Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Chalcedon's Solution...

In previous posts the New Testament writers understanding of the Deity of Christ was presented. This post has to do with how the church came to understand the person of Christ in the first few centuries after his ascension. In 451 A.D. the Council of Chalcedon produced the following doctrinal statement regarding the person of Christ:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

Monday, May 28, 2007

How Death Can Glorify God?

John Piper provides about a one minute explanation for how our death can glorify God:

21st Century Evangelicalism: Christianity or Deism or Gnosticism?

It is surprising to me the number of sincere and devout Christians that I have met who think very little about the arts. Many Christians have bought into a kind of post-enlightenment gnosticism that views the material world as evil or at best second rate. We have allowed certain explicitly spiritual activities, such as prayer or evangelism, to be elevated to the pinnacle of Christian discipleship. However, Christ's Lordship over all things will not allow us to simply remove ourselves from the material world and focus in on only those activities which are explicitly spiritual. In fact if we only focus in on those activities that are explicitly spiritual we are living more as Deists than as Christians. For the Christian all of life is to be viewed from a God-centered lens. The implications of Christ's Lordship over all things for our discipleship are numerous and I hope to address a couple of these in future posts. For now I leave you with the following quote from Francis Schaeffer:

"As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the Lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the Lordship of Christ over the whole of man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Does Theology Really Matter?

Over the last several months I have heard numerous people suggest that controversial theological issues get in the way of our relationship with God. Granted it is definitely a possibility that theological discussion (cf. John 5:39-40) distract from our vision of God. However, if theological study is done with an appropriate humility and desire to see more of the glory of God in the person of Christ it can have some marvelous effects on our walks with God. Sam Storms has written a very practical article that shows how much of an impact a proper understanding of theology can have in a person's life. He lists seven ways in which his life would be different if he did not believe in the absolute sovereignty of God over all things including evil. The seven effects are listed below and can also be found on his website.

1. I would despair of my eternal destiny. I would have no assurance of salvation. Knowing the depravity of my soul, I would most certainly apostatize were it not for God's sovereign preservation of me (cf. Rom. 8).

2. I would be terrified of all suffering, with no confidence that God can turn evil for good and bring me safely through. Cf. Rom. 8:28 and relation to vv. 29-30.

3. I would become manipulative and pragmatic in evangelism, believing that conversion is altogether a matter of my will/skill vs. will/skill of unbeliever. J. I. Packer explains:
"While we must always remember that it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves. It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument. We must not at any stage forget that. For if we forget that it is God's prerogative to give results when the gospel is preached, we shall start to think that it is our responsibility to secure them. And if we forget that only Good can give faith, we shall start to think that the making of converts depends, in the last analysis, not on God, but on us, and that the decisive factor is the way in which we evangelize" (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God [Downers Grove: IVP, 1961], p. 27).
Once we begin to think that faith and repentance are in an individual's power to produce, we shall adopt those methods and contrived devices by which to extract them from him. We would become sinfully pragmatic: whatever works to secure a decision is for that reason deemed acceptable. Knowing what the gospel is would be only half the task. We would also need to develop an irresistible technique for evoking a response. The truth or falsity of an evangelistic method, therefore, would be determined solely on the basis of the fruit that it allegedly bore. Furthermore, Packer continues, "we should regard evangelism as an activity involving a battle of wills between ourselves and those to whom we go, a battle in which victory depends on our firing off a heavy enough barrage of calculated effects. Thus our philosophy of evangelism would become terrifyingly similar to the philosophy of brainwashing" (28).
But it is not right when we take it upon ourselves to do more than God has commissioned us to do:
"It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts, and look to our own enterprise and techniques to accomplish what only God can accomplish. To do that is to intrude ourselves into the office of the Holy Ghost, and to exalt ourselves as the agents of the new birth. And the point that we must see is this: only by letting our knowledge of God's sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault" (29).

4. I would cease praying for God to convert and save the lost. If the ultimate causal factor in human conversion is the self-determined human will, not the divine will, it is futile and useless to ask God to work or touch or move upon the human will so as to assuredly bring them to faith.

