H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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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.
My complete profile...
The Buzz

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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Friday, February 27, 2009
Answering Questions.
Question: Can God create a stone so heavy, even He can't lift it up?

Answer #1
I am pretty sure there were plenty of rocks on earth that Jesus, in His flesh, couldn't lift up.

Answer #2
If our reality is governed by the laws of a universe that God created, it stands to reason that the God who created both the universe and its laws must exist apart from them. It is because God exists apart from the universe and its laws that the question is flawed; since in order to answer the question according to the frame in which it is asked, one must presume (for instance) that the law of gravity is binding on God - as though God were a mere creature bound to the laws of creation like every other creature. If God could be made a creature, then yes, God could create a rock so big that even God as a creature could not lift it. But if God remained a transcendental Spirit, the question is about as coherent as Can God smell the sound of yellow?


posted by Daniel @ 9:56 AM   5 comment(s)
What does the size of the earth tell us?
As I was riding the bus yesterday morning, I imagined some fruit being entirely consumed by a fungus. I thought to myself, at some point, there would be no more fruit left, but only fungus - and at that point the fungus would starve and die. I happened to be listening to an R.C. Sproul lecture as the thought was passing through my head, and R.C. was talking about how in 1950 the world population was two billion people, and how in 50 years it has tripled to over six billion people. As the two thoughts knit together in my thinking, I realized that because the world is limited in size and resources, if it weren't for death we would already have run out of both resources and room in and on planet earth.

That in and of itself is no great revelation, but coupled to the notion that if procreating beings did live forever on a finite globe, or even in a finite universe - eventually their infinite capacity to procreate, and inability to cease to be, would consume and fill completely whatever space their was.

Given that this is not only so, but inescapable so, it follows that God, having created Adam and Eve with procreative power, and having placed them into a finite reality, must have done so fully aware that the world He set them on could not contain both them and their progeny.

In hindsight, it strikes me that sin (and through sin death) was something God knew was going to happen even before Adam was ever created.

Now, this is no revelation to me, as I have believed this ever since I came to understand that it would be impossible for a truly sovereign God to "surprised" by sin - which means that God not only anticipated sin, but that this creation was designed to accommodate it.

We who believe in God's sovereignty and control do not charge God with creating sin, because we understand that sin has no substance - it is rebellion: the absence of obedience, and through that rebellion a departure from God who cannot rebel against Himself. To rebel against God is to play a note that isn't on the score - it doesn't change the score - but cannot be reconciled to the score having departed from it. So God did not "create" sin, for it required no act of creation. We speak in terms of God "allowing" sin, for God could have prevented it - but most Christians think of sin as a tragic accident. We see that it was a cosmic failure, we see that it has eternal consequences - the magnitude of such a fall is open for all to see, and the only way most of us can process such a thing is to presume that it could only have been an accident because no "good" God would have planned it.

Yet creation itself testifies that far from being caught off guard by sin, far from failing to prevent it - God actually built creation around the certainty that sin would come.


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posted by Daniel @ 7:23 AM   9 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A Boomer of a Bible!
"A Boomer in the Pew" is celebrating their first birthday on the web, and as part of that celebration is giving away a calf skin ESV study bible (drool, drool).

Find out how you can win that bible here.


posted by Daniel @ 10:02 AM   2 comment(s)
Monday, February 23, 2009
The Sermon - Three Perspectives (fiction)
From the perspective of the Enemy:
Local Spiritual Principality to Underlings: Pastor John Doe has asked a new comer, Bob Smith, to preach at Dominion Church on Sunday. I want a team on Bob Smith pronto. Who is this guy, and what do we know?

Underling: He's legit. He was saved in district seven, we had a team on a pastor there, and when the pastor lead him to Christ, the whole team followed him home and worked on him till he was sure he wasn't really saved. He dropped off the map for a decade or so, but came back on radar about a dozen years ago. Mostly support roles. His strengths are, lessee... (glancing at clipboard), He knows the word well, and has made friend with more than a few people who continue to intercede on his behalf. Weaknesses: He's exceptionally smart, and is still trusting in his own gifts, um... (flipping through pages), seems we have a history of procrastination....

Local Spiritual Principality: (Interrupting) What kinda porn is he hooked on?

Underling: Let's... see... (flip, flip) last episode,... you're not gonna like this --four years ago, but it ended bad - real repentance, public apologies - restoration - the whole nine yards...

Local Spiritual Principality: Well, ... whatever else we do, try a high intensity run at him again - couldn't hurt. Find out his fetish and get some people on it. You never know. What sort of kingdom work have we got on this guy?

Underling: He's definitely a "builder." He has been given a love for the body, and thrives when he is building it up, but he hasn't done a lot of personal evangelism. ...what're you thinking?

Local Spiritual Principality: I think we might want to focus on his personal feelings of failure this week - and see if we can't make him believe that failure in one area translates into complete and utter failure in all areas. That often works well in the short term.

Underling: Brilliant as always master, ...

Local Spiritual Principality: You said he was a procrastinator? Hammer that. I want this guy on as many bunny trails this weeks as we can manage. Find out where this guy has been wasting time, and make it sweeter.

Underling: Will do. (taking a page from another underling) This just came in... he doesn't entirely trust that God loves Him unless he is doing something he personally thinks is worthy of God.

Local Spiritual Principality: Humph. I love it when they make it easy. Get on that. I want guilt gravy on every potato this guy puts in his mouth; you got that?

Underling: He won't bow his head to pray without a whisper in His ear that God hates him.

Local Spiritual Principality: Alright. We haven't much time - put a crowbar on this guy's faith by Friday or we are going to have a lot more work in the future. Remember boys, daze and confuse!

<the meeting adjourns>

The Lord's Perspective: (Saturday Night).

The Lord in conversation with the Holy Spirit: The time is full, minister grace to Bob now, in my name.

Bob Smith's Perspective: (Saturday Night).

Bob (praying): Lord, my head is still swimming. I still don't know what I am supposed to preach about. I had all week to prepare, but I wasted my time. Though it seemed that everything conspired against my free time this week, I don't count that as a justifiable reason for procrastinating as I have done. I feel myself a hypocrite, because I suspected I would be here at the eleventh hour, and even then I didn't change course. Here I am now, trying to save face by begging you to provide a sermon, and really, I don't even know anymore if it is for your glory or just to save my own reputation.

(meditative silence)

(enter: the touch of grace)

Bob (thinking): This isn't right...

Bob (praying again): Lord! You chose me before the foundation of the world. Lord Jesus I know you! I knew you when you opened my heart that day I received you as Lord, and you have proven your love for me in that you chose me to receive salvation from sin - and though I find myself in the mire this evening, I have just come to my senses, and is this not my Father before me with His arms stretched, ready to dress me anew in grace? My eyes do not see you, but my faith remembers Your word, and through Your word, I have found You. Yes, I have squandered these recent days, I confess my failure, and more - I see that I have been taking you for granted, forgive me, and thank you because I know I am forgiven.

