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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Reformation Day.
In 1514, Albrecht von Hohenzollern, perhaps better known as Albert of Mainz, became the Archbishop of the electorate of Mainz. Being the Archbishop of Mainz made one a member of the profoundly dignified and prestigious Electoral College: a group of seven members, three ecclesiastical rulers (the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne) and four secular rulers (the king of Bohemia, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Count Palantine of the Rhine, and the Duke of Saxony) whose responsibility it was to elect emperors.

Obtaining such a position did not come without expense, and in order to finance becoming the Archbishop, Albert borrowed 21,000 ducats from a famously rich banker named Jacob Fugger ("the rich"). In order to pay off his debt, Albert obtained permission from Pope Leo X to collect alms in return for indulgences, provided that half of the money collected would be forwarded to the papacy in order to help finance the building of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. In 1517, Pope Leo X commissioned John Tetzel as the Commissioner of Indulgences for all of Germany.

To understand what an indulgence is, one must first understand Roman soteriology, that is one must first understand how a Catholic believes a person is justified.

Catholics believe that grace is a commodity that one can accumulate through faith empowered good works, and that justification is therefore a process by which you accumulate enough "grace" through faithful works to justify yourself. Being born again, according to Roman soteriology, is a process that begins at water baptism, and progresses until death, at which time you may or may not have any certainty about whether you had accumulated sufficient grace to avoid purgatory and go directly to heaven.

Purgatory, according to Rome's teaching, is the place where souls who didn't have enough grace in this life to be sufficiently cleansed from sin's stain, would suffer punishment. Even if a sin was confessed and forgiven by a priest, unless an "indulgence" was received from an ecclesiastical authority, one could expect to spend time in purgatory being punished for their sins at least until that punishment erased the guilt of their sin. Once the individual had been sufficiently punished in purgatory, his sins were purged, and he could continue on into heaven.

An indulgence therefore was a pardon or release from the expectation of punishment in purgatory, presuming of course that the sinner had been granted absolution by a priest already.

John Tetzel came to Wittenburgh Germany in 1517, generating money to pay off Albert's debt to John Fugger, and to build up Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, but when Tetzel began to sell these indulgences to the uneducated German on masses, it struck a nerve.

Tetzel had created a chart itemizing prices for various sins, and sloganeering with such crass slogans as "As soon as the gold in the casket rings - the rescued soul to heaven springs" and even claiming that the indulgences he sold could save a soul who violated the Virgin Mary.

So it was that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther wrote a letter to Albert of Mainz protesting the sale of indulgences. Included in that letter was a copy of what has come to be called the 95 Theses, the same which were so famously nailed to the Wittenburgh Castle church door. The door was a regular bulletin board, being close to and facing the main road through Wittenburgh. It was not intended, I believe, to be an act of defiance, but rather an open invitation for scholarly discourse on the matter.

Whatever the case, the event had the effect of a catalyst - bringing to the forefront the profound need for reform in the Roman church. What we think of as the reformation, began as a bid from within the Catholic church for reformation - a bid to correct what had become a radical departure from historic Christian faith, and ultimately a bid that was rejected by the papal system, in favor of their present, perversion of the gospel - a money generating, works based soteriology whereby men depend upon the church rather than Christ for salvation. Those who refused to embrace this perversion were excommunicated.

The debt incurred by Albert's political ambition allowed John Tetzel to sell indulgences in Germany, and in doing so forced the church to examine what it had become, and to choose for itself whether to pursue God or mammon.

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posted by Daniel @ 12:15 PM   14 comment(s)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Backgammon.
I am an information professional, and I work with other computer specialists. I have worked in both sides of the IT fence: the hardware/networking and the programming side of things. The people I work with are likewise programmers and whatnot. Even if the statistics didn't say as much (see: Computer Occ), working with these people I have come to see that they are all very bright, intelligent folk.

So what would you expect a bunch of nerds like us to play during our breaks? That's right, Dungeons and Drago... wait, no, that's not right. We play Backgammon.

Backgammon? You mean that game that looks like a cross between Yahtzee and miniature shuffleboard?

Yup. That's the one.

You see, one day one of the fellows here purchased a regal looking Backgammon board, and on a lark brought it into work to see if anyone was interested. In his home country of Greece, apparently it was all the rage amongst the elderly, and for reasons of nostalgia, he thought he might try playing it, but needed someone to play with. To be sure, at first we were rather aloof as a group. Backgammon? Why not something more cerebral? Why play a game that depends so heavily upon chance rolls of the dice?

I think all of us had played at some time or another in our lives, and had found the game not really worthy of any special attention. Solitaire would have been preferable; yet because there was nothing else going on, and because we have the ability to generate reports and statistics based upon game play, four of us took to playing with a zeal.

We have now logged over 830 games, complete with who played, who one, what date the game was played, and what the outcome was in points. Then we run reports against the data to see how we all compare. What we have found is that no one rose above the rest as a champion - we are all pretty much dead even after a few hundred games.

I know, you are expecting some profound thing here, but that's it. We play backgammon. I am surprised by how subtle a game it is, and thought others could share vicariously in my inane joy. I am not at the place where I can say "Backgammon Rules", and I don't expect to find that place, but at least I am not writing about Halloween.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:43 AM   10 comment(s)
Friday, October 26, 2007
Gone Until Tuesday At Least.
I have been indulging myself in the blogosphere of late, and frankly it is a luxury I don't really have. So if you make any comments on my blog o'er the weekend and I don't respond to them, it is because I am keeping myself from distraction so that I can focus on ministries at home.

Grace to you all.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:03 AM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Thursday Thoughts
One of the greatest joys I know is watching the sun come up.

Update: I preached on "why we obey" last Sunday, if anyone is interested. Link here.

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posted by Daniel @ 2:24 PM   7 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Ten Second Theology -1-
It was Eve who sinned first, so why do we always credit Adam with the fall of mankind?

