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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.
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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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Friday, January 30, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part XIII - Tasting the Good Word
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII.

Today we look at the next item in the list:

He or she had tasted the good word of God (whatever that means)

Here we have some of the same figurative issues as in the idea of tasting the heavenly gift.

If the heavenly gift was a figurative reference to Jesus, and the tasting was a literal reference, we could conclude that that passage referred to communion, and if that were the case, this passage could be construed as a restatement of the exact same using the word as a metaphor for Jesus. If that is the case, we draw the same conclusion - one needn't be a believer to take communion.

To cut to the chase, is there any "tasting" scenario that demands one be a believer - did not Judas Iscariot, the very son of perdition taste the word of God? Surely he did, and he was not saved.

If this is to mean coming under the influence of biblical teaching, or benefiting from the word of God, one need not be a believer to benefit from, say, a society that outlaws murder, rape, and stealing? That is, it would be difficult to argue that only believers "taste" the benefits of God's word - for whole societies are rejecting the very God whose word has so benefited them in times past.

Notwithstanding, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that, "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." - which again may be the thrust here. The natural man (i.e. unsaved man) hears these things, but does not receive them ("taste") them, because he is not spiritually alive. Yet even if this is the case, it is very difficult to insist that "taste" here, means being able to receive spiritual things that natural men do not. If it -is- the intended meaning, the text itself doesn't make that plain. In other words, we would have to read it back into the text based upon a previous presumption that this is what the text means. While all sorts of people read the bible like this every day - it isn't a sound way to read scripture.

So we are left again with an inconclusiveness. This may mean believers, but by itself it doesn't have to, and the only way we can make it mean believers exclusively is if we read a meaning into the text that isn't supplied by the text.

Next up (on Monday): He or she had tasted the powers of the age to come (whatever that means)
posted by Daniel @ 11:42 AM   0 comment(s)
Can You Really Sell Your Soul To The Devil?
Satan was fully aware of what God had said in the Garden to Adam, "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (c.f. Genesis 2:17 [NASB]). When Satan tempted Eve, it was a malicious act intended bring about her demise. Jesus said of Satan, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (c.f. John 8:44b [NASB])

If our image of Satan doesn't begin and end with his desire to see all of humanity destroyed, we have a rather inaccurate picture of who the bible describes Satan to be. Whatever the source of this murderous hatred for mankind is, it is real, and it is the defining point upon which we start such a commentary. Satan is a murderer, and a liar, and quite active in his murderous pursuits.

Satan is not alone in his rebellion, but drew along with him in his fall, a third of the heavenly host. Like minded, haters of men, who (unlike them) were created in God's image.

In the book of Daniel we read something that will help our discussion here a bit too. In Daniel 10:13 we read that an angel had tried to come to Daniel sooner, but was prevented from doing so for three weeks by another angel who had withstood him. From this we note that even spiritual creatures cannot be in two places at the same time.

Now, I want to be sure we understand what I am saying. God is not a creature, He is the Creator. God -is- omnipresent, but the same cannot be said of -any- creature, and that includes Satan, for Satan, like everything else, is just one of God's creatures; He is a part of creation - not a power separate from and equal to God, but a being that God not only created, but allows and sustains the existence of moment by moment. Should God suddenly decide to, he could stop sustaining Satan's existence, and poof! No more Satan.

In order to discuss the feasibility of selling a soul to Satan, one must know who Satan is.

If the idea that you can sell your soul to Satan does not come from scripture, where does it come from? Officially, I suppose it began with Theolphilus of Adana, but even then it was only the "Christianizing" of older fables. The idea that a human could enter into a bargain with a spiritual being is not a Christian teaching, but a pagan one. A sixth century bishop named Theophilus, or so the legend goes, gained the office of bishop through a pact made with Satan. The sixteenth century story of Faust is likewise based upon the same idea. Whatever this idea has grown into today, has its roots in paganism, and folklore.

But, we might ask, can a person really sell his or her soul to Satan?

To answer that, let's ask another question first, can you sell your neighbor's house to me? Why not? Well, because it is not yours to sell. You can draw up papers and we can both sign them, but the whole exercise has no legal authority whatsoever. So in that sense, yes, a person -can- sell their soul to Satan, in that they can have some sort of ritual, draft out an agreement, sign it in their own blood (or worse), even perform all sorts of macabre rites and whatnot - but at the end of the day, the whole thing is still quite bunk: You don't -own- your own soul, so you can't sell it.

No where does God say that you own your soul. He owns it, and you can't sell what is not yours to sell. In the same way, Satan (that liar!) couldn't (legally) buy it, since it isn't yours to sell. Even if Satan himself showed up at the signing ceremony, it would all be bunk - and Satan would know that.

But let us look even deeper at the typical pact: I will deliver my body and soul to Satan in exchange for such and such.

There are a few things wrong about that idea. To start with, Satan is a creature just like us. We can no more deliver our soul to Satan, than he could claim it. If you sold your soul to your neighbor, would it be a legitimate sale? Purchase? No. You don't own your soul, and so you can't sell it to your neighbor, nor can you give it away - it isn't yours to give (or sell). Satan is not God's equal, nor is he the "ruler" in hell. He is a creature, according to scripture, who is going to be thrown into the lake of fire on the day that God judges him. He has no authority or power to own your soul, even if you could sell it or give it away, Satan is just another creature, and therefore has no place to hold your soul, or power to do so.

Next, the idea that you sell your soul to the devil and hell, in exchange for something is preposterous on this count: If you have sinned even once, you are already going to hell, no matter how many good deeds you do. The idea that if our good deeds outweigh our bad we get to go to heaven is not found in scripture, and is not believed by Christianity. Christianity teaches (from the scriptures) that if you sin even once, you are condemned to hell, and that all of your good deeds are in fact tainted and worthless - they can no more purchase heaven for you than sin itself could. In short, anyone who can even imagine selling their soul, has probably told a lie or lusted in their heart - or stolen something, or even just hated someone - all of which marks them as rebels who have rejected God and His rule, and condemns them to hell. Thus, the devil has nothing to "gain" by pretending to buy your soul, since whether he buys it or not, you are already condemned to hell.

To be sure, the reason God sent Jesus into the world is because no one (bar none!) will escape hell by being good.

On judgment day God is not going to weigh the good you have done against the bad you have done and send you to hell if the bad outweighs the good. I reiterate this because most people who wonder about whether you can sell your soul or not have never read the bible in its entirety - and as such they think there are some things in it that are not there, and again, they think that some things that are not there are! So let me repeat, the idea that you go to heaven because you good deeds outweigh your bad is -NOT- what scripture teaches.

Scripture teaches that if you have -any- sin, from one sin, to a ga-zillion sins, you are a sinner, and all sinners will have their part, along with Satan, in the lake of fire. That is, if you have ever told a lie, you will go to hell. No probation, no mercy, and no amount of charity or good deeds will ever outweigh even the smallest white lie.