I see now that I have been procrastinating because I am full of pride - both carnal and even spiritual. Haven't you blessed me before? What wicked presumption I find in myself as you open my eyes! And here, doesn't my flesh tell me that you must hate me? As though you were a mere man who was a slave to emotions he could not control - but I know that you who hold creation together, and know the future as clearly as the present - I know that circumstances do not dictate your emotions to you, so that you are like me, and find yourself set upon so that you must answer them - but your emotions answer you - you command them as you command all - and I dishonor you and make less of you when I imagine your love for me is dependant upon me - your love is steadfast because it depends not on me, but on you, my immutable, perfect Savior. Wretch that I am, I know that your throne is a throne of grace, and here I will plead, not in my strength, not in my gifting, not in my walk, my power, or even Your own mercy - but I plead your own blood on me, I remind you that I am yours, though you will never, -can never- forget it, for my name is written on your heart. No, there is nothing left but for my heart to praise and thank you. Thank you that you are sovereign, and that you have put your Spirit into this broken cistern - haven't I demanded that you repair it at once? Yet in your mercy you have shown me that your glory is all the more glorious in that you have given it to the weak, and the fools.

How easy it is Lord, when I remember that I am in your presence always, to know your will. I shall prepare this sermon according to what seems good to me, and trust that my skill or even my choice of sermons will not -nay- cannot hinder Your work, for it is Your work that I enter into - have You not prepared it beforehand? Then settle my heart in your grace, settle my soul in that assurance that comes when I know that the Lord of all the earth will do what is good. Settle my soul in you again. Remind me that You have not left me. I don't ask you to impress me with some kind of message, instead I ask only that whatever comes out of me tonight honors you. You have created me in your image - take pleasure in the work of your hands - keep my heart resting in the pleasure of your grace, so that I bring nothing but faith into the pulpit tomorrow, and whatever this creature pens this evening - let it be drawn from the well of your grace, your love, your mercy, and your own will. I shall be blessed tomorrow to speak in your name, and I commit myself to You who have kept my soul to this day and will keep it. Be glorified now, and in the hour of this sermon, should it please you to see that moment come. I go now to the work prepared before time, and I go with faith, because I know I leave your throne, in Christ.


That Sunday:
Some people liked Bob's sermon, some were indifferent, and others didn't care all that much for it. Prior to stepping into the pulpit Bob was no less or more Bob than at any other moment in His life - He was a sinner saved by the grace of His Lord. A broken cistern into whom God had poured a magnificent treasure - and it was this treasure that Bob hoped would flow out of him and into other broken cisterns. At the end of the day, Bob went home, one day closer to glory, a little bit more experienced in grace, but far from perfect. The enemy stepped up the pace and continued to work Bob over, but the Lord remained with Bob, even as He had promised He would.


posted by Daniel @ 3:09 PM   9 comment(s)
Lemon Yellow Squishies....
If you play Little Big Planet™, find a level I made called, "Lemon Yellow Squishies" (author: doulogos), play it, and let me know what you think. The kids and I had fun putting it together, and playing it.


posted by Daniel @ 11:27 AM   6 comment(s)
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Humanism... Meh...
When I was three or four, my mother's uncle passed away. I didn't know him, but I remember well enough that my grandmother's house was full of people who were very sad and crying, and that I was frightened by the intensity and the frequency of grief all around me. I was old enough to be genuinely alarmed and personally frightened by other people's fear, or what I perceived to be fear. I remember therefore asking my mother,in the midst of my own growing fright, why everyone was so upset, and she tried to explain not only that her uncle had passed away, but what death was.

That is a conversation I will not forget. She described it as something like [1] falling asleep and never waking up again, and [2] explained that every one dies eventually no matter how good they are, and that [3] there was nothing she or anyone else could to do change that.

I was both mortified and petrified (it was my bed time, and the thought that I might not ever wake up was frightening enough, but hearing my mother say she couldn't change it if I did - that tore from me any hope of comfort, and I wept until I was exhausted, and though I don't remember actually falling asleep, I am sure I did eventually.

I don't know how you (the reader) found out about death, but I don't want you to hate on my mom for her ham fisted parenting. Perhaps if my mother hadn't been a teenager at the time herself, and if she had known the Lord, or had some better up-bringing herself, or simply not been distracted by her own profound grief, she might have had more grace for me that evening; yet however we came to know about death, the reality of it - the inescapability of it - carves a canyon sized groove into the fabric of our existence.

We know that death is everywhere yet doesn't our culture hide it in hospitals and old folks homes? A terminally ill person might know a hundred people well, but will only see a handful in the hospital - because no one wants to "remember" him or her that way - which is a cop out, really it is that death is horrible, and people would rather ignore it than deal with it. We put death off, as it were, until we have to deal with it. First our grand parents, maybe other older family members, eventually mom and dad, then our friends and siblings. The average 40 year old has been to a dozen funerals, most of which are family, and few of which he or she bothered to visit even when he or she knew they were dying.

I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty here either. When my grandfather was in the hospital, my father called me and asked if I would go and visit him. I declined, and my grandfather died the next day. He had visited a church the Sunday before, but I don't know if he had ever heard the gospel in His life. So while I air my regrets, I do so by way of saying this post is not about guilting people into visiting dying people - though were it about that, I should encourage you to seize the day.

This post is about how the fear of death can wrongly inform our theology.It is amazing to me that most of us assume that because we are sincere, and because we read scripture, and because we would never believe anything about God that isn't in the bible - that it must follow that our theology is "right" and people who disagree with it must not know how to read scripture. There are good, godly, people who do this, not out of malice, and not out of wilful ignorance, but out of a sound conviction that their theology is the most God honoring, honest way of looking at the text that they know how to do - and most of them wouldn't hesitate to adopt a more sincere scheme if they could be convinced that such a scheme existed. That is, we are not talking about people who hate the truth and want to pervert it, but rather those who love the truth, and want to preserve it.

Now the fear of death in our culture has a flip side: the preservation of life is considered a virtue. What do we call someone who saves someone else's life? That's right - A hero. Now I know, we could turn this post into an abortion discussion quite easily at this point - especially given that it is profoundly illegal to destroy the eggs of any species considered to be "endangered" - for our laws make no distinction between fertilized egg and mature adult when it comes to birds - since there is no social pressure to redefine these living, growing, baby birds (eggs) as lumps of cells that have no value until they are hatched - that is, since the eggs of endangered birds don't offend the liberal freedoms of those who are blinded by their own morally bankruptcy, we don't have any trouble seeing the eggs for what they are...