Let's answer that question with a question:

The marriage of Adam and Eve, like all marriages, pictures the union of the bride of Christ (the church) and the Groom (Christ). If you, the bride of Christ sinned, why is your sin credited to Christ?

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posted by Daniel @ 9:29 AM   15 comment(s)
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
About Being Wrong Or Right.
While every Christian ought to strive to be correct in what they believe, there is never any excuse to be haughty in one's opinion, right or wrong.

I don't think I have ever met anyone who held onto some opinion they knew to be wrong. I have known many who have expressed uncertainty about something they are persuaded, that is they feel they haven't got a full grasp of it, and admit to some conviction about the direction their persuasion leans, but wouldn't feel comfortable dogmatically with their own position - but that is far from holding a known "wrong" conviction.

To be sure, my presumption is that all Christians are sincere, but not all Christians have equal discernment. I presume that just as I have found error in other well meaning and sincere brothers and sisters in the Lord, so too I anticipate that however closely I study the word of God, and however highly I exalt the truth above my own opinion and agenda - yet I anticipate that I too must have blind spots, and therefore I strive to remain humble and teachable in spite of my convictions.

My hope of course is that whether I am right or wrong, I remain open and willing to listen, and that I remain polite and reasonable. The truth is best adorned I think by a willingness to be tested, and a willingness to lead those who are teachable into it. This willingness to listen and be taught is not just some shrewd tool we pull out so that our arguments are always given from a forced and disingenuous social high ground - for such high ground is a hollow facade, and at best deceitfully patronizing if it is not sincere. No, it is always better to assume that in every encounter God has given the other as much light as you have received or more, and that there is room in every discussion to be instructed - and to come to such instruction humbly.

I am of course less than perfect in following this prescription myself, but it is the path I strive to keep my feet on.

I have found however, that the default way the world deals with a conviction that it is right about a thing, is to adopt a patronizing stance against those who don't get it, as though their ignorance were willful and obstinate. They assume the role of a schoolmaster and the moment their own opinion is assailed, they become politely venomous, or worse, shrill and self righteous. We have all seen it happen. Two polite Christians find they disagree, and within a few exchanges, the person of Christ is being defended by two carnal combatants tearing each other to shreds to the applause of the enemy.

I have read just today a remark on another blog about how such and such a blog is so sour because the people who post and comment on that blog are always ranting about how right they are, and how wrong everyone is who disagrees with them, and suggesting that any humility that is found there is necessarily false.

That saddens me. Not because it is so poisonous, but because there is room for everyone to do some self examination when it comes to such things. Would that we would adorn Christ with the utmost vigor in our intramural discussions.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:50 AM   12 comment(s)
Monday, October 22, 2007
New Post for Monday.
I was going to write about Fleecemongers again, but I couldn't remember if I actually posted those posts or left them in draft form. So I sort of lost interest half-way through the post - worried as I was I suppose that I might be repeating myself, and frankly too busy to go and check to see.

But I thought better of it, and will now attempt the nigh-impossible; that is, to state briefly how wrong I think it is to throw out a fleece.

You say - didn't Gideon throw out a fleece? Why yes, I say, yes he did. But Gideon did so before Pentecost - before the Spirit of Christ came to indwell every living believer. Yes, I say, in times past God spoke in many ways (c.f. Hebrews 1:1)- but now He doesn't speak through the Urim and Thummim, through fleeces, through the casting of lots, or to be blunt - through divination of any sort. Now God speaks through the word of God illuminated by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Period.

That means that it is the mark of someone who is doctrinally fluffy (at best) to throw out a fleece. Look, if you don't know God's will, it is because you don't know the word of God. There is still wisdom in the multitude of counselors, find someone who knows the bible and ask them their opinion before you start giving God your ultimatums in the form of fleece tossing. God's will for you only seems like a riddle when you aren't willing to hear what God is already clearly saying. Tossing a fleece is an expression not of your great trust in God to answer you, but rather an expression of your great doubt that God is already in the process of leading you into truth.

Bottom line. Unless you are a faithful Jew living before Pentecost, your fleece tossing is not going to show you the will of God, it will only show you how far you are willing to go to sidestep God.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:53 AM   25 comment(s)
Friday, October 19, 2007
Faith & Repentance: How I See It.
The debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg is fairly easy to answer from a biblical perspective. Adam and Eve were created mature and grown, even if they lacked belly buttons on that account, so too we can say that the first chicken was probably full grown and not hatched. No big deal for the Christian. The post modern university kids would have a harder time accepting a simple rational like that because they have been training kids in universities these last few decades to believe that it is intellectually superior not merely to think outside the box, but to presume that there is no answer in the box or even close to it - that there are in fact only relative answers to anything such that the most virtuous conclusion is far removed from certainly by arrogant design, and so long as the rational is clever, poetic, consistent, or even merely complex - it is not regarded as "just" acceptable, but it expects to be praised and exalted, and especially it expects to be above challenge, since that would be bigoted and small minded.

I say, this is what universities are presently good at - teaching young people to believe precision is not merely impossible, but vulgar and contemptible because it demonstrates ones lack of intellectual savvy. In (post-modern) intellectualism, if you don't play along, you are bigoted and anti-intellectual.

But that is not the point of my post. I was just off on a bit of a rant there.

4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? - Romans 2:4 [ESV]


In my own experience I have always believed that there was a God. I had my own superstitions about who God was etc., based primarily upon what I had heard in my upbringing on television or through my mother's dead catholic faith. In my teen years I was an intellectual atheist, in that while I knew there was a God, I denied him with my intellect because that seemed more intellectual, and it also helped me to live with the fact that I was a sinner. My attitude was that if there was a God so what? I lived a moral life, surely a good God would be inclined to overlook my failing to believe in Him as long as I wasn't a wicked person why would he send me to hell?

So in this way I kept myself intellectually isolated from God. There was no reason to look into God, because even if there was a God there was no good reason to follow Him. Now, this wasn't something I had laid out and planned to believe, it was just the sort of default position that doing absolutely nothing about God produced in my life.