The race as a whole is condemned already. That is, the message of scripture - that is why we NEED a Savior. Jesus didn't come to save those who weren't cutting the mustard - He came to save people who could not save themselves - people who were already damned.

If you have ever sinned, you fall into that category - you have been separated from God, and are condemned already. You don't need to wait until judgment day to know where you are going, I will tell you today, if you trip on the way home, and crack your skull, you will wake before your Judge, and He has already found you guilty. What Jesus did on the cross will no longer be held out to you as a means of being reconciled to God. So it behooves you, if you don't know what it means to be a Christian, or are unsure of what Jesus did, to learn what Christianity really is.

So ask yourself, if everyone is going to hell anyway - what could Satan possibly gain in such a pact? You are already going to hell already, so..... why... exactly... would... Satan.. make himself your personal servant? The answer is, that he wouldn't - and since he can't be in two places at once, you would probably be entering into a pact with some demonic imposter anyway.

Yet Satan does benefit greatly, I think, in that he is a murderer bent of your destruction. The last thing Satan wants is for you to learn about your own condemnation and your pressing and dire need for Jesus to save you. He wants you to go on thinking that living a good life will get you to heaven, and that the only sure way to go to hell is to sell your soul to him. He would love if some fool entered into a pact with him, because and thereafter believed themselves to be damned on account of some bogus pact, since that might make them less inclined to learn the truth about salvation.

Let me tell you if you sold your soul to Satan a thousand times over, he would not own it, nor could he stop you from turning to Christ to be reconciled to God and thereby saved from sin, and consequently, from the damnation associated with it.

Satan doesn't care which one of his many lies ensnares you - so long as the end result is that you are cast into the lake of fire with him. He won't be your master in hell - just a co-sufferer.

In conclusion then, Satan doesn't need to buy your soul, for you are going to hell already because of your own sin. Satan cannot buy your soul because you cannot sell it, for your soul was created by God, just like Satan was -and both belong to God, and God has already declared what He plans to do with both the soul that has sinned and Satan - they shall be cast together into the lake of fire. The idea of selling your soul is not biblical, but pagan in origin. It is a fairy tale that borrows Satan's identity from the same scriptures that plainly reveal the folly of such a notion to those who are willing to read it. The creature named Satan has been embellished by this myth, and puffed up to be God's equal, when in fact he is nothing of the sort. Satan may be the most profound of all of God's creation, and his fall an epic thing - but make no mistake, Satan is dependent upon God for life just as you and I are - for God and God alone gives life - even to Satan, and no one and nothing can live autonomous from God.

The lesson we learn then is that you can go through the motions of selling your soul all you want - but such a thing is as bogus as can be. Satan doesn't get to define himself, nor do satanists get to re-invent the devil. If you want to know who the devil is, read the bible. If after reading this article you find yourself concerned for your soul - read the gospel - Jesus died to save you from damnation. Read the link I gave above that tells you how to be saved from your sins, and call upon the Lord while it is still today.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:05 AM   158 comment(s)
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part XII - What is a Partaker?
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, and XI.

We started looking at the shopping list in Hebrews 6:4-6, to determine, honestly and with all care, whether the hypothetical person being described is supposed to represent a genuine believer or not.

The criteria we hope to examine today is this one:

He or she was *made* a partaker of the Holy Spirit (...whatever that means)

The word translated "partaker" here describes a participant in something, or perhaps (by extension) an associate or partner of someone. I think partaker is a good translation of the word (in that it envelopes much of the semantic range) so I am not going to fiddle with it as though there was some nuance we could be overlooking in the word - I don't think there is. Partaker means, plain and simple, one who partakes of something.

In the original 2009 post I messed up in my translation of this passage, so I'm replacing what I messed up then what what you see below (- Doulogos, Feb 2017)

To understand the author's meaning, I want to examine similar expressions from earlier in this epistle, and weight the possibility that he is being consistent in his usage of such phrases:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, - Hebrews 2:14 [NASB]
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,. - Hebrews 3:14 [NASB]

When the author of Hebrews writes that Christ partook of the same flesh and blood as the children whom God had given Him (c.f. Hebrews 2:13-14)  - he was saying that Jesus possessed the same flesh and blood as His followers.

When the author of Hebrews remarks that his brothers (the antecedent of "we" in Hebrews 3:14) have become partakers of  Christ (already) if they (continue to) hold fast the beginning of their assurance firm to the end - he is saying that what they are experiencing right now (if their faith is genuine) is a sharing in the life of Christ.

In both instances the idea runs the same in the Greek as it does in the English, and so we see the same thing in Hebrews 6:4 - this is describing one who has become a companion of, or sharer in the Holy Spirit.

The language in the NASB suggests that someone -made- us partakers of the Holy Spirit, and that may be the best rendering of the thought in the Greek, but it isn't the only rendering.  Some translate the underlying verb as simply as having become partakers - without including an implicit reference to an assumed cause.  If the cause of their becoming partakers was relevant, our expectation is that the author would have made an implicit causal relation, explicit.

The author is describing a person who has experienced some sort of intimacy with, or benefit from the Holy Spirit (on some level).  We don't have enough information here to insist that the author is describing a person who has received the Holy Spirit in salvation;  but we likewise do not have enough information to dismiss such a claim.

If we look at the text alone, we cannot conclude one way or the other whether this is speaking of a genuine believer or a false one.

Consider Judas.  Whatever is being described by the notion of partaking of the Holy Spirit, we can be certain that Judas Iscariot was someone who "partook of the Holy Spirit".   Because he was chosen as an Apostle, many Christians imagine he must have therefore been a believer, but Jesus Himself clearly says otherwise in John 6:64-65,
But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
Yet in Matthew 10:5-8, we see that Judas was sent out along with the other Apostles and given authority by Christ to preach the kingdom at hand, and to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons:
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
We remember from John 6 above that Judas was never at any time a real believer. Yet he was not only chosen as an Apostle, but given authority to do miracles.  Later in the same passage where Jesus gives the Apostles this authority He explains that when they speak, it won't be them speaking, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through them (c.f. Matthew 10:20)

In Judas we see a man who was never a believer, but was nevertheless chosen and given authority to perform miracles and to preach the gospel in the power and strength of the Spirit of the Father.

From this we reason that whatever it means to partake of the Holy Spirit - it certainly doesn't mean that you must be saved.

Thus, on this point, even though I am inclined personally to think that one who partakes of the Holy Spirit is more often than not going to be a wheat,  yet because the scriptures make it plain that this isn't always the case, I have to conclude that this condition remains inconclusive - it doesn't prove one way or the other the authenticity of the hypothetical person's faith.

I believe Judas partook of the Holy Spirit (whatever that ends up ultimately meaning), and so should you, since the scriptures make that case.