5. I would despair of the political process and live in fear/anxiety/resentment of those elected officials who oppose the kingdom of God. See Daniel 2:21; 4:17,25,32; 5:18-31.

6. I would live in fear of nature: tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and hail and rain. Cf. Pss. 147-148.

7. I would despair of ever doing anything of a spiritual nature that God requires and commands of me. Phil. 2:12-13.

Friday, May 25, 2007

J.I. Packer's Assessment of Paul's Self-perception...

"Paul in his own estimation, was not a philosopher, not a moralist, not one of the world's wise men, but simply Christ's herald. His royal Master had given him a message to proclaim; his whole business, therefore, was to deliver that message with exact and studious faithfulness, adding nothing, altering nothing, and omitting nothing."

(HT: Joshua Harris)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jesus and Plato Paper...

Recently I was asked to compare Plato's perception of reality as articulated in "The Allegory of the Cave" with that of Jesus' as articulated in "The Gospel of John." In light of this request I have written the following paper. (I have included the entire paper below because the previous link was password protected.)

Introduction
The purpose of this paper is to examine the similarities and differences in Jesus’ and Plato’s perception of reality. This analysis of Jesus’ and Plato’s thought will be based on the Gospel of John and The Allegory of the Cave. Plato’s Allegory was written hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth and yet the areas of overlap between these two men’s teaching is striking. The first part of this paper will focus in on five areas of overlap between JPR and PPR. In fact it is the contention of this author that there are many more areas of similarities between the two than there are differences. However, the differences that exist are fairly significant and two of these will be addressed in the second part of this paper.

Similarities
In The Allegory Plato describes the prisoners in the cave as being unable to turn their heads and behold what is going on behind them. Plato is addressing people’s inability to really understand reality because of their present circumstances. These prisoners did not realize that they were bound and that their perception of reality was inaccurate. They assumed based on all the empirical data that reality was what they were beholding. This is similar to what Jesus taught related to the nature of sin when he confronted the religious people of his day. In John 8:34 Jesus said that those who commit sin are in bondage to sin. In other words, since all people sin and are thus in bondage to sin they are unable to have an accurate perception of reality. Much like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory, these religious people that Jesus interacted with, did not feel enslaved, nevertheless this did not change the reality of their enslavement and their inability to rightly perceive things.

Another area of similarity between JPR and PPR can be seen in Plato’s description of what would happen if one of the prisoners beheld the fire. The prisoner would desire to “escape and turn back to the things which he could see distinctly, convinced that they were really clearer than these other objects now being shown to him.” Plato says that the prisoner would “suffer pain and vexation” if he were forced to go beyond the fire into the direct sunlight. In other words, the prisoner has an internal, intrinsic desire for the “false reality” and when he sees the “sunlight”, even though it is true, he is repulsed by it. This is very similar to JPR as remembered by John. In John 3:19-20 we read, “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Much like the prisoner in the cave who is repulsed by the experience of the sunlight, so those who see the light reject the light because they loved the darkness. For both Jesus and Plato “truth” is not something that is merely intellectually satisfying, it is something that must be enjoyed on the affectional level as well.

The third area of overlap in JPR and PPR can be seen in Plato’s description of the process that the freed prisoner would go through once he was brought into the sunlight. At first “his eyes would be so full of its radiance that he could not see a single one of the things that he was now told are real.” However, after some time the prisoner’s ability to accurately behold reality would increase. Two specific examples in the teaching of Jesus illustrate how this process worked for his first disciples. The first example is found in John 2:19 where Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” We are then told that the disciples did not fully understand that he was talking about his physical body until after his resurrection (cf. John 2:22). They went through a process of being able to accurately assess “truth.” The second specific example that shows that JPR was one in which a person increasingly arrives at an ability to rightly assess truth can be seen in John 16:12. Jesus tells his disciples, “I have many thing to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” In other words, there was truth that the disciples needed to know, but as of yet they were not in a position to receive it. They needed to go through a process of being able to rightly assess and appreciate truth, much like the “freed prisoner” in Plato’s Allegory.

