eternal torment:

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (ESV)

Ultimately, it comes down to believing, or not, the documentary evidence that we have in Scripture. We’ve addressed the authority and basic meaning of Scripture in our posts: ‘Authority of Scripture?’ and ‘Scripture – What Is It Good For?,’ respectively.

So, we stand condemned unless He saves us and, otherwise, we remain dead in our sins and trespasses. God, through the apostle, speaks of His sovereignty in these matters:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:20 (ESV)

We may take offence to this statement. But, we’ve conveniently forgotten what preceded this passage:

…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (ESV)

The onus for sin lies with us. We’ve examined our responsibility in the post titled: ‘There, But for God’s Grace and Mercy Through His Providence, Go I.’

Why one side insists on winning a war started before the First World War, I understand. Loosely paraphrasing Huxley, they believe what they want because they have an agenda that doesn’t include the One that made them. We’ve covered Aldous Huxley’s admission in our posts ‘Wonder Why?’ and ‘Mean Ends – Luxe Hso-Dualy.’

But I grow tired of their fight as this life winds down. These recurrent attacks endanger the liberty we all claim to cherish. You can keep your slapshots to yourselves. We’ve already addressed this latest controversy in our post: ‘Climate Changiness.’

Now, we’ve discussed how it’s our duty to live peaceful and quiet lives. The Scriptures say we will be persecuted as He was. However, dear folks of the opposition, your war is with Him. And you will inevitably appear before Him, so, please live peacefully while He gives you opportunity to repent.

Politicization of science by the right or the left is futile. Finally, it comes down to what the Lord Jesus Christ said to His critics:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 (ESV)

I urge you, turn and be healed.

The Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole

The Garden of Eden, 1828, Thomas Cole (1801–1848), public domain – US

I’m Better Than You?

I’m Better Than You? I know I shouldn’t, but I feel hostile toward someone who indicates, through words or deeds, that they think they’re better than me. Perhaps they’ve denigrated my beliefs, or my world view, or maybe, my God. How dare they do that, I think. They’ll be sorry. God will get them. And I’m not going to warn or pray for them, either.

In his essay, ‘Can We be Good Without God,’ Glenn Tinder describes the setting in which we find ourselves:

The life of every society is a harsh process of mutual appraisal. People are ceaselessly judged and ranked, and they in turn ceaselessly judge and rank others. This is partly a necessity of social and political order… It is partly also a struggle for self-esteem; we judge ourselves for the most part as others judge us. Hence outer and inner pressures alike impel us to enter the struggle.

The process is harsh because all of us are vulnerable… The process is harsh also because it is unjust… Few are rated exactly, or even approximately, as they deserve.

In his book, Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel warns that Nietzsche called for a new aristocracy; an elite to run the world, as H. G. Wells put it. Siegel shows convincingly that this spirit has been at work in the US political system since before World War One.  The C-SPAN talk, in its entirety, is found here.

In the midst of this and other movements, I worry we’ll give our democracy away to totalitarianism.

But Tinder reminds us that something different, sacrificial love, or agape, undergirds our Western moral system:

Agape is the core of Christian morality. Moreover, as we shall see, it is a source of political standards that are widely accepted and even widely, if imperfectly, realized…

Agape means refusing to take part in this process [of mutual appraisal]. It lifts the one who is loved above the level of reality on which a human being can be equated with a set of observable characteristics. The agape of God, according to Christian faith, does this with redemptive power; God ‘crucifies’ the observable, and always deficient, individual, and “raises up” that individual to new life. The agape of human beings bestows new life in turn by accepting the work of God.

So we have agape set against ruthless, condemning judgment. Note that condemning judgment is generally censured whereas discerning judgment is imperative if often lacking. The individual who is exalted by God is simultaneously fallen and at war with God. He or she must discern their entrenched faults to repent of them.

Returning to the initial theme of this essay, when I feel this way, I remember these truths:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Romans 12:14-21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  Matthew 5:43-45

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? …But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” 1 Peter 4:12-13

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 22:24-27

“[Peter to the elders] Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3

“[Paul to the Corinthians] To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” 1 Cor. 4:11-13

“[Paul to the Philippians] Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Phil. 3:17

“…[Make] supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings [to God]…for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way…” 1 Tim. 2:1-4

“Let us not grow weary of doing good…” Gal. 6:9-10

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Rom. 16:20 …by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Rev. 12:11

This last one takes me aback, but it is as true as the others.

Archangel Michael, Guido Reni (1575–1642)

Archangel Michael, Guido Reni (1575–1642), painted circa 1636, public domain-US

After this life is over, the only thing I want to hear from my Lord is: “well done good and faithful servant…” knowing that, after doing all, I’ve done only what I was supposed to do. And I want that for you too. But that’s ultimately a transaction between you and Him.

This is my hope for you.