But I don't think Jesus was lying or deceived when He described Judas as a non-believer in John 6, before John goes on to tell us that Jesus said these things concerning the one who would betray him in order that when that betrayal came the rest would know that this was the plan from the beginning, and that Judas hadn't hoodwinked anyone, nor had Jesus made a mistake or any such thing.

So chalk this one up as inconclusive.
posted by Daniel @ 9:00 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Denying The Flesh
As I laid my head on my pillow last night, my prayer was a breath of concern both about the day I had just had, and again, about the day that may come today. Lately I have been slacking off in my morning devotions, not that it has been a planned thing, but rather that I began to make poor choices at night, staying up later than is right, and suffering for it in the mornings, so that eventually I felt quite justified in sleeping in just a little.

I find and have found, and if I remain dense as I am, I am sure to find again, that once I give into the flesh, I am more inclined to do so the next time; and so it has been now for a few weeks. Like the man who gets on the sled at the top of the hill, he only chooses to sit down the once, and at first he is just barely moving, but as he hits the incline, the downward slide grabs hold, and his choice becomes more difficult to undo.

So it was when I woke this morning, ten minutes before my alarm, and again the same pull immediately gripped me - I could sleep in a bit, just a wee bit, I can in a moment set my alarm one half hour later, and get another forty minutes of sleep, and don't I feel tired? Surely I do. Yet what is this nagging in my soul? Here it is the a thought most unwelcome to my flesh, it is a remembrance of who I am in Christ, and remembering it, my desire to sleep is no longer a carnal just a carnal imperative, now it is a spiritual struggle.

That is one example of how a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit can begin. The flesh wants something (in this case more sleep), and God's Spirit wants something else (in this case, for me to get up). In this struggle something curious happens; I forget that what God wants what is actually best for me. That's the flesh's ace in the hole. If I can ignore the fact that God wants what is actually best for me, and somehow convince myself that the desire of the flesh is superior, or maybe justifiable - or at the very least (in a pinch) reasonable, I can quench the Holy Spirit who is in that moment working for my good.

Now from your perspective, dear reader, it may seem a ridiculous thing (having all of it labeled and laid out before you) to imagine that any right thinking believer would ever deny the work of the Holy Spirit. Surely anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is never going to deny God's work in him... right? Well, the struggle is seldom (if ever) about knowing God's will and failing to do it - but rather about becoming convinced of where the line between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit is drawn. The moment I -know- where that line is drawn, I am driven in my soul to stand on the Lord's side of it.

The "crucified life" is one wherein the imperatives of the flesh are recognized for what they are, and thereby ignored in favor of what the Spirit commands. Not that there is some little (or big) voice that you hear in your ear telling you to do this, or to do that. Rather it as if God's word echos in your soul in such a way that when you hear the echo, you know who spoke it. Truth affects me in this way, I don't hold onto it as a mere collection of sentences that put together state facts - rather truth informs my soul, and its impression remains upon my soul so that in a moment of decision between what the flesh wants and what God wants, the impression truth has made in me will suddenly present me with a clear reminder of what God would have me do. I don't know that I could explain it very well to someone in whom there is no Holy Spirit - but you fellow Christians (the real ones) will know, I hope, of what I speak.

Thus in any moment where a genuine believer is called to decide between obeying his flesh or obeying the Holy Spirit, and assuming that this person's flesh is as sold out to sin as my own, there will be a battle, as the flesh attempts to cover over the will of the Spirit just long enough to have its way - just long enough to get you on the downward slope.

Christian, forewarned is forearmed. Learn to recognize this struggle, and rehearse this truth to yourself again - if God is God, then God's will for you is not only a command that must be obeyed - it is a command that is entirely for your greatest benefit. It is a lie forged by your deceitful flesh, to think that God's command is a burden, or difficult - the struggle is not really about obedience, it is about trust, when you don't trust that God's way is best, you end up desiring what your flesh presents as a "better" way. It is most adept at convincing you that even if God's long term plan is better than pursuing some short term pleasure, yet there is really little harm in allowing the occasional little pleasure. But, as I describe in the analogy of the slide - indulging even a carnal imperative is to get on a sled that is going against your best interest, once you are on, it is easier to stay on than to get off, and once you break a trail for yourself, it is easier again to walk it - either the one way, or the other.

So teach yourself, believer, to obey the Spirit of God. Fill yourself with His word, and spend time in prayer, do not forget to enlist His help in your infirmities, and wait on His deliverance - but when it comes don't neglect it - don't expect God to zap you, so that you suddenly have [1] no desire to obey your flesh, and [2] likewise have an irresistible desire to obey God. It ain't going to happen. Instead expect that when you ask God to help you He will (in the proper moment) make your path clear to you - and He will expect you to trust Him enough to walk on it.

It really is *that* simple, but it isn't ever easy. We walk by faith, that is, we trust that in a situation where our flesh invites us to walk path "A" and the Holy Spirit informs us that we ought to be on path "B" - that we choose to walk on path "B". If God gives us strength to walk path "B", we certainly don't feel it, so don't wait for some mystical moment to spiritually "urge" you along the right path, you have what you need the moment you see the path for what it is. Now you must choose to walk on it. If you do, that is like investing in God's provision, and if you don't, if you sit there knowing what you ought to do, but don't do it - that is like burying God's provision in the ground (don't do that!)

The key to walking in the Spirit is learning that it isn't some mystical thing, some other-worldly euphoria that comes upon us and lifts us up to some greater spiritual awareness, as though walking in the Spirit were a matter of being conveyed from point A to point B on the wings of divine ecstasy. Hogwash and poetry, that. Get all that gibberish out of your faith as soon as you can.

Faith is a conviction that God's way is not only going to work for you, but that it is best for you. A holy walk begins with a normal, everyday decision to walk in accord with what God would have you do. Your flesh does not, and never will, want you to walk in accord with what God would have you do, because your flesh is spiritually dead. Whatever your flesh wants you to do, be certain that it rises from that which usurps and rebels against life - it cannot be otherwise. Every moment the Christian lives he or she stands between life and death and every choice he makes strengthens one or the other.

It is imperative therefore, for you Christian, to choose for yourself in that moment of trial, whom you shall serve. Don't wait to be carried into the right decision by some external mystical energy - instead recognize that the only reason you see the right path is because you are enlightened, now having been enlightened, it falls to you to walk in trust by doing what is required of you. Don't wait for magical waves of energy to overpower you into doing what you know you should do, you have what you need - light to see, and feet to walk.

Finally, for those of you who, although set free in Christ, continue to regard yourselves as being still in bondage to sin, I say your problem is partly a faith problem and partly a theological problem. The reason you don't believe you are really free, is because you have a preconceived (and wrong) understanding of what freedom looks like. Do not make the mistake your desire to sin (which comes from your flesh) for "bondage to sin". That is a theological error. Your flesh will always desire to sin, that doesn't go away, and never will (in this lifetime at least). The man who is being sanctified is not one who is desiring sin less and less, but one who is desiring God more and more, such that his desire for God is better able to overcome the desires of his flesh. His flesh doesn't get any better, it is his "inner man" as Paul says, that is being strengthened.