So on the day I decided to try to trick a church into sending me out as a missionary to some far away country, and the pastor began to ask me about my salvation - I was quite taken aback. I won't pester you with the details, if you are interested in them there is a link in the right hand column that tells you "How to be saved" and you can go there and read it, for some of my testimony is in it. It is suffice to say that I had always thought that no one could know if they are going to go to heaven or not. Even though I was at best an agnostic with Christian leanings - I felt that it was preposterous to presume upon such a thing. Only God, if there is a God, can say if a person is saved or not. I mean isn't He the judge?

But the pastor showed me not how to be saved, but whether or not I was going to heaven, and through scriptures he began to show me that there was absolutely no hope of getting to heaven by being good. That even the smallest sin locked the door of heaven, and condemned you to hell and that there was absolutely no good deed that you could do to undo this condemnation. He showed me from scripture that this was not merely his own "twisted" interpretation of the text, but pulled me beside him and had me read the bible myself and see. Verse after verse he showed me, and as He did my condemnation went from distant possibility to absolute certainty.

The pastor reasoned that if there was a God, and this is what He has said, then I can know for certain that I am as lost as a man can be.

That was perhaps the first time I took an active interest in my own salvation. Until then I felt that salvation was something that happened at the judgment seat if it happened at all, and frankly, all you could do about it was live a good life and hope for the best. The thought of condemnation wasn't pleasant, but it was so pleasantly vague that I didn't consider myself lost. I would have admitted that I was a sinner, but certainly not condemned.

When my own condemnation became an intellectual certainty, I found within myself a sudden fear and trembling. I guess deep down I really did know there was a God, and suddenly my relationship with Him had real, measurable boundaries. I was going to go to hell because I was a sinner. Black and white. But that didn't sit well with me, for I immediately reasoned that if I was going to hell because I was a sinner so was everyone else. Suddenly God seemed tyrannical, for it seemed according to my new boundaries, that everyone must be going to hell.

That was when the pastor told me about Jesus Christ and how He (though God in the second person) came to earth in human flesh to live sinlessly before God and to offer His own life on the cross so that as many as believe in Him would not taste this condemnation they had earned, but that their condemnation would be tasted by Christ on the cross in their stead - and that God would certainly punish their sins, but that Christ would bear that punishment and thereby save those who come to Christ in faith from the wrath of God directed at their sin.

In that moment, and I am trying to put this in chronological order to give my understanding of the chicken/egg relationship between faith and repentance, in that moment I suddenly saw the kindness of God for the first time. I would never have understood the kindness of God had I not first been convinced of my own condemnation - but being suddenly thirsty for life, weary of condemnation, and afraid of my Judge on that account, to suddenly learn that this same Judge sent His own son to die for Me gave some very welcome boundaries to my understanding of God and salvation - this God was not merely just, but loving and self sacrificing. In the very instant that I became aware of God's kindness and goodness towards me - in that instant the possibility of my salvation rested entirely upon the character of God, and when I saw God's kindness towards me on this account - it was this kindness towards me that caused my heart to yearn, not for saving myself from the fire below, but to yearn for reconciliation with God. God's kindness towards me, the moment it because real (as opposed to some intellectual abstraction) - the moment I knew that God was actually extending to -me- this profoundly selfless offer of reconciliation, in spite of my sinfulness, and entirely because that was who He was - a kind, loving, forgiving, self sacrifice, do-whatever-it-takes-to-save-you kind of God - when I saw the character of God it caused me to repent of my rebellion against Him, and to turn to Him for this salvation.

The process, theologically speaking, looked like this:
[1] God convinced me that I was a sinner. This happened when the Holy Spirit showed convicted me of sin (c.f. John 16:8) through the reading of the word.

[2] God convinced me that as a sinner I was condemned. Again, this was the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin and of judgment through the reading of God's word (c.f. John 3:18)

[3] God convinced me that He was just in condemning me. Again, this was through the Spirit's conviction and reflected in the bible passages the pastor had been showing me. (c.f. psalms 7:11, & 51:4).

[4] God opened my eyes to the true nature of His character. He granted me that I should believe Him to truly be loving, kind, and good. (c.f. Acts 16:14)

[5] God granted me repentance. In the strength of the certainty of God's good character, it became suddenly (and unexpectedly!) possible for me to turn to God and away from sin. Prior to this moment no thought could have been more alien to my mind.

[6] God drew me to Himself. I gave my life to Christ - all of it. I could have said no in the same way that a person "could" say no if while dying of thirst someone offered them water. I knew that I could reject God and be forever damned, but in that moment even though the option was there, it wasn't really an option. I surrendered to this God who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Faith in God's character preceded repentance and faith in God's promises in the logical layout of my salvation - but though I have laid them out thus, the reality is that this all happened more or less simultaneously. Surely my sudden vision of God's true character cannot be separated from the effect of that certainty - a trust in His promises, and a desire to be reconciled. It is not really a practical thing to split them up. Surely I could never have repented had God not opened my heart to see Him as He is, and surely I could not have seen Him as He was and failed to repent.

The faith that saved me and the repentance that came with it are so closely bound it is impossible for one of my limited discernment to determine which one is the facet of the other. Yet experientially I suppose I would argue (in the intellectual realm at least) that repentance must have preceded faith since the first thing God granted was that I would repent of my faithlessness.

I suppose it is similar for all of us who were saved. What I wanted to draw out in this post however, and I hope you are still reading at this point and not skimming, was not some sad little argument about which came first - but to remind you Christian that when you are struggling to obey and asking yourself the hard questions: Where is my repentance?? Why do I sin?? - that you will look back to how God granted you repentance in the first place.

Why is it that I allow myself to fall into sin? That is, why do I resist the Holy Spirit when He would grant me grace to repent? The pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-fundie-admonishment is because you love your sin and you hate the idea of being sanctified. You don't want to be sanctified, and you don't love God. That is why. And I am not going to tell you otherwise here - that certainly is the reason, but it doesn't give us much advice does it? So I should like to follow that with this: remember that it was knowing God's character that drew you to Him in the first place.