But I digress - the point is that the flip side of this fear of death is a heightened value placed on human life (except as noted). Most in our culture would say that everyone other than aborted babies, and convicted felons in certain states, has a right to life.

To make it personal, most individuals believe, deep down, that they have a right to live. That is what struck me the hardest as a three year old. I didn't have a lot of intellect or knowledge to work with or guide me, but even in the simplicity of my thinking, I knew this much - I knew it was wrong -- wrong for me to die, and I had no one to blame but God. I hated the inescapable truth of my coming death with every fibre of my little being, and it is, I believe, this same sort of unbridled passion that drives a great deal of humanism today.

You see, the atheist, or the secularist, or let's make it even broader - all those who don't believe the bible is 100% - for these people, whether they acknowledge it or not, death is an injustice, it is an offense to them - and a multitude of ethical philosophies have sprung up through out history that spring from this same tap.

You have heard the expression, "the sanctity of life" - that isn't a biblical expression, it is a secular one. Life is sacred, we say, but unconsciously we mean that our own life is sacred to us, and because it is, we are willing to allow that all life is sacred, because in a world where all life is regarded as sacred, the chances of someone taking my life are greatly reduced. Our culture is already borderline narcissistic, and even as Paul writes, so it is true, "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church," (Ephesians 5:29 NASB). Paul's admonition there is for husbands to examine how they love and cherish their own selves, and to love their wives with that kind of focus, intensity, and consistency.

You don't have to be religious to love your life. Every normal individual loves his or her own life, and cherishes it - guards it as their most precious possession. This universal reality has informed many a pagan religion, and even (especially?) our moral secularism. Live is so precious, it is wrong to take it under almost any circumstances.

This message comes at us from the cradle to the grave, from within our own selves, and again is reinforced in every society and culture on the globe. Little wonder it slips into some of our theology unchallenged. These notions, while inarticulate in our subconscious, are certainly there for most of us.  We develop a personal image of God; one that hasn't been informed by the scriptures but is rather informed by our own assumptions about what a "good" God ought to be like.  Hence our first impression of God is typically a reflection of what our culture considers to be good and virtuous.

Because our life is precious to us, and our culture informs us what is "good", we subconsciously reason that, say, murder is indeed sinful.  Not because God said so, but because life is precious! There are many Christians today who cannot support the death penalty because they truly believe that it is a sin to take any life - just as there are people who won't swat a mosquito because they value "all" life.

In Matthew 7:12 we read, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (NASB), again in Luke 6:31, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. ", and let's not forget, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" - which appears several times in scripture (c.f. Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8). You will never hear a pagan or an atheist say a word against such verses - because though they deny God, they do not deny the idea that the world would be a better place if we all treated each other the way we want to be treated ourselves.

All of us reason from the cradle onward, that anything that harms us is bad, and anything that helps us is good - and we don't have a lot of trouble transferring that idea to other people - we don't need religion for that, it comes natural.

It comes natural because it is just another manifestation of our own selfishness. Every last one of us values our life, and the quality thereof - and because we do, we assign value to things that preserve that life, and by extension, other lives like it.

But that is precisely where we can go awry.

You see, what happens is some begin to reason about God's character, not from scripture, but from this personal formula. God commands us not to murder one another, and -what-d'ya-know-, that lines up nice with what we already think about life in general. Of course God commands us not to murder - murder would be injurious to life, and that would be evil (according to those extra-biblical, preconceived notions that inform our culture, and through our culture, have brainwashed informed us), and since God isn't evil, God cannot condone murder. Likewise, since the preservation of life is the flip side, some apply the same formula to the after-life: since life is sacred, God wants to preserve it - that is why God wants us to evangelize - because He wants to save as many as possible.

The great commission, under this scheme, is God telling us to be about saving souls because they have value, because it is evil to let even one soul go to hell...

Do you see what is wrong with that thinking yet?

The reason it is evil to take another life is because God said not to. Yes, you are taking away something of profound value, but that is going to be good or evil depending entirely upon whether or not God wills for you to take that life. When God ordered the Israelites to wipe out entire nations, it was not evil. I know of a person who calls himself a believer, who for this reason believes that the OT God is not the same God as the NT God - that Jesus is kinder, and better than the God of the OT - for this very reason - the God of the OT did not withhold judgment, as Christ did, and so the judicial punishment for sin that was carried out in the OT is seen by this man as an incompatible with the love of the NT Jesus. That's an extreme case however, most people wouldn't go that far - but a lot of them cringe and wince at what appears to be God's "heavy handed" justice in the OT.

Listen: You don't have to be a full blown implementer of this error for it to mess up your theology. Why do some people believe that God is trying to redeem every human being that was ever born? They don't think that because scripture makes an air-tight case for it. They think that way because they presume that the taking of life is in and of itself evil, and that preserving it is good - they think that God made and upholds this standard, when in fact it is just worldly wisdom - the doctrine of demons.

The person who has fallen into this worldly wisdom, imagines deep down that the reason God calls us to evangelize is because God is trying to save everyone. Now, because they don't want to worship a God who is a failure (since not everyone is saved) they make a grand fuss about free will - as though God could not simultaneously be sovereign while man had free agency - thus, God is still good, because he is trying to save everyone, and man is to blame because he uses his free will to reject God.

Here you see we enter into Pelagianism, and semi-Pelagianism. Whatever the fall did to Adam, whatever the curse of God is - it doesn't affect, in whole (Pelagianism) or in part (semi-Pelagianism) our ability to repent and believe.

Likewise, because it would be evil for God to fail to try and save everyone, We must develop a doctrine of election whereby God stands in the past, looking into the future, and sees who will choose him, and "elects" those men who first elected of their own free will to save themselves through faith.

Likewise, because it would be evil for God choose to save anyone at the expense of others, we must embrace a universal atonement, or change what the atonement means - either God atones for everyone, or atonement doesn't mean atonement anymore.

Again, since it would be evil for God to make any soteriological distinction between men, God cannot produce faith in some people unless he produces faith in all people - therefore, all God can do is offer up the possibility of producing faith in those who by their own merit and sound choice wisely decide to pursue God - a choice they can rightly boast about over those who failed to make the same choice given the same information.

Do you see where this is going and where it comes from?

Look, I would love it if scripture told me that God was going to save everyone that was ever born, but I gotta tell you, that would make the gospel and the bible pointless. I would also love it if God were trying to save everyone, but I gotta tell ya, I would be very concerned about His sovereignty. If God is not in control of everything, either by weakness or according to some benevolent decision - God is not really in control, and something else is. I would love it if I could find some intellectually consistent way to bend and twist the concept of propitiation such that I could say that Christ atoned for everyone - but I can't because I know what the word means - if Christ atoned for all, then none will suffer hell, for the atonement cannot be separated from reconciliation itself, and the notion of God sending those who have been reconciled to Him through Christ into hell is not only preposterous - it is an insult to God's character. I really do wish I could hit unbelievers with that wonderful sales pitch - "Jesus has died for your sins already!" but I cannot, I can only go so far as scripture, and say that Jesus died for sinners, and that every sinner who repents and turns to Christ in faith will definitely be saved - and I can assure them with profound certainty that this is going to be true for them if they repent - but I cannot go beyond that without offending my conscience, and doing profound injury to my understanding of the Holy scriptures.