The fourth area of overlap between JPR and PPR can be seen in what would happen to the freed prisoner after he recognizes true reality. The freed prisoner would “surely think himself happy in the change” and be sorry for his fellow prisoners. The freedman would not desire or “covet” the things of the shadow world, instead he would be “like Homer’s Achilles” and “endure anything rather than go back to his old beliefs and live the old way.”
JPR was one that was very similar to this. It is perhaps best illustrated in his healing of a blind man in John 9. When the blind man was healed he was willing to suffer the ridicule and ostracization of the community for the sake of his experience of truth. He did not care ultimately about receiving the commendation (John 9:30-34) of those who were still blind (cf. John 9:39-41). The man knew that his experience of truth had forever changed him and much like the freedman from The Allegory would “endure anything rather than go back to his old beliefs and live the old way.”

The fifth area of overlap between JPR and PPR can be seen in how the fellow prisoners of the freedman would treat him when he returned to the cave and gave his assessment of reality. Plato points out that the prisoners would “laugh at him [the freedman] and say that he had gone up only to come back with his sight ruined; it was worth no one’s while even to attempt the ascent. If they could lay hands on the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they would kill him.” JPR is very much in alignment with this particular Platonic perception of reality. The similarity is clearly illustrated in Jesus’ teaching to his disciples that the world would hate them (cf. John 15:18-19). The reason that the world would hate them is because even though they still function in the world, their understanding of reality has been so transformed that it is though they are not of the world. Much like Plato’s freedman who returns to the cave, the disciples have experienced true reality. When this experience of true reality is shared with others it often causes the recipients to be enraged and seek to kill the messenger. This is because they love the darkness and do not want to come to the light.

Differences
Now that we have seen some of the similarities between JPR and PPR we move on to an assessment of two specific differences. The first difference between JPR and PPR is that in The Allegory Plato describes the prisoner as being dragged away in a very forceful way before coming to the knowledge of the truth. Both Jesus and Plato use the same word (e[lkw) to describe the process of being freed from the realm of shadows/sin, but Jesus makes much clearer that the One doing the e[lkw, does it in such a way that the one being freed from his present reality actually desires to come (cf. 6:37-44). Had Plato been able to hear Jesus’ teaching on this it appears that he would have embraced it; however, as it is JPR and PPR are in tension on this point.

The second difference in the JPR and the PPR is seen in the way that the prisoner comes to the reality of truth. In The Allegory the prisoner is taken out of his present realm and thus arrives at true reality. However, in Jesus’ perception of reality “True Reality” has invaded time and space. Or to put it in Platonic terms, “True Reality has entered the cave.” This is seen most clearly in Christ’s claim to be “The Truth” (cf. John 14:6). In other words, the “True Reality” has entered into our world and this “light shines in the darkness” (cf. John 1:5). There is no need ascend into another realm in order to understand the true nature of things. For the True Nature of things has descended into our realm.

Conclusion
It is amazing that Plato had developed this understanding of the nature of reality some three hundred years before Jesus came to the earth. What this testifies to is the amazing way in which God has set up the world. The creation itself reveals many amazing truths about God and His created order and God has created humans in such a way that they are able to ask logical questions which can lead to a more full understanding of the nature of reality.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Richard Sibbes on the righteousness of works...

"The righteousness of works leaves, the soul in perplexity; that righteousness which comes by any other means than by Christ leaves the soul unsettled, because the law of God promises life only upon absolute and personal performance. Now the heart of man tells him that this he has not done, such and such duties he has omitted, and this breeds perplexity because he has not any support."

Who will be in the NBA Finals?

The playoffs are still going?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jesus and Plato

Recently I was asked to compare Plato's perception of reality as articulated in "The Allegory of the Cave" with that of Jesus' as articulated in "The Gospel of John." In light of this request I have written the following paper:

Introduction
The purpose of this paper is to examine the similarities and differences in Jesus’ and Plato’s perception of reality. This analysis of Jesus’ and Plato’s thought will be based on the Gospel of John and The Allegory of the Cave. Plato’s Allegory was written hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth and yet the areas of overlap between these two men’s teaching is striking. The first part of this paper will focus in on five areas of overlap between JPR and PPR. In fact it is the contention of this author that there are many more areas of similarities between the two than there are differences. However, the differences that exist are fairly significant and two of these will be addressed in the second part of this paper...(To read the whole thing click here)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Resources for Writing Exegesis Papers...