You can try (with limited/carnal/empty success) and make yourself repent. You can make yourself stop doing what is bad, and start doing what is good motivated as you are by the fear that failing to do so will cause God to regard you poorly. Surely we see this work to great effect in all the other world religions. Good Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists all share in this, they know how to improve themselves morally speaking, and you can do the same with the same gusto, and of course, with the same spiritual vacuum, for it is as I have said, an entirely carnal work to improve yourself thus. There is nothing Christian about it - even if it looks Christian on the outside.

No, if you want your repentance to be more than fear motivated, self improvement you have to repent like you did at the start - and that begins in Romans 2:4. The goodness of God causes you to repent. Don't sit there and meditate about how much God hates you for sinning and how you better "get right" fast "or else". Instead meditate upon God, look to Christ. Not just 'oh save me, save me, save me, save me, save me, save me.' ad nauseum. No, look to God's character. Rehearse to yourself who God is. The reason you drew near to God in the first place is not because you were trying to improve yourself morally, it was because God made Himself known to you. You saw God as forgiving and loving, and were overwhelmed by His character - you were more than infatuated, you were "owned" by God - you wanted to be reconciled not because you were afraid, but because God was utterly irresistible to you the moment you truly saw His character.

Look therefore, sinner, look to God. Meditate again upon the one who loved you and gave Himself for you. God grant that you not only see His character, but see how glorious it is and that the fire be kindled anew for this God who loves you so. You will repent brother, sister, you will repent when you see the goodness of God again, and you won't have to fight to make it happen, it will be the joy of your soul as it was the first time. Stop trying to solve your carnal problems carnally. You need to go to the fountain and not the slue.

Sorry about the length.

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posted by Daniel @ 5:25 AM   38 comment(s)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Word Faith.
No, that is not some Ebonic, it is a doctrinal label that identifies a radical subset of the charismatic movement. I hope to give a very brief and easily understood description of this movement in the paragraphs that follow.

Word-Faith preachers have a confused understanding of what faith is, and perhaps the best way to examine what they believe is to first examine what true faith is. True faith is assured by the character of God that what He promises He will bring to pass. Such a trust is impossible for the flesh to produce, that is, there is nothing in us that is able to trust God to keep His promises - we are dead in our sins, and because we are dead in our sins we are unable to trust God until God intervenes on our behalf. This intervention comes in the form of grace - we receive grace by which we are able to repent of our treasonous and rebellious rejection of God and His promises, and are enabled to instead see God as trustworthy, see ourselves as lost and in need of redemption, and to appropriate that redemption from God by faith in His promise to redeem as many as repent and turn to Him and to Him alone for that redemption. We call that "faith." It is a work of God in us to make us not only trust His word, but also to seek to be reconciled. That is what scripture means when it teaches that though we were dead in our sins, God made us alive. Faith therefore is a God enabled certainty that God will keep His promises.

Word-Faith preachers teach that faith is your ability to believe. It doesn't matter what the object of your belief is, since faith in this scheme is a commodity that you possess as an ability to make yourself believe something is true. It doesn't matter what you believe in this model because faith itself is a commodity that we manipulate to our advantage, and that this is (in this model) the whole purpose of faith - it is some external power that we can tap into by believing hard enough - such that when we do we can harness it and use it to bring about our own will in the world.

Which bring us to the next tenet of this movement - a confusion about what it means to be a Christian. In the WF movement they teach that when you are born again you become a partaker of God's divinity such that you possess the power in yourself to do all things divine should you learn how to tap into it. You aren't part of the Trinity per se, but you are a partaker of the incarnation such that you have access to all the power of God through the power of faith.

Which brings us to the next tenet of this movement - positive confession. Since you have all the power of God, that makes you as much a creator as God is Creator. Thus, just as God is able to speak things into being, so too, you as a little creator are able to speak things into being. This particular teaching breeds a lot of superstitious nonsense, as the teaching goes that you must speak only positive things so that they will come to pass, and never speak negative things, lest you inadvertently unleash the creative power of your words to bring about whatever calamity you happen to mention.

Of course, mixed in with this movement is the idea that Jesus died so that you would never have a cold again, that is, God punished "sickness" on the cross so that believers should no longer be sick. We call that "healing in the atonement" - and it is loosely based upon the cherry picking of the verse we find in Isaiah 53:5 - by his stripe we are healed. Healed of what? Sin? Apparently not - they believe that God punished Christ on Calvary in order that we might be able to be healthy all the time.

Were that not enough, this teaching also believes that Jesus and the Apostles were all filthy rich, and that this was God's intent for all of us - that God wants us all to be rich, and that Christ even died for that purpose too: to make us healthy and wealthy.

Faith in this movement is a power that we possess by virtue of our divinity and by which we appropriate all the goodies that God wants us to have. Anyone who is sick is sick because of their faithlessness, and also because all sickness is considered demonic. Anyone who is poor is poor because of their faithlessness, and maybe that is demonic too, a demon of poverty must be possessing you. Anyone who cannot do miracles (or receive them) is hindered because they lack faith, or perhaps because they have a demon that is not allowing them to do miracles etc.

The heart of this false teaching is the notion that the reason your faith isn't working is because there is something wrong with you, and the way to overcome this wrongness is to take steps of faith, which inevitably means giving more money to the local church.

People fall for this because the music programs are great, and because pretty much anything goes - God loves you baby, and right now he is bending over backwards to pour out health, wealth, and really whatever your heart desires - but you are hindering all that by not believing enough. The lure is that if you could just convince yourself, you could have it all. Likewise, since most of the churches who teach this are way out in the charismatic fringe (as opposed to more conservative charismatics), you have pretty much everything and anything being sold as a "spiritual" experience, and you cannot question a spiritual experience.

It is not unlike the leper who goes to the doctor and no matter how many symptoms he complains about, the doctor continues to tell the fellow that it is all in his head - that if he could just convince himself that he is well, the symptoms would go away. When a limb rots away, it only shows that the fellow wasn't really trying hard enough - since it is clear that the doctor isn't rotting away, so it must be a matter of the patient not being willing to be healed.