The idea that Human life is intrinsically valuable is so subtly off, that many of us accept it without every critically examining it.

The moment we begin to understand that a thing cannot be evil or good in and of itself, but is only good or evil insofar as it is in harmony with or in rebellion against God - the moment we see that the veil has fallen from our eyes.

We really have trouble accepting that our standard for good and evil is the immutable will of God.Our fallen and corrupt souls are more comfortable with the notion of a unilateral and immutable moral checklist that even God must adhere to, than we are with the idea of having an imutable and moral God, and yet we have no choice in the matter. What God wills is good, and what rebels against that will is evil - by definition.

Has God given a command, to fail to keep that command is evil - the ten commandments demonstrate that every last one of us had rebelled against God - we have all lied (born false witness), we have all wanted something that wasn't ours (lusted after it), we have all hated (Jesus said that hatred is as the sin of murder), none of us have kept God's command, and that shows us that all of us are evil.

Now, understand this about yourself. It isn't that you are (and remain) an otherwise neutral person who could be defined by which has the greater balance (good acts or evil acts) - so that we would say, you are good if you have more good acts, and you are evil if you have more evil acts. That is not how scripture paints us and measuring ourselves in that way shows that we don't understand the purpose of the law. The law was not meant to show us that we disobey God all the time. The law reveals a truth to us that we cannot ignore - we are not just neutral people who have sinned - we are sinners. We are not neutral, we are rebellious. God already knows this. The law wasn't given so that God could determine whether or not we were rebels - it was given to show us what is true of us - we reject God's rule - or said another way - we are evil to the core.

That is why we need Jesus - because God has every right to destroy us given that we are evil - that we live, breath, eat and sleep evil - day in and day out. Today, this day, you have committed so much evil, that God is just and right if takes you from where you are and sends you to hell forever, and if you cannot see that, it is because you have a very warped idea of what is good and what is evil - an opinion that is no doubt echoed in the world. But a biblically informed conscience knows the truth. We really are evil. Really, really evil.

We don't want to be saved from our sin, we want to be free from punishment! We hate God and (though we might imagine that it is just his "rules" that we hate)  in reality we hate God's rules.  We hate God's rightful reign over us. We hate that God can condemn us, and we reject the notion that God has a right to execute us.  We rage against God's judgment of good and evil, because we have our own self-informed notion of what is good and what is evil.  Many are there today who call themselves Christians, who shamelessly deny what the bible says about God's righteousness and what God calls evil.

I could write on this till sun up, but I ought to close it off. The bottom line here is that there is a stink in the church - a festering stench that crept in through the floor vents, it reeks of worldly thinking, it masks itself as love or mercy, but its roots reach down to the earth, and not up to heaven. It ever so invisibly, quietly, and subtly removes God as the source of righteousness, and replaces Him with an ethical philosophy that is grounded upon an imaginary intrinsic Human worth.

Honestly, If someone thinks that Jesus died for everyone, and they believe that anyone who says otherwise is slandering Christ's good name, then there is nothing to be gained by lining up your proof texts from scripture against theirs.  Unless you like arguing for argument's sake.  The end of that is always that you end up arguing in circles rehashing and repeating the same points over and over, ten, twenty, thirty different ways - and they kindly in turn return in kind. I see people do this every day, especially here, on the internet.

If you find yourself in a conversation like this, or drawn to those sorts of discussions, whether you regard yourself as a defender of the one true faith, or just happen to be pulled into such an argument, remember that you cannot persuade people into truth, you can only present it to them.  Anyone who can be persuaded to become a Christian can be persuaded to become something else.  The gospel is not an argument it is news, and it is the kind of news that no man can trust unless God grants them the ability to trust in it.  You can't argue someone into the kingdom.  All you can do is tell them faithfully, the truth about it, and God will open their understanding or not.


posted by Daniel @ 11:44 PM   6 comment(s)
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Is Smoking Sinful?
We (Christians) cringe when other people (who identify themselves as Christians) spend a great deal of time and energy telling the world, in the most strident way possible, that God is no fan of homosexuality.

We (the rest of us Christians), with almost one voice are quick to balance that thought by saying that homosexuals are sinners like everyone else, and they are in need of salvation from their sin, not because they are homosexuals, but because they are sinners. We like to distance ourselves from people who present truth in such an unbalanced way. Yes, it is true that the unregenerate homosexual is going to go to hell if he doesn't repent of his sin - but so will the morally upstanding heterosexual, whose only sins are "white" lies. Both will be in hell, and isolating one sin as especially condemnable, is "sensational" at best, and more than a little phobic in the middle, and likely driven by hate and bigotry at the extreme.

But what does that have to do with smoking?

Listen: Failing to walk, even for a moment, in the Spirit is sinful. Can I phrase that more simply? I believe I can. It is a sin to light up a cigarette unless God has made it clear that it is His will for you to do so. How is that for a standard?

You see, people don't often stop to think just how sinful they are. They go to church, develop moral/religious habits, and once they have established a level of religion that works for their congregation, they more or less tread water spiritually speaking. They don't walk in the Spirit, though they may have momentary lapses where they actually stop and think about what God would have then do, or even <--gasp!--> pray about what they should do. But mostly, and I am painting with a large brush here, they are on a sort of "spiritual" auto pilot wherein they keep themselves from the big sins, and grapple pointlessly and fruitlessly day in and day out with the "little foxes that spoil the vine."

It is usually these carnally minded folks who ask a question like, "Is smoking sinful?" because the answer is - duh? Of course it is! Do you think the Holy Spirit is leading you to poison your own body and the bodies of those around you? Did Jesus ever do that?

The point of this post however is not to discuss smoking, it is to discuss majoring on the minors. That kind of question ("is smoking sinful?") is not really a question about what is right for a Christian, so much as it is a question about what is right for your religion. The Christian has the Holy Spirit whom he is supposed to be obeying. Thus the question for the Christian is not "is smoking okay?" - rather it is, "Does the Holy Spirit desire that I smoke?" - and the Christian struggle is in walking in the reality of the answer to that question - an answer we already know before we ask it, if we are indeed spiritual.


posted by Daniel @ 6:54 PM   4 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Double Crucifixion Part XVIII - The Argument
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):

We have said in previous posts that the text of Hebrews 6:4-6 is speaking of an hypothetical believer, and the reasoning behind the text is that a true believer cannot be restored again to repentance if he falls away - that is, he cannot be saved twice.