Listen: if you tell yourself that you are in bondage to sin, when scripture says that believers are not in this bondage, you set yourself up for a world of doubt, and a bigger world of failure, because you will inevitably try and make real what you expect to be there. Either by convincing yourself that your sin is not really sin, or (more commonly) by trying again and again to make sinful perfection happen; you will set yourself up for frustration, and a weary, wretched struggle. Don't go there, and if you are there, get out of it.

Yes, the believer still wants to sin, but that isn't bondage to sin, that is called temptation, we live in carnal tents, and these tents have sinful desires. We cannot be free of these desires until we are freed from this flesh. Plain. Simple. What we have been set free from is sin itself. We are no more sin's slave than Christ is, for we are in Christ. We have been given all we need to fight the good fight, but we are expected to, having crossed the Jordon, take our sword from its sheath, and go in there a'swinging. The victory is ours already, the battle is not there on the field, it happened on Calvary. Okay, that's getting a little too metaphorical, let me make it practical (as my wife always reminds me):

Do this while it is called today, in that moment that you know right from wrong, do what is right. If you tell yourself that you cannot do what is right, name that for what it is - sin, and repent. If you are convinced that you can't repent, talk to someone who has. Their testimony will help you learn that repentance is something you can do, if you are in Christ, no matter how convinced you are to the contrary. Don't walk in the flesh, and justify yourself with the excuse that you are a slave. That excuse will not fly on judgment day, nor does it fly with any mature believer. You are not a slave, you are just waiting for God to lift your hand out of the bowl, and put it in your mouth for you - but that isn't going to happen. You actually have to do some things yourself. You have been given gifts/talents. Use them for goodness sake.
If obeying the Spirit is the ministry of life, then obeying the flesh, in a very literal sense, is ministering death, to ones self, and to others. Death here, is not to be thought of as the *expiring* of life, but as the absence (supplanting/usurping) of life.
posted by Daniel @ 5:30 AM   5 comment(s)
Double Crucifixion. Part XI - A Figurative Nightmare
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X.
In the last post we spoke of a literal spin on the word tasting, today we look at the figurative spin for following:

He or she had tasted the heavenly gift (whatever that is)

I said in the last post, with pithy merriment (I hope), Ambiguity thy name is "tasted" and thy nickname is "heavenly gift" - meaning only that there are almost as many ways to imagine the meaning of this passage as there are vivid imaginations. Let's not be daunted by such thoughts however, and plod on, grouping as much together as will make our work efficient without losing too much depth, or so I hope.

Okay, so if the word "taste" here is figurative, we should also note the definite article ("the") in front of the word "heavenly", which may be suggesting a specific heavenly gift, as opposed to heavenly gifts in general. Perhaps it is a one time event, or maybe a single quality or one particular abstraction. Whatever the case, lets begin by looking at the various specifics it could be.

What if the heavenly gift refers to eternal life in Christ Jesus, (c.f. "the gift of God" in John 4:10, Romans 6:23)? If this is the case, then by tasting the heavenly gift, our hypothetical person has either come into contact with something akin to eternal life in Christ Jesus, or has in some capacity been exposed, either personally, or through another, to the eternal life in Christ Jesus.

If tasting the heavenly gift means that our hypothetical person personally possesses eternal life, then we are talking about a believer, but if it means that someone else's eternal life has touched him or influenced him in some way - it is may or may not be talking about a believer.

Yet the heavenly gift may also mean the person of the Holy Spirit Himself (c.f. Luke 11:13, Acts 2:38). In this case, the argument runs pretty similar to the idea of eternal life. If tasting the heavenly gift means that you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then it refers to a believer, and if it merely means that you benefit from, or come into contact with the work of the Holy Spirit in someone else's life - it doesn't prove one way or the other whether you are a believer or not.

Some likewise interpret heavenly gift to mean "spiritual gifts". Here too we are left with much ambiguity. Both those who performed miraculous gifts, and those who were the direct and even indirect beneficiaries of the gifts "tasted" of them - for all who sees a dead man raised to life "tastes" the heavenly gift,... right? Which is to say, if it refers to heavenly gifts we can't be sure it means a believer.

Even were we to come up with an hundred or more interpretations of this particular phrase ('tasted the heavenly gifts') We really have only two possibilities - either tasting the heavenly gift refers to the genuine conversion of the believer, or some phenomenon associated with being in proximity to genuine believers. To get more dogmatic that this (at this level at least), is premature.

We will look back at our survey later and see if we are able to draw more conclusive answers when we look back on all this, but for now, let's say this category was likewise "Inconclusive" - at least until we have decided upon one particular interpretation, since some of the ways in which we might interpret this phrase are conclusive.

I don't want to drag it out, but I don't want to be frivolous either. We have a few more to do, and I hope to get them all in the next post - You may be tempted to start drawing conclusions about where I am going with this - but hold off on that for a while. All we are doing is asking the text some questions and answering them in all possibly honesty. We shall start interpreting our answers after we have made them, and not before.


posted by Daniel @ 12:01 AM   0 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part X - A literal Start
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX.

Picking up where we left off, the next category is a bit more involved, so much so that I had to cut this post into two parts, this is the first:

He or she had tasted the heavenly gift (whatever that is)

Ambiguity thy name is "tasted" and thy nickname is "heavenly gift".

Which is my way of saying that until we know exactly what is meant by "tasted" and "heavenly gift" we are not going to be able to draw a very precise conclusion; and even if we were certain of the exact meaning, we are still left to wonder: does the tasting here refer to the hypothetical person tasting someone else's heavenly gift, or does it mean tasting his own heavenly gift?

My point is not to defend or make a case for any one interpretation, btw, so I am going to present a few interpretations without trying to make one sound better than the others.

Let's start with the idea that the word taste is used literally here, rather than figuratively. The word, elsewhere in scripture is most often used to describe actual eating (Matthew 27:34, Luke 14:24, John 2:9, Acts 10:10, 20:11, 23:14, Colossians 2:21), so this lends some initial credibility to the notion.

If the tasting is literal, he may be referring to the Lord's table. In that case, Christ Himself as offered symbolically in the ordinance, would be the "Heavenly Gift": tasting the heavenly would be a reference to the Lords table.

If that interpretation is correct, then we cannot say conclusively that this describes a believer, since one need not be a believer to (physically at least) partake in the Lord's table.

Another interpretation that uses "tasting" in the literal sense could be the loaves and the fishes, but as the physical act of tasting these elements in no way requires one to be genuinely a Christian, it likewise would be inconclusive for our purposes.