Don't imagine for a second that Word-Faith teaching is just another flavor of the same old Christianity - it is deriving superstitions from scripture verses for the purpose of fleecing the flock.

If you know someone who is trapped in this garbage, ask them why they don't go to the hospital and heal everyone - if they say that their faith isn't strong enough, then ask them how they can be sure they are saved, since the evidence would suggest that they haven't enough faith for that either.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:54 AM   8 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Soli Deo Gloria.
I am not a student of Latin (though I should like to pick it up in the next decade or two?). Notwithstanding, I do like this particular Latin phrase, "Soli Deo Gloria" which literally translates into something like "By itself God's Glory". I like it because the more I mature in the Lord the more poignant and real this phrase becomes - the more abundant my spiritual life becomes the clearer my vision of what these words capture: a truth so profound and nourishing that we rightly tremble before what they reveal.

We would probably translate the phrase (so that it flowed nicely in English) as "God's glory alone" and typically we would use the phrase to describe that theological opinion that only God and God alone is worthy of glory, and bound up in that same thought would be that God is not only the only one worthy of glory, but that He is -all- worthy of it.

No one can seriously meditate upon their own sinful state and the magnificent deliverance that God has wrought for the sinner without touching upon how this glorifies God - I stagger beneath the magnitude of it, my little words can't cast themselves out far enough to paint it. God is so entirely worthy of glory that it is the darkest sin to rob Him, however minutely, of glory.

I am convinced that it is utterly impossible to love God and stand aloof from a profound and jealous love of God's glory. One may well have affection for God if they paint God out to be some kind cosmic grandfather, but as one begins to fellowship with God Almighty in the Spirit through study of scripture, through living obedience, and all the drawing near that that entails - one is struck not only by God's glory, but by the "rightness" and beauty of that glory.

Christ said, if you love me you will keep my commandments. I think no truer words have ever been spoken. I find that as I draw near to the Lord by setting my mind, heart, and soul fully upon Him; by surrendering myself in every circumstance, and being "judgment-day honest" about all my sin - and perhaps especially as I genuinely trust Him with my whole life and each moment in it - I find that I am drawn into a profound (though veiled) awareness of His matchless, infinite worth.

It is one thing to be intellectually persuaded that God not only deserves all glory, but that the greatest crime in creation would be to fail to give God that glory - I mean sure, what conservative Christian wouldn't assent to that? But it is altogether a different thing when this is not some truth that we defend from our head, but rather something deep in our soul that resonates with a sense of utter "rightness" when anything reflects God's glory so that it is magnified, as it rightly ought to be.

When zeal for God becomes more than our persuasion, more than our present argument, more than the methodology we follow, more than the opinion of those whom we admire, more than an idea we understand - and instead becomes zeal for God Himself - such that we see our insignificance, and his infinite worth in the same glance, and we explode in joy at the rightness of that, wishing we might could be less than nothing in order to magnify God's glory. The greatest crime against creation is that on account of sin it no longer reflects (clearly) the glory of God.

If creation could speak it would weep over this loss.

Loving God is not merely some "action" we do - it is the inevitable result of drawing near to God. There are a whole lotta young reformers out their who like to sign their email SDG, or Soli Deo Gloria, who have a "head full" and that's good, but who have yet to get a "heart full" because their religion is still more of a pursuit of knowledge than a pursuit of God.

When a person begins to draw near, they begin to burn for God's glory. If you burn for God's glory, you will do a far better job of obeying Him, than if you simply assent to God's glory.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:45 AM   6 comment(s)
Monday, October 15, 2007
I was preaching on Romans 6:16 Yesterday.
Here is the Sermon.

16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? - Romans 6:16 [ESV]


In the middle I gave my understanding of how many natures we possess.

Let me know if you give it a listen.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:17 AM   21 comment(s)
Friday, October 12, 2007
Brief Theological Definitions: Monergism
I thought it might be fun to define some commonly used theological terms. My goal is to give as uncomplicated a definition as possible such that my children can understand what the term means.

The word Monergism could be used to describe the conversion of the Apostle Paul.

Paul was thoroughly entrenched in Pharisaic doctrine as a Jew, and absolutely zealous for the law. He rejected Christ outright and went so far as to persecute Christians to the death. Paul was the very definition of an anti-Christ. It was in the pursuit of his anti-Christian agenda that Paul was met on the Damascus road.

Paul was not on the road looking for Christ, rather he was on the road determined to destroy Christianity. Paul did not seek Christ first, rather Christ sought Paul. Paul did not "figure out" on his own that Jesus was the Christ, rather Jesus revealed Himself to Paul plainly.

Paul did not receive instruction randomly or by chance, rather Christ instructed Annanias to go directly to Paul and to open his eyes, thereafter Paul was in fellowship with those whom God directed to go to Paul.

We see in Paul's conversion the practical outworking of what we call Monergism: the idea that it was God at work in us as the Author and as the Finisher of the faith by which we were saved. Monergism means we receive divine favor not because we generate it by making the right decisions or doing the right things, but rather because God has determined to show favor to us while we were yet sinners, that is, in spite of our being entirely undeserving of it.

Monergism is most visible in our theology when we answer the question: how does God save a sinner?

The synergist believes that God is wooing everybody, but that only some of us will be moved to respond to that wooing. Those of us who do respond, in doing so give God the opportunity to save us. At the end of the day, those who respond to the gospel do so because they made better choices than those who did not, that is, their choice to have faith was the key that opened God's shackles and allowed God to finally save them. The God of the synergist is wringing his hands in heaven hoping that some of us will hear about him, and hearing about him will then choose him so that he can possibly save them, and hopefully - if they are faithful - keep them saved.