Regardless of what we try and make this text say, one thing this text makes inescapable: you can only ever be saved once.

The question of authorial intent comes into play at this point. Here we ask our selves, is that the point the author is trying to make? Is this inescapable truth stand the end of the author's intent or does it serve as a means to a different end entirely?

Before we explore that question, let's be certain that we understand fully the gravity of what is being said here, and why it makes sense. Just how many times can Jesus die for all your sins? The answer is once, and only once. Once Jesus has died for all your sins, he cannot die for them again.

Those who think you can be saved, and lost and saved and lost again - these do not understand this text, nor the absurdity of their opinion. Jesus cannot die for the same sins twice, either he dies once and for all your sins, or he hasn't died for your sins yet. In other words the "Christian" who abandons his faith was either never saved in the first place, in which case he can be still be saved, or if he was a true believer, and somehow fell away, this text says he could never again be restored to repentance (and therefore salvation).

I don't think the author of Hebrews intends to teach that you can lose your salvation forever, rather I think his intention is to show that you cannot fall in and out of salvation by showing the absurdity of such a notion - for if you could fall in and out of salvation, then Christ would have to die again and again for the same sins, and that is not only patently impossible, it is absurd. I think it was the author's intent to show that since it is impossible to be restored to repentance through Christ's death more than once, it is likewise impossible to "lose" your salvation - for if you could lose it, you would never be able to get it back, because salvation doesn't work that way.

By showing the absurdity of the conclusion, the author proves the false nature of the premise; that is, the author demonstrates that you cannot lose your salvation once you genuinely have it and he does this by walking the reader through the absurd conclusion that such a notion produces: Jesus would have to be crucified again and again for all your sins!

Consider the context this passage is framed in. The author began by speaking of the elementary principles of Christianity - principles that his readers are still grappling with because of their spiritual immaturity. This is where he identifies, I think the mire in which these particular believers were stuck - they were so busy trying to stay saved, they weren't growing in their faith. So he cuts that idea off at the roots by showing that you can't be saved more than once - either you are saved, or you never were saved in the first place, the soil that receives the rain either produces good crops or thorns and weeds - not that the crops change from wheat to tare and back again, you receive the gospel and become one or the other - and not some transforming hybrid that bounces in between both.

The author is convinced that his readers are not tares, but wheat, convinced that the seed has produced vegetation and not worthless thistles, convinced that God is not going to forget their work and the love they have shown - and upon this thought the author shows that he doesn't think his readers are lost souls, but soundly saved believers whom God will reward.

This is the doctrine of eternal security - the idea that genuine believers remain saved in spite of their sin. There are two ways to think of this doctrine:

The first is that you can sin like the devil and still be saved, so why bother trying to be holy, you may as well enjoy the ride and let go of all the guilt and stress. I would say that anyone who adopts this first attitude is demonstrating a profoundly carnal bent and is either about to receive the chastising of a life time because they are genuine and God is disgusted by their attitude - or they show themselves to be false, they think they are saved, but their heart attitude witnesses against them that they are not saved. When a person isn't saved, but is convinced that they are - this doctrine can be just another nail in their coffin, because they will use it as a shield to comfort themselves when they should be repenting.

The other way of thinking is that God is saving us, and we are not saving ourselves, it gives God glory, but doesn't excuse, condone, or even remotely suggest that it is now "okay" to sin. We flee from sin, not to get into heaven, but because we love God - the love of God constrains us, and even though we are eternally secure, that love continues to constrain us.

If a person thinks they can lose their salvation, what will they do to keep it? Why good works of course. They will set about to keep their salvation through good works, and because they are trying to do something selfish (I love my life, so I am trying to preserve it), it follows that all their good works are being done, not out of love from a pure heart and a good conscience, but out of self preservation, and fear - and rather than be drawn closer to God in their good works, they will instead be driven further from him, for no carnal work is good enough to draw a man to God.

A right doctrine, produces a right walk - and a right walk is not a stagnant walk, but a productive one. You are drawn to God because you are not trying to do Christianity in your own strength, but always and ever you are dependant upon the Lord to continue the spiritual work he has begun, and all your obedience is a reflection of your trust and love in God.

The end.


posted by Daniel @ 10:32 AM   4 comment(s)
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Double Crucifixion - Part XVII - Almost done.
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, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, and XVI.

We have shown in previous posts, to the best of our ability, that the author in Hebrews 6:4-6 is describing a hypothetical "true" believer. We have shown that while most of the description could be describing a false believer just as easily as a true believer, yet there is no room for such a muse when we examine the thought of restoring again such a one to repentance. If the repentance in question is genuine it marks the person as a true believer, and if the repentance is false, then there would be no point in restoring one to it, and the notion of falling away from a false repentance is sufficiently nonsensical that we can eliminate the thought as absurd.

Thus what the text is saying is that it is impossible to restore a Christian to repentance again if that believer falls away.

Rummaging through my mind I recall that Peter denied the Lord thrice, and I am tempted to use this truth to argue that it is therefore possible to "fall away" and be restored. But I don't think Peter fell away, and neither do you. Peter was trying to save his neck by lying about his association with Christ. There is a difference between Peter's denial of Christ and Judas Iscariot's denial of Christ, and to paint them with the same brush would be an error - even if it were convenient for sake of argument.

Judas knew that Jesus was the only Christ that would ever come; he knew that Jesus was authentic. He saw the signs and miracles, he was sent out to minister in Christ's name - being given authority and power to personally minister through healing and casting out demons! He knew first hand, that Jesus was the Christ. Judas was a witness of, and partaker in, all that Christ brought to this world, yet for all that Judas refused to surrender to the reconciling ministry of the Holy Spirit -- he refused Christ's reign, and in doing forever set aside the only ministry of reconciliation God gives.

The mercenary soldier wears the same uniform as the soldier who is a countryman. Both follow orders etc, but one is fighting for his country, the other for money. Judas was a mercenary, Peter, a countryman.

It wasn't that Judas possessed salvation then later lost it. Rather it was that Judas came to know the way of salvation, and rejected it from the start. He didn't want a place in the country, he wanted a paycheck; he rejected a citizenship in heaven, for the pleasures of this world. His association with Christ and Christianity was superficial, and when push came to shove, the facade fell away, and as it did he showed the world that he had always been a mercenary, and never a countryman. He wore the uniform, but did not have the heart of a countryman. When he turned aside from the army, he was not renouncing his citizenship, for he was never a citizen, and never chose to be one - he was setting aside the uniform, and the association. This is what apostasy is, and Judas was an apostate from the very start.

God planned it that way.