Dr. Roy Ciampa of Gordon-Conwell Seminary has compiled a list of excellent resources for doing exegesis of the New Testament. He has posted these resources at the following website. One of the resources that I have found helpful is his document on writing exegesis papers. In this document Dr. Ciampa provides some helpful guidelines for issues that need to be addressed in an exegetical paper.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jonathan Edwards Resolutions...

Another two of Edward's resolutions that have been helpful to me:

Resolution #7
"Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life."


Resolution #10
"Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Powerful Song...

Yesterday at Church we sang the following song. Apparently the author wrote the song after losing a child. The lyrics to this song are absolutely powerful. In particular I was struck by the reference to Job 1:20-22. I believe that the song is called "I Will Praise You in This Storm."

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

Chorus:
I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

Chorus:

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of Heaven and Earth

Jonathan Edwards Resolutions....

Resolution #28
Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In Honor of Mother's Day...

John Piper preached a sermon six years ago on Mother's Day called "To Be A Mother is a Call to Suffer." It is a great sermon and extremely appropriate for today. If you would like to read the sermon you can click here

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Jonathan Edwards Resolutions

Resolution #6
"Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live."


Resolution #22
"Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Protestants and Catholics...

Recently the president of the Evangelical Theological Society decided to join the Catholic Church. This has led many Evangelicals to make broad-sweeping statements regarding the nature of the Catholic Church. Some of these statements are no doubt true, but so often these are arguments that are regurgitated by non-thinking Protestants. Many Evangelicals are quick to dismiss the Catholic view of justification and yet if you pressed them on certain texts they would not be able to give a satisfactory answer. I do believe that the Bible is clear that justification is an instantaneous, legal declaration by God in which God views the sinner trusting in Christ as having their sins forgiven and the righteousness of Christ imputed to their accounts. However, too many Protestants have accepted this position without dealing with the difficult texts. There have been many Protestants who have communicated unintentionally (although sometimes intentionally) that what saves a person is a "right understanding of justification." A rightly articulated position on justification (while massively important) is not what saves people. Jesus Christ saves people. But how exactly does He save people? What is the grounds of this salvation? In light of these questions I plan on addressing (in future posts) one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament (James 2:14-26) regarding the grounds of our salvation.

Jonathan Edwards Resolution #5

"Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

From my reading...

One of the books that I have been reading is called Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. I am only about a hundred pages in, but already Volf has made some helpful statements. Volf critiques the popular cultural ideology of "tolerance and non-judgment" in the following way:
"An 'ironic stance' may be all that people desire who are spoiled by affluence because it legitimizes their narcissistic obsession with 'creating their private self-images' and 'reweaving their webs of unbelief and desire.' But an 'ironic stance' is clearly not what people suffering hunger, persecution, and oppression can afford. For they know that they can survive only if judgment is passed against those who exploit, persecute, and oppress them." --Miroslav Volf p. 68 Exclusion and Embrace

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards...

I recently came across several resolutions that Jonathan Edwards made as a young man. Over the next couple of days I plan on posting selections from his resolutions that I have found particularly helpful. Today's post is a reflection on 1 Corinthians 10:31 by Edwards:

"Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever." --Jonathan Edwards

Hindsight is 20/20

Revised Playoff Picks...
After watching the Phoenix Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs last night I need to change my pick. I still think that the Spurs may win in five or six, but I do not want to pick them to beat the Suns. So I am changing my pick to Suns in seven. I am changing my pick for two primary reasons. First of all the Suns showed that they can play with the Spurs on a physical as well as a mental level. The second reason that I am changing my pick is that I cannot support a team that cheats. Case in point: Last night, Stoudamire set a pick on Manu Ginobli and rather than fight through the screen Ginobli fell on the ground and grabbed Stoudamire's leg. This is absolutely ridiculous. T

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

NBA Playoff Picks....