The monergist believes that God is gracious to all men, and offers salvation freely to all men, but that this offer is being made to a race of people who are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sin, and by virtue of this death are entirely unable to respond to the gospel. The monergist believes that the gospel is a call upon all men, but that all men are equally dead and unable to respond to it. God's call is not to be confused with the gospel - which is given to all and rejected by all. God's call comes when we are yet sinners and dead in our sin, but it is not a call given to all, lest all would be saved. Make no mistake - the gospel is offered to all, and all reject it being dead spiritually in their sins. That is what being dead in sin means - it means being utterly unable to receive the gospel. Yet God has determined to show mercy on whom He will show mercy - and so from among these who are dead in their trespasses God elects some to show mercy to, and this mercy comes in the form of life - first and foremost as the ability to savingly receive the gospel. That is what scripture means when it says you were dead in your sins but God made you alive (c.f. Ephesians 2). Those upon whom God shows mercy upon (such as the Apostle Paul), God draws to Himself through Christ (c.f. John 6:44), and those whom are drawn come one and all - no one is lost.

Monergism means that God actively chooses whom He will save, and as many as God elects to save - these are saved.

Synergism means that God passively and reactively saves as many as make the right decision. Where God is sovereign in Monergism, in synergism he is bound by man's sovereign decision to produce salvation for as many as merit it by their own free choice. In synergism God is the means by which a man can save himself. God may be responsible for 99.999999999999999% of the salvation process, but it is the 0.00000000000000001% that man adds to the mix that ultimately makes man sovereign in his own election, and in fact, makes election an empty word.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:33 AM   8 comment(s)
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I -L-O-V-E- these guys :)
posted by Daniel @ 11:40 PM   7 comment(s)
Remind You Of Anyone?
Mark maybe?

I am just saying... it looks somewhat familiar...

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posted by Daniel @ 11:16 AM   10 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
The Motorola S9 Wireless vs. Cycling

Yesterday I purchased a Motorola S9 stereo bluetooth headset for my cell phone. My phone plays music and the radio, so the purchase is not quite as vain as it might first appear, and I tend to listen to sermons during my ride to and from work. Since I ride my bike, having a wireless headset really helps, as wires tend to get caught up in my helmet, and frankly, when I am riding it is quite a hassle to dig my phone out - much easier to tap a button and answer the call on the fly.

So I charged it up (it has a six hour play time) and gave it a listen. The mid tones were excellent, and the high tones perhaps a hair too shrill, and the base perhaps a bit lacking - but that is to be expected from the speaker style. It was certainly nothing to complain about. The range was good, and the sound quality better than merely "acceptable". It was light, and dare-I-say-it stylish. The perfect headset for listening to wireless audio in stereo. I could hardly wait to test it out on the road!

So this a.m. I got put it on and found (thankfully) it did not interfere with my bike helmet, and was not uncomfortable at all - I could barely tell it was there. I put on some tunes, and away I went! Only within 20 yards I was already quite disappointed.

What had been crystal clear indoors, was suddenly, and inexplicably choppy. The signal was cutting in and out consistently, perhaps two or three times in any given ten second interval. It was maddening. I couldn't understand why the reception was so poor. Indoors it seemed fine, but out here on the road the reception was horrible.

As something of a tech professional, I am not without some resource with regards to the matter. That is, I didn't immediately say, "I can't believe this thing is a piece of junk" and get myself into a huffy-snit. Instead I got into trouble shooting mode.

First question: What's going on?
Answer: I am losing the signal very often, and quite periodically.
Off-the-cuff Considerations:
[1] The temperature is only slightly above freezing.
[2] I am moving on average at about 20 mph.
[3] I am passing underneath a lot of power-lines.
[4] I am moving in a rhythmic manner (pedaling).
[5] My cell phone case has a magnetic latch.
[6] The cell phone is about waist level.

My first thought? Perhaps the phone and headset are too far separated. It doesn't really make sense because yesterday I walked clearly ten feet from the cellphone and the reception was rock solid. But nevertheless, the choppy reception was so annoying I grabbed my cell and lifted it up to the headset.

Nada. Still choppy.

Okay, maybe the magnetic case? I took the phone out of its case, and let the phone hang "commando" style, to see if the reception was better.

Nada. Still choppy.

Perhaps the phone was being jostled around too much? It didn't seem likely (it -is- solid state after all, no moving parts - no wire to plug in and break a connection so to speak). So I slowed down a bit and tried to keep steady.

Hmmm. I tiny bit better maybe?

That was almost infuriating knowledge? Why oh why would it get better if I slowed down?

Then I thought about when I stopped to get the phone out of the case. Hmmm. The choppiness stopped when I stopped. I was seeing a direct link between moving and reception.

That made me think that maybe it was some overhead power lines, or maybe some sort of jostling. I considered the possibility of a Doppler effect, but c'mon - radio waves travel at the speed of light, and I doubt my little 20 mph could produce that kind of interference even if it were possible.

But as I came to the "riverbed" part of my ride, I thought I should be out from under any power lines, and frankly, if there is some stray background noise interfering with the signal, it will likely be less as I go down by the river.

Still the same.

Okay, so I stop and take it out of my one pocket and put it up near my neck...

A little better, but not much. It is still cutting out at least once every five seconds, and the faster I go, the worse it is. Clearly it is [1] very sensitive to movement or [2] it cannot pick up the signal when the phone is at my waist, as well as it can pick it up when the phone is at my chest. Whatever the case, moving the phone higher up on my torso seemed to make the problem slightly better, but by no means acceptable.

I was already sitting down when I suddenly thought - hey, what about my wireless bike computer? Could it be causing interference with the bluetooth?

Bluetooth devices (in North America and Europe) typically operate in the 2.4 GHz range. I was pretty sure my bike computer was in the 900 MHz range, so there shouldn't be any problem right? Okay, so I look up the manual for my bike computer on the internet - no information whatsoever on the radio frequency. I had to get down on my hands and knees and check the device itself. On the device it tells me what transmitter it is using: CE0681 - which is a 2.4 GHz transmitter...

Suddenly it all makes sense.