Peter on the other hand was a legitimate believer. It wasn't that Peter's understanding of who Christ was superior to Judas' - or that Peter believed the truths of Christ more ardently than Judas had - or any such thing; it was that Peter had turned to God when He believed that Jesus was the Christ, a thing Judas refused to do. Peter became a citizen from the heart, they wore the same uniform, but the man in Peter's uniform was Christ's, and the man in Judas' uniform was Satan's, though he probably thought himself to be his own man.

Thus when Judas denied Christ, it was like that mercenary soldier who was willing to serve in the army only until he saw no more benefit in doing so, and who then, turns coat on the field of battle. When Peter denied Christ however, that was a true soldier being routed by the enemy - fear, doubt, and weakness drove Peter from the field - his mouth denied Christ to save his life - but his routed heart did not turn away from Christ even as he fled in fear.

Thus, I am not inclined, to regard Peter's denial as an act of apostasy, for even scripture describes the event as a scattering of the flock after the Shepherd has been struck. Peter didn't stop being Christ's sheep when his Shepherd was struck, but he did panic and flee as scripture said he (as a member of Christ's flock) would.

I muse this way in order to examine whether the text is supposed to be a warning to true believers that if they fall away they will forever lose their salvation.

Think that through for a second, for if the text is saying that, and you are presently a true believer, the best thing that could happen to you today is that you get hit by a bus and die, because who knows whether you will be a believer tomorrow? Truly, if we can go from genuine believer to apostate, and if there is no return from apostasy - as this text would imply if it is in fact saying that genuine believers can fall away - then every second you live after the moment you are saved is a monumental risk. In fact, every day that God lets you live is no gift, but a cruel, cruel, curse! For if you can fall away forever once you are saved, then it is better to die immediately than live in jeopardy.

I reject the notion that God graciously gives people "eternal" life, but then takes it away forever if the same people fail to maintain their salvation.

If salvation, once had, can be eternally lost, the best way to mitigate against this loss is to put off salvation to the last minute, and who but the brass and reckless would attempt to be saved in their youth? For the longer one lives, the more likely one is to fall away, all things being equal - and if falling away is an eternal sin, then it is best to do as those early Christians who confused baptism with salvation did - put it off till the last possible minute.

Without getting mired in the various horrible spin offs of this error, it is enough to say that this text is either teaching that one can lose eternal life forever, or it is teaching something else.

I propose in the closing post to follow, that this text is arguing that no true believer can fall away, for this very reason - because they cannot be restored again if they do.

Stay tuned.


posted by Daniel @ 10:28 AM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Lessons from the Ark
Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, "As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before." Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you." And Joshua said to the priests, "Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people." So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people...

...And Joshua said, "Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan.
- Joshua 3:1-6, 10-11 [ESV]


The ark contained what? God's promise, the covenant. It went into Canaan before the Israelites, it went into Canaan well ahead of them by design.


First the promises, then the victory. Faith is given its focus here, for those with eyes to see.
posted by Daniel @ 7:16 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part XVI - Who Is This Hypothetical Fellow?
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, XII, XIII, XIV, and XV.

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]

What we have determined so far is that when the author describes an hypothetical person who has been enlightened, has tasted the heavenly gift, and has shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come - it doesn't necessarily cause us to conclude that this hypothetical person is a believer.

What is certain (up to this point at least), is that the hypothetical person has intimate knowledge about God, Christianity, and what it means to be a Christian. As yet, we can't say with certainty whether the hypothetical person represents a believer or an apostate/false convert.

Here now our theology can cause us to jump the shark, as it were, so let's be on our guard against that. I have been guilty in the past of reading my theology into this text, so I want to make sure I don't do that, and you should too.

If we believe already that a person can lose their salvation, we will be inclined to regard this person as a believer because we see the word "fall away" and we want to make this text prove what we already have decided.

Likewise, if we believe that a believer doesn't pop in and out of salvation, we will also be inclined to write this off as a false convert or an apostate - since that satisfies our theology.

But the text does not stop there, and neither should we. Let's hold off on our conclusions for just a moment longer.

For the sake of clarity, let us remove the shopping list and look at the structure of the sentence that encompasses it:
For it is impossible ...to restore them again to repentance.

Really, we could have done this at the beginning, but I wanted examine the list and show that it isn't wrong to say that the list, by itself is inconclusive. But I think that when we set the list aside, and look at what is being said of this person, the answer to our original query will become unmistakable, and unavoidable.

The first question that we must ask is whether the word "again" is actually in the Greek, and the answer is that the word -is- in the original language. Why do we ask? How is that significant? We ask, and it is significant because the word "again" here tells us that we are examining not a true vs. a false state, but a previous vs. present state.

What the author is saying is that it is impossible to once again restore someone to a previous state - and in this case that previous state is a state of repentance.

Now, because it makes no sense whatsoever to be restored to a previous state of false repentance (since that could hardly be described as "impossible"), we must conclude that in this passage the author is talking about falling away from a genuine repentance - ergo - falling away from a genuine faith.

Thus even though the shopping list was ambiguous by itself, yet in the light of this little word again, we must conclude that this passage is describing a genuine believer, and the impossibility of his restoration to faith.

What we have left to decide however, is what this means... and I tip my hand a bit by reminding you that we began this exercise by examining one type of biblical argument: reductio ad absurdum.

In the next, concluding post, we will draw our final conclusion about what the author means, and add some verses from the text itself to show the consistency of our interpretation. Till then.


posted by Daniel @ 9:13 AM   0 comment(s)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Love One Another.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well - James 2:8 [NASB]

I was reading Kim's blog earlier, and as I came across today's post, I started thinking about the passage above and how we as Christians ought to respond to it. As most of what I write here is no doubt well known to Kim, I opted to comment here in general about the matter rather than clutter her meta with my meandering thoughts, besides, who doesn't like being linked?

Anyone who has tried to read William Gurnall's "The Christian in Complete Armor" will have started their effort by examining the sheer magnitude of what is contained in Ephesians 6:10, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." I have been teaching weekly on this passage now for several months, following Gurnall's insights, and am thoroughly thankful for the blessing it has been to my own walk, and instruction.

Summarized, Gurnall shows that in order for Paul to fitly write this encouragement, there must be some substance behind the encouragement. God's must not only make this strength that we are to "be strong in" available to us, but Go must also intend for us to avail ourselves of it.

Gurnall shows that this cannot mean some beggarly portion of God's entire might, but must be, if it is God's strength, all of it at once - the same power and might that raised Christ from the dead. This is the strength that we are called to rely upon, and not as a buttress to our own strength, not as an aid by which we can affect our own deliverance - but a clean break from all self reliance in a moment of trial or temptation. It is an utter dependence upon the God of scripture and what He has made available in Christ to every believer. It is an informed assurance that God does not make such things available in some "optional" sense - but rather by making His might available, He must intend it for our use, and if intended, then to the it is intended not as an augment to our own strength, but as the answer to our own weakness. His strength cannot be supplemental, but must be the very foundation upon which we rest.