Yet what if the tasting is figurative? The figurative use in the NT is less common, and almost exclusively used in the idiom "tasting death" (Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27, John 8:52, Hebrews 2:9), yet there is one example (c.f. 1 Peter 2:3) where it describes "tasting" that the Lord is gracious.

The problem with a figurative interpretation here is scope.

Should I burn my hand someone might call that getting a "taste" of hell. That doesn't mean that I actually experienced "the real deal" of hell vicariously through this burn - nor does it suggest that I actually partook in some small measure of hell itself. All it means is that I experienced something that we would expect someone in hell to experience.

Again, I watch a sad scene in a movie. One of the supporting characters is dying or dies, and all the other characters are weeping and crying - and though it is all make believe, yet I am grieving with them - partaking in a grief that I know isn't even real, yet I am "tasting" it vicariously, by virtue of my exposure to it.

Again, and perhaps more practically, the atheist boss who atheist employee is converted, and who sees the radical transformation Christ makes in the life of the employee, who not only confesses to having been a petty theft in the past, but immediately engages in restitution, and thereafter works thrice as hard as previously, and does not slacken, but ever increases to perform as the months go on. The atheist boss has "tasted" the life of Christ in the believer - and benefited from it - without himself being a direct partaker.

Again, a church loses their pastor, and I am called to pastor during the interim. It is a temporary solution, yet for months I "taste" what being this congregations pastor is like. Taste here means I partake of a thing in part, but not in whole.

Also, and perhaps finally, I could say that I am tasting the benefits of marriage right now, being married - in which case "taste" means fully experiencing a thing.

What I am saying is that there is a large figurative range in a word like "taste", and if we are going to address this category properly, we ought to make sure that we don't just cut out our own narrow sliver and claim it means "this" as though there were no other figurative contender to examine.


The next post considers the implications of a figurative understanding of "tasting".


posted by Daniel @ 12:01 AM   1 comment(s)
Monday, January 26, 2009
Crucifixion. Part IX - Who is Who?
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII.

In the previous post, we began to ask ourselves whether the things said about the hypothetical person who falls away in Hebrews 6:4-6 describe a wheat, a tare, or are inconclusive. Let's dig right in.

He or she is (or at least had once been) enlightened
In my fifth post in this series, I spoke of what enlightenment means. I explained that it wasn't a mystical thing as we might expect, being influenced as we are by other religions and cultures into imagining that enlightenment involved some mystical/spiritual promotion, but was simply being made aware of something. You don't know the definition of a word, let me enlighten you - it means such and such. No sitting on a mountaintop till you're zapped - just plain and simple awareness of what a thing is or means.

If we understand enlightenment in these terms, then we cannot help but conclude that even the son of perdition (Judas Iscariot) was "enlightened". That is, he was certainly aware of who Jesus was - in fact I expect that Judas was counting on Christ's divinity when he sold him out. What a sure investment that promised to be right? They give Judas 30 pieces of silver to deliver Christ to them, and all Judas has to do is act like he didn't know what was going on. The soldiers would watch for his signal, (the man this Judas kisses, that's our guy!), then grab Jesus, who would promptly escape their clutches just as Judas had watched him miraculously do countless other times - and butta-bing, Judas is 30 silver pieces richer, and no on is the wiser. I am not saying that is what happened - but it wouldn't surprise me.

If Judas was as enlightened as the rest of the Apostles, we have to say that this point at least, doesn't provide us with enough information to say for sure that it points to a Wheat, or a Tare. So our conclusion is:"Inconclusive"

I had to chop the next two posts out of the bottom of this one, because they were too long. We are going to look next at what what tasting the heavenly gift might mean - given both a literal understanding of "tasting" (post X), and a figurative (Post XI). Hope to see you there.


posted by Daniel @ 6:00 AM   1 comment(s)
Friday, January 23, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part VIII - Putting Some Things Together
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, and VII.

In my first post in this series I spoke of about "reductio ad absurdum" - a form of argumentation follows a premise through to its logical conclusion, and demonstrates from the absurdity of that conclusion, the not-so-blatant error of original premise. I think this is we are seeing in Hebrews 6:4-6, and I will explain why I believe that beginning in this post and concluding a few posts from now.

In my last post I mentioned how my first impressions of this passage were influenced by my growing concern that sin in my life was in fact evidence that I wasn't "really" saved, and therefore when I read this passage, and/or others like it, I was inclined (by fear and ignorance) to see my own damnation in it. I want to set all that aside as I look at the passage, and pretend with you, that I have never read it before, and draw some conclusions from the text without reading any of my theology into it.

I favor the NASB because it is the most literal translation of what I regard to be the most reliable manuscripts, in other words, I have more confidence in the precision of the NASB than I have in other translations. It is for this reason that I am using the NASB in our considerations, and I hope that isn't a problem for anyone.

The first question I think we need to answer is, "Who is the author talking about here - Christians or non-Christians?"

Let's look at the passage together then start putting together some thoughts that will help form our answer. The passage reads this way: For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

First the passage doesn't name an individual - it isn't saying, for instance, "for in the case of Jonas Barsimeon, who was once... yada, yada" which is to say that the author is creating a hypothetical situation for the sake of making his point. That doesn't mean that we can toss out anything just yet, but we want to be sure we understand the structure of his argument as we come into it - he presents an hypothetical person in an hypothetical situation. The hypothetical situation is that this person "falls away" - we will get to that, but let's look at the character of this hypothetical person so that we can answer for ourselves whether this hypothetical person is supposed to represent a believer, or a non-believer. These are the characteristics of our hypothetical person:

  1. He or she was (or at least had once been) enlightened

  2. He or she had tasted the heavenly gift (whatever that is)

  3. He or she was *made* a partaker of the Holy Spirit (whatever that means)

  4. He or she had tasted the good word of God (whatever that means)

  5. He or she had tasted the powers of the age to come (whatever that means)

I want to examine each, one at a time, and being as sober and as honest with myself as I can, I want to assign to each point one of the following three labels: Wheat, Tare, or Inconclusive. Once I have done that I will look at the group collectively and make the best call I can from the evidence I find.

I plan to do the examination in the next post - but first I want to explain the categories a bit(wheat/tare/inconclusive). If I say "wheat" I mean that there is no way this can be anything other than a true believer. If I say "tare" I mean that there is no way this can be anything other than a false convert, and if I say "inconclusive" I mean that only a dishonest, or clumsy person would insist on one or the other, given the scope of what is said.

All that begins in the next post, it'll take a couple of posts.


posted by Daniel @ 7:48 AM   3 comment(s)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part VII - Putting Some Things Aside
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. - Hebrews 6:4-6 [ESV]
Who hasn't spent time making sure that their understanding of this verse was everything it ought to be?