So, if you are a cyclist and using a wireless bike computer and a bluetooth headset and can't figure out why the headset is acting up, here is why - every time the magnet on your speedometer passes the wireless transmitter, it is sending a pulse to your LED receiver, and that pulse is disrupting your bluetooth headset.

Anyway, that is my troubleshooting story for the day. Wireless Bike Computers and Stereo Bluetooth Headsets do not play nice together.

Update: While I haven't yet removed the offending wireless transmitter from my bike, I did move the magnet on the spokes away from the transmitter, which in theory should stop the transmitter from transmitting, and doing so -did- help the reception, even remarkably so, but it was still not optimal. Before I remove it entirely to see if that will help more, I plan to take my wife's bike out of the shed and give it a spin. I also tried (separately) putting the phone in my pannier (saddle bag) instead of in my front pouch - that made quite a difference as well. Between doing the two the interference is far less frequent, even bearable.

Update #2: Okay, I moved the magnet once again, as far away from the wireless transmitter and viola! Perfect reception all the way home. Not even a single skip. Very nice. Conclusion: it isn't the S9's fault if your reception is bad on a bike when using a wireless bike computer.

Update #3: One more thing - as the weather demands it, I ride with a spandex/fleece hoodie. When I put the headset under the hoodie, and clamp it down under my helmet straps - I find that the reception skips. I am not sure if it is because the buttons are sensitive, or I am putting undue torque on the headset, or if the reception is made worse by doing so - but I noticed it, so I am recording it.

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posted by Daniel @ 3:29 PM   11 comment(s)
Isn't It Interesting?
You look at these sculptures, and at first you may not notice that they are actually made from all sorts of industrial components: gear chains, rebar, harrowing tines, and various gears, snips and pliers etc..

I mean, yes, if you look at a pair of pliers, for instance, you could easily see how the shape in some small way might resemble the beak of a bird - but in the context of your toolbox, the thought wouldn't be given much shrift. After all, you use pliers to grip things more securely than you can with just your hands. That is what they are made for, and the while we may find other uses for pliers, no sober person would argue that the purpose of a pair of pliers is to form the beak of a junk structure. One might take a pair of pliers and use them thus, but we recognize without having to be told that such a use is foreign to the overall "context" of the tool. We know that the tool was never intended to be used thus, such that when some clever person constructs an image wherein a pair of pliers is employed contrary to its right context, we note immediately that while it certainly supports the artistic impression, it by no means does so "as a pair of pliers" but rather as an object that has been robbed of its context in order to fit into the artistic invention of some person.

Likewise for the gear chains, the gears, the rebar, etc. All of these objects are pulled out of their respective contexts and combined thus to create something new - an image that while composed of these items, is a composition that uses the shape rather than the meaning of the items, in order to construct something entirely foreign to the meaning and use of each individual piece.

I think that is what makes it so artistic - that we can take things that have no relationship to one another, and by our genius combine them into an image that is recognizable to all.

To be fair, while such things are generally the product of clever invention, we must account for those who are not really artists so much as honest, but profoundly negligent construction people. They see all these objects, and since they don't understand what they are, or the context they come from - they put them together according to their ignorance, and take some comfort that at the end of the day they have something that looks like a bird. Surely, they reason, if these things were not supposed to be combined to form the similitude of a bird, why then did they fit together so? The fact that their creation has produced a real image is enough to persuade them that they have used the pieces aright. They are not clever artists, but rather very poor builders. The end result however, whether a clever artist, or an ignoramus is the same - they piece together an image from coincidental shapes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the end product.

I am of course speaking about the way we build our doctrine. I see regularly in the blogosphere a lot of "junk-bird" theology. You know, where people start off with an image of God in their head, then they use scripture itself to sculpt it? These presume up front that God is one way, then they go to the bible to find verses that can be knit together to "prove" that God looks the way they have always imagined He would look. They come to scripture looking for something "beak shaped" and finding a pair of pliers, they use that, not because it is a beak, but because it can be made to look like a beak. They come looking for a beak, and they find one, even if it isn't really a beak - all that matters is that it looks like one for now.

I believe that is why we who teach will be judged with greater strictness - because when a person is told by someone whom they know to be genuine and sincere - that a given text means such and such, they may well go to the text expecting to find what you have said is there. If you use verses like a junk-artist uses junk - you can pretty much make scripture paint any picture you like. So as a teacher you better know what presumptions you bring to the text, or you may well make people see something in scripture that is only there according to your own cleverness or ignorance. What a great responsibility a teacher has.

And yet, the Internet allows everyone who wants to hang a shingle and present themselves to all the world as a teacher of truth. We live in an age where the responsibility has never been greater, and simultaneously, the abuse of this position has never been more widespread.

God help the church. If we do not tremble before God's word, we are fools. If we take as truth whatever is being served up, we are fools. If we are so certain that our theology is right, we are fools. I am more concerned for the one who is hardened in a more or less "right" theology than the one who is convinced of a more or less "wrong" theology, but remains open and teachable. The former is proud, the latter humble - the former is being worked upon by their own pride, the latter by God's grace.

Look: read the bible, and until you have read the bible cover to cover a half dozen times or so (a full dozen is better) maybe teaching isn't what you ought to be doing right now - I don't care how many theology books you have read or how many degrees are behind your name - nor do I care how big your vocabulary is, or what seminary you graduated from. I don't care if you know Greek and Hebrew, I don't care if you have been in the ministry for thirty years, I that matters to me is that the study of scripture informs your theology rather than allowing your theology to inform scripture.

Sadly however, I know that the people who need this sort of teaching to penetrate their heart the most are the least likely to receive it.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:59 AM   9 comment(s)
Monday, October 01, 2007
An Eschatological Post? Part III
Do you have any idea how fast you were going ma'am?

We are all familiar with speed as a unit of measurement. Speed tells us how far we have gone in a given amount of time. In fact we give the measurement itself in terms of that space-time relationship: 100 mph (miles per hour).