When we come to see the depth and utterness of our bankruptcy; that is, when we see that we cannot produce a right motive or a proper affection, that we absolutely lack the means and resources in our selves to stand against even the smallest trial or temptation in true victory - and resign ourselves to the fact that unless the victory is the Lord's the battle is fought in vain, I say when we come to know that there truly is nothing in us (that is, in our flesh) that can produce "love from a pure heart" because our heart, (in the flesh) is not, nor will it ever be, pure; I say, when we come to see that any and every affection we are able to muster up by way of motivation - will always and ultimately serve our own interests and that it cannot be otherwise - then and only then do we actually call upon God, not for help, but for deliverance.

Does scripture say that we will be helped out of our temptations, or delivered out of them? Don't be theologically lazy on this point - there is a huge difference.

We are delivered, not helped. Our victory is in Christ, not in our selves.

But how, one asks, do we apply such vaulted truth? How does that work in the trenches? How can I love my neighbor with unfeigned love from a pure heart, if my flesh is incapable of it? How to do acquire a "right" motive??

These are all questions that any honest believer ought to be asking when they come into this struggle.

Do any of you cherish a blanket, shirt, or some such thing that was hand made specifically for you by a friend or relative? What makes that item more special to you than some store bought merchandise? What I am getting at is the end product is not always the substance of the gift, is it? I mean, it is special to you because the effort that was put into producing it was entirely directed at you - it was not just made for you, but every stitch in that knit blanket is a silent testimony that someone cared about you. You cherish the love that went into it, the blanket or whatever is just a physical manifestation of that love. Getting the shirt or blanket or mitts or scarf, or whatever it is, that is not the point of the gift, that is just the expression the gift takes.

I speak that way because many begin in their faith to think that God wants obedience in the same way a person might like a shirt or a blanket - that if we furnish them with the end product we have fulfilled the duty. Think of Cain and Abel - both offered finished produce to God, but only one was accepted - the one that was offered in faith. It is the same with us today. God isn't concerned with the end product (obedience), he is concerned with how we obey. Do we obey in our own strength (like a store bought blanket), or do we recognize our own inability, and turn to him for His ability in our stead (home made).

I know, the metaphors are not perfect, and may even be confusing, but the point is
that God isn't telling us to love, he is telling us to do what we cannot do, so that we must turn to Him and be delivered from it.

How then do I love - I cannot love, but I can be delivered out of lovelessness. What does that look like? Does it mean that I suddenly have a profound, spiritual love welling up in me that overpowers my sinful slackness?


God isn't making our sinful flesh more Christ-like. I no more love my neighbor now, than I did ten years ago - but Christ in me loves my neighbor, and if I understand myself to be utterly corrupt, then I have the choice between letting my flesh rule me, or letting Christ rule me - and I can act in accord with the loveless dictates of my flesh, or the loving dictates of Christ in me. When I pray for deliverance, rather than help, I am praying not to be made better, but to overcome that which hinders Christ. I am praying for the strength that raised Christ from the dead to overcome the flesh in me.

That overcoming doesn't happen by annihilating the flesh (perfectionism) or by ignoring it (asceticism), it happens by faith - a genuine Christian has something a pretender doesn't: he genuinely desires to be free from sin, because Christ's Spirit is in him. Not simply that he wants to avoid guilt, or condemnation - but he hates sin, and what it is doing to him and others - he wants to be rid of it - and this is the motive that does not come from his flesh, but from God's Spirit. By itself it is not enough to cause a believer to love - and in the strength of that alone, one will only run far enough to understand their own profound depravity - they will desire to be free, but find themselves unable to apprehend that freedom.

This is where deliverance becomes a doctrine that has some teeth. The believer who comes to see that he is a wicked sinner, and continues to be so, in spite of all his external reform - this one is the one who comes to the place where he is no longer looking for help in the Christian endeavor - but is looking for deliverance from sin - and calling upon Jesus Christ to perform that deliverance on his behalf.

Not that he is looking to have his flesh mopped up, but that he is looking to turn away from the desires of the flesh, and obey the desires of the Spirit. Not that he is looking to have strong and godly motives carry him through every tribulation and trial, and temptation - to empower every good work - but rather that he is looking to be delivered from the carnal hindrances so that he is able to obey in the Spirit.

How do we love, when we cannot love? We love not with our own love, but having been delivered from lovelessness, we are free to let Christ love in and through us - and as he does (and not before), we share in it. I say, we share in it, because it isn't ours, nor does it come from us, but we become partakers of it as Christ loves through us - nor does it come before our obedience, as though we should sit around and wait for it to lift us on its wings and carry us into a right activity - rather as we obey, then we climb that holy hill, and fellowship - not before.

What Christ has done is open the door to our obedience, not for obedience's sake, but for fellowship, and in order that His life may be lived out in us, for the benefit of all involved: those whom we love, and even ourselves as we enjoy Christ's love.

Now, having said all that - these things are not, I suppose, plain and obvious in today's church. We seem far more interested in church as a country club, or religion as a theological exercise, than we do in magnifying Christ. These things I write, are supposed to be about what Jesus has done for us, and I intend by relating them to magnify Christ in our lives - to point to what He has done, and is doing, in order that the person of Christ plays a larger role in your life - the role He died (in part) to play. If I am successful, Who Christ is, and what He has done and is doing will have some impact in your walk.

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posted by Daniel @ 1:42 PM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Conviction Of Sin, Faith, and Repentence, And The Assurance of Salvation.
The Holy Spirit convicts man of sin.

That being the case, I have heard people (even pastors) say that conviction of sin is an indication that one is a genuine believer - that conviction of sin is the witness of the Holy Spirit that testifies to the genuineness of one's faith.

I would like to spend a few moments talking to that idea.

The non-believers heart is like ice that freezes into a hardened, rebellious lump. When the Holy Spirit shows the hardened heart of a non-believer that it has sinned, the hardened heart rejects the condemnation. It may feel bad, even remorse, but not because it agrees with its condemnation - rather it feels remorse because it disagrees with the condemnation: Why should I be condemned by this? It is not fair! Oh - I wish I had never done that, because now I stand condemned... Who is God to say that I should be condemned for this!?? God is wrong to condemn me. I made a mistake, but I don't deserve condemnation!

Now, I am attempting to congeal into a single thought a rather complex web of conscience, spiritual pressure, and real-life application - so bear with the clumsiness of my example. The point there was that any remorse a non-believer feels in this situation is the remorse of a condemned criminal who is forlorn only because they they believe their condemnation is unjust.

