Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We Move Toward What We Love

We say we long to be around those with whom we can be ourselves.  But we all, in fact, adapt ourselves to those we are with.  It may be unconscious, but those who are being sanctified change out of the duty of love, at times moment by moment, as we try to read those we engage with.  Also, to say that we want to be ourselves suggests that we think we are static and unchanging.  But if we are Christians this can't be true.  We grow to love that which we surround ourselves with.  We move towards, grow towards, that which we commune with, that which we love.  To remain the same is not only not loving - to remain the same is death.

The Roman Catholic Church Created Protestantism

Luther's goal was to reform the church, but the church repudiated him and what he was trying to do.  It is often said that Luther split from the Roman Catholic Church.  That is not true.  He was thrown out of the Roman Catholic Church.  There is a huge difference.  Luther was no schismatic.  He did not start some new religion on his own authority.  He did not dream up some new theology.  He was trying to bring the church back to its true nature and its true message, as defined by the Word of God, which the church itself professed to believe.

The Roman Church, in turn, refused to take the concerns seriously, much less give them a genuine hearing.  The pope refused to address even the most flagrant abuses that were obvious to everyone.  Instead of listening to those who questioned its direction, the Roman Church tried to destroy them.  Thus the Roman Catholic Church created Protestantism. -- Gene Edward Veith

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Pastoral Affection of John Calvin

John Calvin displays a Pauline love for the church under his charge, even in exile after having been sent away by the Genevans, in contrast to the harsh tyrant he is often portrayed as having been:  "For though I am for the present relieved of the charge of the Church of Geneva, that circumstance ought not to prevent me from embracing it with paternal affection - God, when He gave it to me in charge, having bound me to be faithful to it for ever.  Now, then, when I see the worst snares laid for that Church whose safety it has pleased the Lord to make my highest care, and grievous peril impending if not obviated, who will advise me to await the issue silent and unconcerned?  How heartless, I ask, would it be to wink in idleness, and, as it were, vacillating at the destruction of one whose life you are bound vigilantly to guard and preserve?" (Calvin's Reply to Sadoleto)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pros and Cons of "Radical", by David Platt

Pros:

1.) Platt has a deep understanding of human depravity.
2.) His critique of consumeristic Evangelicalism is good and quite needed.
3.) His emphasis on learning and understanding the entire Bible - not just the New Testament - is refreshing and very needed in our time.
4.) He seeks to promote a God-centeredness in the Christian life, in contrast to the self-centeredness so common today, even in the Church.

Cons:

1.) He pushes very heavily the idea that it is the duty of every Christian individual to be personally involved in international missions. And he pushes it to the point that he sees it as disobedience to Scripture and therefore sin not to do so. The problem is that the Bible doesn't say that, no matter how he spins texts to try to make them say it. Up until the past hundred years, with technological advances in travel, such wouldn't have even been possible for the average Christian through most of history. Should the average medieval Christian villager, poor beyond our conception, have spent his life in constant guilt because he couldn't leave his family behind and hop a boat to the next pagan continent? When addressing logical and Biblical arguments against his idea, Platt simply dismisses them, rather than dealing with them. That is because Scripture simply doesn't teach what he says it does.

2.) He tries to address worldwide poverty and American wealth in an overly-simplistic way. With the system he sets up, one is left feeling perpetually guilty for owning anything. But the Bible doesn't support his teaching. He notes the complications involved in politics, economics, and the like. But whereas such realities should make him stop trying to address the issue, he keeps going. In this and other matters, where true solutions only come holistically, he teaches a reductionistic approach that will only result in failure.

3.) Platt lacks a clear and Biblical theology of family. He seems to see attention to family as in competition with missions. As a solution to this, he is in great need of a Biblical understanding of a hierarchy of responsibilities. Parental neglect of the primary duties of family inevitably results in children abandoning the Church and Christianity. And this will be the result of Platt's approach.

4.) In connection with the above, he lacks a Biblical theology of culture. His goal seems to be to see how little you can live with, and give the rest away. As I addressed somewhat above, this results in all sorts of problems. Who would develop culture, leading to the technological advancements which Platt enjoys and takes for granted, and which furthers the missions he seeks to invest himself in? Not only does somebody have to put in the plumbing, there had to be somebody to invent plumbing. Then you need people working on advances in plumbing and other technologies, to further and improve human life. This requires capital. Platt, in all of this, seems, as sometimes happens with Reformed Baptist types, to fall into a sort of cultural Anabaptism. He fails to understand what the New Testament means when it critiques "the World", ending up in a sort of anti-Biblical Gnosticism. He makes a few occasional comments that seem intended to prevent such a conclusion, but he ends up there in practice anyway. To put it another way, he ends up in the same place that is common with Evangelicals - rather than Redemption being a Redemption of all of Creation, Redemption ends up swallowing Creation.