I think, like most people, the first time I read this passage I was profoundly immature in my faith. Being naive, I regarded even the slightest hint of sin in my life as dreadful evidence that I wasn't really saved. What horrible doubts I had on that account! It was during this time that I was devouring scripture that this passage use to make me tremble. The springtime of my faith was filled with wicked doubt - and as the scriptures teach, the wicked flee even when no one is chasing them. So it was in my heart when I would read passages like this - whatever the text was saying, all I was hearing was that I must have lost my salvation somewhere, I must have fallen away.

Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, first impressions linger on. Even after we begin to stabilize in our new faith. Those first understanding of such passages continue, for many, to bear the scars of what was projected into them by way of our (then) insecurities. As we mature in our faith, we mature in how we read and handle scripture, disciplining ourselves to make sure that we bring no presumptions into the text with us as we study it. This can take months, years, or even decades, depending on how entrenched we are in our own opinion.

I don't mean to suggest that we should keep ourselves from forming "settled" opinions - as though there were something wrong about being convinced in what you believe. What I am concerned with is keeping ourselves from refusing to examine our opinions because we are so certain they are right.

I mention all that, of course, because whatever opinion you have of this text is probably a settled one, and though I am happy for you if this is the case, yet in the course of these next few posts I want us to try, as best we can, to come to the text as if we had never read it before or formed some opinion about it. Let's just look at it, in its context, and find out what it is saying to us, and again, what it is not saying to us - then we can compare that to our opinions and see how that lines up.


posted by Daniel @ 8:58 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Alternative Parenting....
Everyone likes science until it spits in their pie. See Here.

H/T Mr. Chan over at Triablogue


posted by Daniel @ 2:54 PM   0 comment(s)
Double Crucifixion. Part VI - Restoration
If you haven't done so already, please read through the first, second, third, fourth and fifth posts in this series to get the context.

Before we come to the core of the discussion, I would like to pontificate a little on the concept of "restoration." Nothing fancy - just putting things into perspective.

Does anyone remember Shelly Long from Cheers? I am sure some of you do. In 1986 she co-starred with Tom Hanks in a movie called The Money Pit. In the movie the couple are tossed out of their Manhattan apartment and have to find a place to live very quickly. They end up finding a country estate at a suspiciously low price. The mansion on the estate is dilapidated, but the price is low enough that they try to restore it again to its previous glory. The running gag of the movie BTW, is them trying to restore the house faster than it degenerates, the gag gets old pretty quick, and I wouldn't recommend it as a renter because I don't remember too much about it beyond that.

Now what I want to draw from that is the notion that when the mansion is eventually restored again, it has been returned to a state of health which it previously enjoyed but had lost. That is, restoration is not a new work, but the restoring of an old work. To be restored means to have things set back the way they were, and so much more so if we say. In the movie the couple eventually restores the mansion again to its former glory. If it were destroyed, it could be restored again, and again and again. But it has to exist first, in order to be restored. It would be "impossible" to restore again a mansion that didn't exist in the first place.

That is the mark I wanted to tag before I start to bundle it all together in the next post.


posted by Daniel @ 9:19 AM   0 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part V - Illumination
If you haven't done so already, please read through the first, second, third, and fourth posts in this series to get the context.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Some of you will recognize the refrain from the hymn, "Open my eyes, illumine me".

I don't think anyone ever (really) uses the phrase, "Illumine me" today, even in Clara Scott's (the hymn's author) day, it just made for nice poetry. In Psalm 119 verse 105, David describes God's word as a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path. Same metaphor - illumination equals an opening of the understanding. God's word opened David's understanding so that he could "see" the spiritual path upon which God expected him to walk.

I mention this, in this way, because the word our English translations sometimes use has some cultural baggage tied to it, and I want to address the baggage up front in order that we are aware of how we might inject our cultures baggage into our interpretation, before we even look at a verse that uses the word in question.

I am speaking of being "enlightened."

Our culture has mystified the idea of enlightenment. When a Buddhist "seeks enlightenment", he is seeking an awareness that will help him escape the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and bring his soul or spirit into nirvana. An "enlightened" Buddha has had some mystical experience that convinces him he is now on the path to nirvana, and fit to help others on the same path. In mysticism "proper" enlightenment is the pursuit of communion with an ultimate reality - usually through some sort of "spiritual" meditation. The list of mystical religions is long enough and I am not about to catalog it, since they all share the same underlying notion - that a person is operating at one spiritual level, then, after a mystical experience, they operate at a superior spiritual level.

The man who hears the good news about Jesus Christ, and comes to understand the manner in which God has chosen to save - that man has been enlightened. He hasn't had a mystical experience, nor has he experienced a spiritual change. All that enlightenment requires is that he understands the good news, that is, that he knows the way of salvation.

In our culture however, because we are influenced by the idea that enlightenment is a spiritual state one arrives at - we may well press the idea into a Christian mold, and conclude that enlightenment means salvation.

The problem with that is it is false. Judas was about as enlightened as you could get. The demons, James reminds us, are enlightened. Every person you share the gospel with, who understands it but rejects it - is enlightened. Both the tares and the wheat are enlightened, but only the wheat are saved. That is going to be something we want to keep in mind in up and coming posts.

In the next post I plan to look at what it means to be restored again. I hope you stick with it.


posted by Daniel @ 9:48 AM   1 comment(s)
Monday, January 19, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part IV - Being Convinced Of The Impossible.
If you haven't done so already, please read through the first, second, and third posts in this series to get the context.

When I use the word "impossible", I am describing something that cannot happen. The past, for example, cannot be changed - we can obscure it, or report it incorrectly, but it is impossible to change it.

Scripture doesn't use the word "impossible" very often, and when it does use it, it is almost exclusive to the New Testament. That being true, when scripture does use the word, we stand up and take note.

Consider some of the very few things that scripture describes as impossible:
Salvation Through Human Effort Is Impossible:
Matthew 19:25-26 - When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved? And looking at them Jesus said to them, With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." [NASB]
Mark 10:26-27 - They were even more astonished and said to Him, 'Then who can be saved?' Looking at them, Jesus said, 'ith people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.'

That is, man cannot produce salvation of himself - it is impossible. God must do it.

It Was Impossible For Christ To Be Held By Death's Power.
Acts 2:24 - But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

Nuff said.

It is impossible for the blood of Goats and Bulls to take away sin
Hebrews 10:4 - For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Again, this needs no commentary.

It Is Impossible To Please God Without Faith
Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the Rewarder of those who seek Him.

So clear, again what can I add to that?

It Is Impossible For The Law To Free A Man From Sin's Power
Romans 8:3 - For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

The law was unable to save a man from sin's power - it wasn't merely difficult, but impossible. The purpose of the law was never to make men righteous, but to show them that they are not righteous.
Interestingly enough, what we see is that spiritual things are impossible for carnal creatures, except where God intervenes. Not every example makes that obvious, but it is a passing notation I am willing to mention. Spiritual things are not merely difficult or improbable - they are outright un-doable, and Impossible means that there is no room for another option, and that is going to be important as we look at one of scriptures critical absolutes, which I plan to mention in some later post.


posted by Daniel @ 5:44 AM   10 comment(s)
Friday, January 16, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part III - Follow the Rabbit.
If you haven't done so already, please read through the first and second posts in the series for context.