The believer's heart started out like any other non-believer's heart (for every believer was at one time a non-believer), but on the day God chose to save them, God melted their heart of ice to tears, as it were. It was this melting that allowed the Holy Spirit's testimony about their sin to not only condemn them, as it does in the heart of all men - but also to agree with God in that condemnation. To agree that they deserve hell and that God is just in sending them there.

You see, repentance is a work that God produces in us in order that we may see ourselves as justly condemned sinners, and this for one purpose: that the good news of the gospel would find purchase in our heart.

The believer agrees with the Holy Spirit's conviction because God opened his heart to do so - he believes because the seed was sown in soil that God Himself made ready. The non-believer contends with God over the conviction of condemnation, and that is the big difference.

I don't like to, and I don't think it is proper to, speak of the "Witness of the Holy Spirit", or rather to reduce the witness of the Holy Spirit to this idea that He convicts us of sin, since He convicts the world of sin, and not just believers. I wouldn't want to use the distinction I make here either, as thought God meant for us to be assured of our salvation by how we feel about our sin - since our hearts are desperately wicked, and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9);

The witness of the Holy Spirit is best described in John 3:8 - the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, as vague as that may sound. Yet just as I am assured that the wind is there by hearing it in my ears, feeling it on my face, and watching the grass bend and the trees sway, and the dust swirl - so too I am convinced of the Holy Spirit's testimony concerning my eternal state when I see the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in my life - the opening of my eyes to truth, the desires of my heart that run contrary to the flesh, the hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the deep hatred for all sin, the loving chastisement of the Father, and the profound answering of prayers again, and again, and again. All these combine to give insurmountable testify to me that there is a spiritual reality to my faith that I alone, cannot deny. Others may deny it of me, but I cannot. It is as personal and profound as my own identity, and though I may suffer doubt as anyone, yet I cannot deny the work of God in my life - I cannot deny the presence of God in my life.

Sin, and the devil be rebuked! Let's stop telling people that mere conviction of sin is a sure sign of salvation, and train our people to know what conviction is, how it works, and how it differs between believers, and non-believers, and especially, how it differs from the genuine assurance that God gives us as we walk with Him.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:51 AM   3 comment(s)
Double Crucifixion. Part XV - What Did We Learn About The List?
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, XII, XIII, and XIV.

What we have done so far is examine a list of descriptions for an hypothetical person, as found in Hebrews 6:4-5. The person described there is one who has:
  • once been enlightened
  • tasted of the heavenly gift
  • been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit,
  • tasted the good word of God and tasted the powers of the age to come.
We reason that there are only three states this list can be describing:
  1. "Wheat" (genuine believers)
  2. "Tares" (counterfeit/false believers)
  3. Both "Tares and Wheat"
Let's be careful here also, we are only trying to decide what this text "can" mean, and not necessarily what it "must" or "does" mean. That is, we are trying to address the question of scope honestly, given only this list (so far).

From our previous posts, I think it is clear that the author of Hebrews does not mean to describe a rank unbeliever here, and for that reason I haven't included the idea in our enumerated list above.

The problem for us is that the author is describing someone who is either directly, or indirectly taking part in the Christian experience - someone who is taking part in "church" - that is, someone who is congregating with believers.

Now, it should be obvious even from my choice of categories, that not everyone in every congregation is a wheat - there are tares amongst the wheat, and that being the case, I think we cannot say that these descriptions --must-- apply to a believer, and only a believer, because it can be adequately proven that false converts can be enlightened, take part in communion, receive the benefits of fellowship, and God's spirit, etc. etc. without ever having been genuinely saved themselves.

Which is to say that while this list suggests that one is a partaker of spiritual activity, it does not necessarily demand that this same activity is a function of one's own salvation.

On the other hand - we mustn't let the weight of whatever theology we already hold to press us to be hasty in drawing some conclusion at this junction either.

If we already believe that a person can lose their salvation, we are going to read this list assuming it is describing a believer who "falls away", and conclude that this list supports that notion.

Likewise, if we believe that genuine saints will always persevere because no one, including themselves, can take them from God's hand - then we might also seize this list and declare that it "must" be a tare because only a tare can "fall away."

Both paths are a little premature at this juncture. Let us instead simply say that given only this list, we reason that the author is describing a person who has partaken of the Christian experience, either as a genuine, or as a false convert. Whatever opinions we hold that would sway us one way or the other, notwithstanding - at this point we are only going to say that it -can- go either way.

The remainder of the passage, and further verses later on in the same context and chapter, decides (for me) which way my understanding should go, but we won't begin to talk about that until the next post in the series.


posted by Daniel @ 8:59 AM   4 comment(s)
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Sphinxs, Harpies, and Centaurs, oh my!
Mengele would have been proud...

If you haven't already, give this article a read.

For those who haven't the patience the article describes how efforts to grow human-animal hybrids has failed so far. The business-as-usual tone of the article creeps me out. Granted, the research is ostensibly about growing "things" that we can then harvest for their useful inards, from DNA to organs.



posted by Daniel @ 9:41 AM   0 comment(s)
Monday, February 02, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part XIV - Taste The Power!
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, XII, and XIII .

The next item in our list is:

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

In order to have an opinon about whether this describes a believer, we have to understand what it is describing. Three things hamper our understanding:
[1] What does it mean to "taste"?
[2] What is meant by powers?
[3] What is the age to come?

We have dealt with the whole idea of tasting already, and concluded that the language of tasting a thing is, well, rather imprecise, it could mean tasting one's own meal, or tasting an other's meal, and for that reason and because the whole point swings on this word tasting, our conclusion for this point will necessarily be inconclusive.

Notwithstanding, we ought to answer the other questions, as best we can before we get there. There are several words used for power in the NT, this one is often associated with the miraculous. If we follow that association, the "power" discussed here would refer to miraculous intervention of some sort.

The power we are discussing however, is qualified as being characteristic, not of this age (oh well!), but of the age to come. Now, depending on your eschatology, the age to come might mean the post-apostolic age, or maybe the end times, or possibly the new heavens and the new earth.

Rather than bring my own speculations upon this - it is suffice at this time to say that there is a lot of room for a wide spectrum of interpretation, on what this means - but at the end of the day, as I mentioned, since one is only tasting this, it could easily describe something as mundane as tasted of the miraculously provided loaves and fish, which by no means is conclusive.

Having examined the whole list, with as much scrutiny as seemed prudent for a blog, it seems to me that all we can conclude for certain (given only this list), is that it describes someone who has shared in the external experiences of the church.

That isn't to say that we dismiss the passage as inconclusive, but rather that we cannot conclude one way or the other, with any finality, whether this little list absolutely describes a believer or not. It certainly would describe most believers, but would equally describe most tares.

In the next post, we will look at the surrounding text and see if that sheds some light on the issue.
posted by Daniel @ 1:18 PM   0 comment(s)
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