Conference Semifinals
Detroit vs Chicago
Pistons in 5.

Cavs vs Nets
Nets in 7

Spurs vs Suns
Spurs in 6

Warriors vs Jazz
Jazz in 5

Conference Finals
Pistons vs Nets
Pistons in 4

Spurs vs Jazz
Spurs in 5

NBA FInals
Spurs vs Pistons
Pistons in 6

Is Jesus God? Part 9

This is the final post in the series on the Deity of Christ. For those that are interested I hope to post the entire paper on line with footnotes, bibliographic information, and appropriate Greek fonts.

Conclusion
The purpose of this paper has been to provide a biblical foundation regarding the deity of Christ by examining some of the key tradition bearers in the early church. As we have examined the texts from each author we can see that the New Testament writers are in unanimous agreement concerning the deity of Christ. The Christology that Paul, Peter, James, the author of Hebrews, and John have taught is one that “explicitly and unequivocally asserts the deity of Christ.”[49] Jesus Christ is no mere man. He is fully God.[50] We must not make him in our own image but we must return and again and again to the biblical portrait of Christ.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Is Jesus God? Part 8

This is part 8 of 9 in the series on the deity of Jesus. Today's post addresses some of the implications of the identity of Jesus.

Implications
The implications from this truth are numerous and extremely important. First of all if Jesus were not fully God then he could not “bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in Him—any finite creature would have been incapable of bearing that penalty.”[44] A second implication for us that Jesus is God is that we should honor Him as God by worshipping Him, seeking His Help[45], and asking for Him to return[46] and “put the world to rights.”[47] A third implication of Christ being God is that “only someone who was truly and fully God could be the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5), both to bring us back to God and also to reveal God most fully to us…”[48] When these implications are put together we are confronted with the fact that if Jesus is not God then “we have no salvation and ultimately no Christianity.”

Thoughts on the Quote of the Day:

Today's quote of the day comes from the pen of Jonathan Edwards. Rather than supply a lengthy explanation into the meaning of the quote I thought I would ask my readers to offer up their suggestions. Here is the quote:

“True liberty consists only in the power of doing what we ought to will, and in not being constrained to do what we ought not to will”---Jonathan Edwards

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Top Ten Plays #1

The number one play of the year. A turn around three pointer to avoid the double-team trap with the shot clock running down:

Friday, May 4, 2007

Top 10 Plays #2

Steve Nash in one of the most incredible basketball performances I have ever watched...

Territorial Spirits?

Have you ever wondered whether there were territorial spirits? Have you ever felt an increased presence of evil in certain cities or parts of the city? Have you ever wondered if this was due in part to territorial spirits? Sam Storms has done some thinking on this issue from a Biblical Perspective and has put together his thoughts in the following document

Quote of the Day

“In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign,does not declare,'That is mine!'” --Abraham Kuyper

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Quote of the Day

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” --Abraham Kuyper

Top 10 Plays #3

Gilbert Arenas with the game winner...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Reader's Hebrew Bible

Zondervan has recently released a new Reader's Hebrew Bible below is a description from the Zondervan website: (Click Here for more information)

Description:
Ideal for Hebrew students and pastors, A Reader’s Hebrew Bible saves time and effort in studying the Hebrew Old Testament. By eliminating the need to look up definitions, the footnotes allow the user to read the Hebrew and Aramaic text more quickly, focusing on parsing and grammatical issues. A Reader’s Hebrew Bible offers the following features: • Complete text of the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible using the Leningrad Codex (minus critical apparatus) • Shaded Hebrew names that occur less than 100 times • Footnoted definitions of all Hebrew words occurring 100 times or less (twenty-five or less for Aramaic words) • Context-specific glosses • Stem-specific glossed definitions for verb forms (Qal, Piel, Hiphil, and so forth) • Ketib/Qere readings both noted in the text and differentiated appropriately • Marker ribbon


(HT: Zondervan via Between Two Worlds)