We start this installment by asking a question about the scope of our forgiveness: How many sins are forgiven when we get saved?

In 1 Peter 3:18, we read, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" [NASB]

There is something of an interpretive challenge, here in that Peter says, "once for all". What exactly does "all" refer to here? People? Sins?

I think the answer is found in a parallel thought in Hebrews 10:12, "but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD," [NASB, capitalization is in the original]. That is, I expect that Peter means that Christ died once for all time, the Just for the unjust. The author of Hebrews further narrows the scope two verses later in Hebrews 10:14, For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

One could derail the whole discussion here, I suppose, in defending the scope of the atonement - but for our purposes let's allow that a plain reading of these texts causes one to conclude that Christ died once for those whom He sanctifies.

That is an important starting point, because if it is true that Christ can only die once for our sins, it follows that by (and through) this same death all of our sins are (must be) dealt with - past, present, and future. If there is only one death, it is an all or nothing affair.

While the notion of Christ dying multiple times is, of course absurd, we nevertheless make the case biblically, lest there be some reader who imagines that Christ's death satisfied God's wrath only for those sins which we have committed in the past, and that sins we commit today (or in the future) have not been dealt with yet, and must be satisfied on a "piecemeal" basis from now till the day we die (through confession and repentance), lest we pass into death only partially forgiven. It is an all or nothing choice - either we are forgiven all, or we are not forgiven at all. There is no in between, partial, temporal forgiveness.

We enter onto the rabbit trail, therefore, with the biblical understanding that in the moment of justification all sin is forgiven, it happens once and can only happen once. In that moment all sins including those we haven't yet committed are satisified by the death of Jesus Christ.


posted by Daniel @ 6:29 AM   9 comment(s)
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part II - Some Definitions
If you haven't read Part One, now is the time to do so.

In order to discuss being "saved from all your sins" - it may be necessary to first describe what I mean when I say sin.

Sin: The etymologist reminds us that the word "sin" was originally an archers term and meant to miss the mark; such that the word itself describes a failure to meet some set standard. If the standard is a known requirement - such as keeping some ordinance, then failure to keep the ordinance is "sin".

Most of us think of sin in this way: failing to obey some known ordinance. That -is- sin, but sin is not keeping known ordinances - it also occurs when we fail to keep some ordinance we know nothing about. If we do not take that into account in our thinking, we may become confused when we make distinctions between the commission of sin and having that sin imputed to us.

Commission: Failing to meet a known, or unknown standard. For example, while it is legal to publicly smoke a cigarette in the US, it is not legal to do so in some of the other countries in the world. The ignorant American traveller who lights up publicly in Singapore unknowingly committed a crime. His or her ignorance by no means negates the fact that he broke a law, and thus committed a crime.

Imputation: Now, there is a lot of baggage hanging on this word, so let's chew through this in little bites.

Where commission happens in time and space, imputation less intangible - it happens when we become aware of our own accountability

Consider the cop who tickets the speeding motorist. The motorist was accountable the moment he sped past the cop, but was only made aware of his accountability when the cop presented him with the ticket. In terms of imputation, before the speeder received the ticket there was no imputation. The speeder was guilty, and already held accountable by the law - but the guilt of it hadn't been imputed to him yet. It was -NOT- that the speeder wasn't guilty until he received the ticket - it was that he was ignorant of his guilt.

Romans 6:23 tells us that the commission of sin earns the wage of death. There can be no room for confusion on the matter - when Paul says that men received sin's wages (death) from Adam to Moses - he is not suggesting and cannot be suggesting that the sins of those men between Adam and Moses were not put to their account by God, for to do so would be to contradict himself, since he shows through their deaths that God was holding them accountable for their sins. To understand what Paul is saying, we have to zoom out, a bit and look at where Paul is coming from.

The over-arching argument Paul is making in Romans 5 (esp. vs 13-14) has to do with the Jews hope that in keeping the law they will be saved.

Paul is showing that the law is not, nor has it ever, been THE STANDARD™ - that men died before there was a law to keep - the only thing the law could do was make you aware that sin was being imputed to your account. Paul wasn't saying that God does not impute sin to your account - since death itself shows otherwise - When Paul says that sin is not imputed where there is no law - he is saying that a man remains unaware of his condemned status without the law.

The point is that a man is guilty because he sins, and not because he is aware he sins. Awareness condemns you in your own understanding, but you are condemned whether you understand your condemnation or not.

I make the distinction because in examining what it means to save someone from all their past, present, and future sins - it helps to know what I mean by sin.


posted by Daniel @ 11:36 AM   3 comment(s)
Double Crucifixion. Part I - Introduction
The writers of scripture sometimes used a form of argumentation by which a wrong line of reasoning was shown to be absurd by following that reasoning to its logical and inescapable conclusion. This form of argumentation is popular enough that it has its own fancy Latin name, "reductio ad absurdum" (reduction to the absurd).

Paul, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15, is by no means suggesting that there is no resurrection from the dead, but is showing that if we follow the premise that there is no resurrection from the dead we come to the inescapable conclusion that Christ could not have been resurrected. The absurdity of that conclusion is shown in that if it were actually so, then all of Christianity would be bunk. Paul could have taken the reader through an extended expository survey of the OT scriptures to make the same point, but instead chooses to use the form of argumentation we just described - dismissing incorrect doctrine by demonstrating that when one follows that doctrine they eventually come to an impossible conclusion.

Thus when I ask: How many times can Jesus be crucified for your "all" sins? I expect only two answers, either, "once", or "more than once", and because I plan to use that particular form of argument to show that a believer will not (and cannot) lose his or her salvation and thereafter be saved all over again, I shall explore the idea that a believer can be saved more than once, and therefore that Jesus can die for their sins more than once.

I don't plan to flog around the bushes with much showmanship and little to show for the effort either; that is, I am not asking the question in order to provide a pleasant and pointless theological meditation; but ask the question as an apologetic starting place in articulating what I believe scripture teaches: the eternal security of the believer.

Anticipating an abysmal deficiency in attention spans, I will break this post up into several bite size pieces, and post it over a few days.


posted by Daniel @ 10:46 AM   3 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Eugene Maurice Orowitz...
He was my favorite actor on Little House on the Prairie. You probably don't recognize his name however, since he changed it to "Michael Landon". But this post isn't about him, I mention him only because he changed a clumsy name into a more mainstream name. I guess the networks felt it was more marketable.