Put on your philosopher's hat for a quick moment of deep thought. If the universe were utterly static - that is, if there was no movement in the universe at all - no people walking around, no talking, indeed no light moving around, no electrons orbiting, no quarks spinning, no movement at all - the concept of time would have no meaning.

To flesh that idea out, imagine if God simply stopped the universe in mid-flight. You wouldn't notice it because even having a thought requires electrical impulses to travel through your nervous system. If all things stopped, you would be utterly ignorant of them. In fact, if every five seconds God stopped the universe for ten trillion years, then let it "run" again for five seconds, only to stop it again for another ten trillion years - and has done so from the very start - we would be utterly ignorant of it, as we perceive time and space simultaneously or not at all.

Okay, philosophy hats off. Perhaps the most well known scientific formula came to us through Einstein:
E = mc2
We see in Einstein's formula how much energy we can expect to be released if we were to convert a given mass entirely into energy. Note that the governing factor in this formula is the speed of light?

The relationship we see between space and time is most often understood in terms of movement, since in order to move one must pass through both time and physical space. All the activity that has ever taken place in the universe has taken place in time and space together. We (inside of creation at least) that there are laws which govern creation - we cannot have space without having time, or time without having space - and that what we see as a formula is actually just the algebraic representation of the way the universe is designed. We see the order, and we can even measure to some degree the connection. Whatever else our philosophical and scientific musing may lead to, one thing we ought to conclude is that whatever the universe "is" - it is defined primarily as being both time and space together.

Said another more religious way - Whatever else God created, He certainly created both time and space.

But you ask, what does all that have to do with Romans 11? Didn't you say you would be discussing Romans 11? Yes, but not yet. Before I can even get to Romans 11 I have to lay out my own presuppositions or else if I err, it will be quite difficult to correct me, and if my opinion disagrees with anyone else's, at least they can see upon what I am resting my conclusions. So I feel it is good to address up front the baggage I will likely bring to my understanding of that text. I feel it is prudent for me to lay it out because in doing so I give myself opportunity to see if my bias is going to flavor my understanding of the text, and if so, whether that is a good, bad, or even unimportant thing.

If time and space are things that God created, then I must be careful not to regard as possible any limits that either aspect of creation might impose upon God. If God exists "outside" of creation, then I cannot soberly imagine that God who was at one time without any obligations has now come under certain obligations because His creation has imposed them upon Him. If God obligates himself to creation, it is certain that the obligation was not produced by creation, but rather originates in God who obligates Himself according to His own sovereign will.

You have heard some ask, "Can God make a rock so big that even he can't lift it up?"

The question rises out of that tired old categorical confusion about the nature of the relationship between God and his creation. God exists aside from His creation and is by no means governed by it, but rather governs it. God cannot create a sovereign creation - He cannot create a universe that controls Him or binds Him - or said another way, God cannot create anything that is more sovereign than He is.

We say all that in order to understand my first presumption that I take into the text of Romans 11. My first presumption is that God cannot be imposed upon by creation unless God ordains that creation make that imposition upon Him. If creation can impose itself upon God outside of God's sovereignty, then God has created something greater and more sovereign than Himself - a hypothetical condition that I must wholeheartedly reject as an abominable slandering of God's great name. My first presumption therefore is that God cannot create something more glorious and sovereign than Himself.

Time (for instance) isn't some "thing" that just happens, it is a thing that God has created, and that God is presently upholding. If time and space could be thought of as some giant cosmic ball, God would be able to hold that ball in his hands (I am of course anthropomorphizing God) and see all of it in a glance. It isn't that God is trapped inside the cosmic ball and waiting along with the rest of creation to see how it is all going to end - God is outside of creation! He is outside of its beginning, He is outside of its end, and He is by no means bound by any of the moments in between.

When scripture says that God sees the end from the beginning it isn't suggesting that God is looking forward in time from some static perspective. That is how a creature would see the end from the beginning - but God is no creature. I believe that what scripture is saying is that God sees in the same single glance both the beginning and the end. I cannot stress it more - God is not a fortune teller stuck in "the present" such as the remainder of creation, and peering into the future. That's open theism - that's garbage (IMO). I think scripture shows us that God is in every moment past, present, and future, and not in the way that we find ourselves in a moment (bounded by that laws of creation: time), rather I believe that God's presence in time and space is absolutely transcendent: His presence is not defined by those physical laws that govern the universe. God is everywhere all at once, in all times, and in all places, not because he is "really big" but because creation is physical, and God is spiritual, and whatever else it means to "inhabit eternity" it surely means that God is transcendent in creation. That is, God never learns anything through creation - God cannot be taught because he knows all already. He sees all of history in the same glance, and because he does the future (as we see it) is not some thing that God has to "look forward" to see. God is already there.

Make no mistake dear reader, if even the smallest quark could spin contrary to, or even outside the will of God - then God is by no means sovereign, and having created a universe that is not subject to Himself, he has shown Himself to be less than omnipotent and omniscient - that is, he has shown himself to be not God.

My presumption therefore is that God -is- sovereign, and that because He is sovereign He is not merely some inerrant fortune teller; such as some imagine when they think of God's omniscience; but rather that when scripture uses words like "foreknew" it by no means suggests that creation is dictating to God what the future is going to be. It is an error to imagine that God's foreknowledge is nothing more than the ability to see what a "runaway" creation is going to do later.

I believe therefore that when scripture speaks of election, it isn't that God took a hazy look into the future, and saw that I was going to choose Him, and therefore followed my lead and elected me because of some choice I made - that is, my understanding of God's sovereignty is definitely going to flavor my understanding of a text such as we find in Romans 11:2,
"...God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew..."


More later, but for now, I give this up front - I believe that election is not God looking forward in time and seeing who would chose to be in Christ, such that God becomes obligated by his creation to elect man according to man's sovereign choice. My God is truly sovereign - He elected me, and *that* is why I chose him. Not the other way around. That understanding of scripture is certainly going to flavor how I understanding the meaning of "foreknew" in this text - which in turn is going to flavor how I understand the olive trees of Romans 11.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:40 AM   8 comment(s)
 
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