5.) For Platt, everything is extreme. In this regard, he is unknowingly mirroring the culture he tries to reject. He is in constant crisis mode. Everything is "radical" and "urgent". The tyranny of the immediate rules in Platt's theology. Platt would do well to return to the agrarian imagery of Scripture. True change comes like the planting of a seed and the harvesting of a crop. It takes time, often a long time. And to switch the metaphor a bit...there are times to work, no doubt. And there are real needs. But there is also a Biblical theology of Sabbath, which Platt seems to have overlooked. Less Revivalism, more Reformation.

6.) Platt ends the book with pushing the reader to pledge to "The Radical Experiment", a pledge to five points of radical commitment for the coming year. And of course, the point is that you then commit to continue this lifestyle long after the year is up. What struck me is how easily the book conforms to the very monastic vows the Reformation stood against. There is the vow of poverty, the clearest in Platt's book. Then there is the vow of chastity. Platt himself doesn't appeal to that, being a married man himself. And yet it is very clear in his theology that family takes a back seat to missions. It is only logical then that family should be a hindrance, and not something to be pursued at all, if one wants to be a true disciple of Christ. And then there is obedience to a rule, which Platt's book qualifies as. These are the means to being a saint, in medieval Roman speak - or Radical, in Platt's way of speaking. Evangelicals don't like to hear how similar they often are to Rome, in contrast with the Reformation. And yet here we have another example of how true that can be.

7.) Historical ignorance. Platt's basic thesis, bound up with the above, is that the American Dream is unbiblical. Yet the American Dream is a decidedly ambiguous matter to begin with. Platt seems to think it necessarily includes individualism, but I would strongly disagree with that. There is a pagan concept of the American Dream, which Platt is trying to address. But then there is a Christian approach to the American Dream, born out of Western Christendom and founded upon Scripture. Platt, like alot of popular contemporary teachers, doesn't seem to know the difference.

The inevitable end result of Platt's teaching, as history has proven, will be massive burnout and abandoning of the Christian faith. The only question is how massive it will be.

Platt is open that he doesn't know everything, and is learning as he goes. That is admirable, especially from a guy with two master's degrees and a Ph.D. And as much as I appreciate the positives in his book, neither they nor his degrees fix the problems in the book. It's just another example of the fact that, in our time, though bestsellers are what everybody is reading, they are what nobody should be reading.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Love and Gratitude

Men turn to power when they believe love to have failed.

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Gratitude is by nature dependent on the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign over all things, then it is impossible for one to be grateful in all things.

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Worrying is, at its heart, to accuse God of being stingy.

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Complaining is the outworking of ingratitude. We complain, because we are ungrateful for what we've been given. And there is nothing we have that did not originate as gift. All things we have are things we have received - if not from another person, then directly from the hand of God Himself. It's amazing how infectious complaining is. "Bad company corrupts good morals." This is true no matter who our company is - friends, family, even people who influence us through the media, such as tv. But it is probably most perpetuated by authority figures. We imitate those who are in authority over us. And when authority figures maintain a habit of complaining, they create a spirit of ingratitude, and therefore of complaining, in those they are in authority over.

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Discontentment and ingratitude are of a piece. If we are discontented, it isn't because we lack any need, but because we lack gratitude.

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Gratitude and ingratitude shape one's vision.  Gratitude sees beauty, and reciprocates by creating beauty.  Ingratitude sees ugliness, and reciprocates vindictively by creating ugliness.  Gratitude beautifies and is constructive, ingratitude uglifies and is destructive.  As such, all art and aesthetics are moral in nature.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A. W. Tozer on Modern Church Practices

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf. So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Any objection to the carryings on of our present gold-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, "But we are winning them!" And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world's treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no. -- A. W. Tozer

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Jesus the Judge

The Second Person of the Trinity, appearing pre-incarnate as the Angel of the LORD, stood at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, bearing a sword and bringing judgment upon Israel for King David's sin of numbering the peoples. David, at the command of Yahweh, purchased the threshing floor and offered up sacrifices to Yahweh, unable to access the Tabernacle as he was prevented by the Angel (1 Chron. 21; 2 Sam. 24). This same threshing floor became the location of the Temple; and it was again at this same Temple (rebuilt) that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of David, Jesus, would later with a whip drive out the money changers for profaning the Temple.