Who am I to argue marketing? I say, this post isn't about Eugene, it is about changing ones name in order to market oneself. You see, I plan to write a book, about how the OT dietary laws do not apply to Christians - that pork and whatnot are no longer "unclean" - yet even before I do, I am certain that my name is too clumsy to sell a book. So I am going to use a pen name.

Now, I know, I know - you have your opinions about such things, but hear me out, as I have put a lot of thought into this. I need a name that bespeaks knowledge and authority. I plan therefore to buy a doctorate of philosophy off one of those Internet schools, thus I can present my writings under the title "doctor" - and, because I want to appeal to the pagan culture, I have chosen the name of a Greek deity (small "d") to bolster the magnitude of my authority.

I expect that soon after it is published, my status and dignity in the academic community shall increase. Please buy and read my book when I publish it:

Clean Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Zeus.


posted by Daniel @ 9:32 AM   12 comment(s)
Monday, January 12, 2009
How God Works Grace Into My Life.
I struggle sometimes with choosing the title of a post. I mean, I like to stay generic, and have the title reflect the main thought I am trying to convey - without making it about "me".

Have you ever had the tattoo discussion? If you have been a Christian five years or more, you likely have, and whatever you believe, you probably believe because your understanding of scripture has given you cause to lean that way.

Let me tell you up front, I am against tattoos; The idea that God wants me to get a tattoo is preposterous, and if God isn't leading me to get one, then that leaves only the world, the devil, or my own flesh - all of whom I have no business obeying. I could give you all the scripture and reasoning that goes into that, but if you have a settled opinion, it wouldn't help you anyway, and I am not posting this in order to discuss the biblicity of my opinion.

What I am going to discuss is where I draw grace from when it comes to judging others in the matter. You see, I may have an opinion in the matter, and I may hold it strongly, and I doubt that anything anyone says will persuade me out of my opinion, but having said all that, I find myself unable to condemn anyone for disagreeing with me. Not only is it not my job, but if I condemn them in what they imagine, I am beginning to see, that I am really condemning myself.

This is where the grace we have for others comes from sometimes.

You see, any argument against tattoos boils down, not to Leviticus 19:27 (unless you are just learning to reason from scripture and haven't mastered the subtlety of context yet), but down to motive.

Why does anyone augment themselves cosmetically? To improve their looks. Why do women curl their hair or wear make-up and jewelry? Why do men shave or trim their beard? Why all the hair spray, or hair cuts? Why get fashionable glasses, or a fashionable wardrobe? Surely we cannot claim "modesty" for all our vain purchases - at least I can't. Why do we put our best pictures up on the web, and hide away the double-chin ones? Vanity, vanity, vanity.

You see, I get haircuts, I trim my beard or shave, I dress this way or that - I have prescription Armani glasses (and another pair of shades) for more than just functionality - I have yet to overcome my own vanity in these everyday things - and having this profound series of logs in my own eye - I find it utter hypocrisy to stand in judgment over such a thing as tattoos. Yes, I have an opinion, but to enforce my opinion, regardless of how correct it may be (assuming it is) is to profoundly condemn myself in what I do elsewhere.

Christ alone had the moral ground to judge, but He held off on judging until the time - that is, He will return as THE Judge, and woe to anyone who is not found in Christ on that great day. Even on that day I dare not condemn - but leave the meting out of condemnation to the righteous Judge.

The longer I am a believer, the less inclined I am to condemn. Which is not to say that I am tolerant of sin - Matthew 18 gives us some pretty clear instruction on how to deal with sin in the church, and one can certainly be discerning and called upon to "judge" things in the body where appropriate. Yet I find my capacity to condemn those over whom I have no jurisdiction dwindling in the light of my own failures, and am driven by this same knowledge to rid myself of such moral shortcomings - that I may be approved when called upon, for though failure is a fit tool to work grace into my heart - a valley imbuing with grace all those who pass through it, so that once on the other side they may be more fit to help others along, through, and out of it - I say, though failure produces grace in me, and though I relish what these lessons produce - yet I do not want to spend one minute longer in the valley that is absolutely necessary for the work God would do in me. Better to clamour up broken on the other side than to lay whole on the valley floor.

I cringe to think of how judgmental I have been in years gone by. What grace has been shown to me by those who passed before me! I pray that I shall be as full of grace in receiving others, as I have been received.


posted by Daniel @ 3:09 PM   5 comment(s)
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Raising Awareness
Recently I was invited through an email to partake in a very noble sounding cause - raising awareness about the sexual exploitation of children. The letter pointed me to a website where I could get more information about how to raise awareness and more importantly what I can do to "take action". The email closed with the encouraging words, "Every positive action is a step closer to ending child abuse."

First and foremost: The sexual exploitation of anyone is not only deplorable, it is illegal in my country, and probably in yours as well. I don't think that anyone who engages in this sort of thing is actually unaware of that.

What caught my eye, however, was the absurd notion that we could actually eradicate child abuse by being better informed about it.

Think that through for a second. Do sexual predators really abuse children simply because they don't know it is wrong? Can you imagine?

Officer: Mr. Doe, you were caught soliciting a thirteen year old prostitute for sex. That, sir, is sexually exploiting a child!

John Doe: It is???? Whodathunkit? Well, now that I know, I certainly won't do that again. I thought it was alright to buy sex from children - no one ever said nuffin 'bout it a'fore.

Officer: Well, sir, now that you know, you can spread the word, as soon as everyone knows it, all sexual exploitation of children will stop.

John Doe: I sure will. Thanks for the info!

Raising awareness about sexual exploitation is not going to eradicate the problem, because the problem is not that perverts lack information, it is that given opportunity, sinners will sin, and will do so knowing full well that what they are doing is reprehensible and wrong.

The idea that any culture can bring perversion to an end is ill-informed, and the idea that our morally bankrupt culture could do so through raising awareness is not only ill informed, it is ridiculous.

We should be "raising awareness" that perversion will necessarily increase as our society continues to sacrifice objective morality on the altar of personal freedom. We need to take action against the moral decay that permeates our whole system by reexamining whether the kind of "freedom" we get with out of control immorality is actually the sort of freedom we want.

I am convinced that obesity is the best "punishment" for gluttony. As our culture gluts itself on personal freedom, it becomes obese in its own immorality. As it continues to bulge out, eventually it will die under its own weight - as every morally "out of control" culture through-out all recorded history has (without exception) done, -- bar none.

I don't know what our society's fascination with raising awareness is either. I suppose it is a great way to do nothing but feel good about looking like you did, in the mean time, you can host all sorts of recreational events to provide everyone with a grand time of leisure, all the while doing something noble.

Leave it to America to find a way to get together, drink beer, eat BBQ, play games, and come away feeling like mother Theresa for it, because this week we were raising awareness about the sexual exploitation of children. At the end, we go home with yet another pastel, "eight cent" silicone bracelet to show everyone how involved we are in our community.



posted by Daniel @ 12:02 PM   4 comment(s)
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