The Origin of Postmodernism According to Scripture

The Word, Power, and the Marginalization of Others by the “Powers that Be”

As I’ve tried to show in my other posts on Emergianity (i.e. the Emergent “Church” [Religion]), postmodern thought seeks to subvert orthodoxy in order to establish unorthodoxy. This is done by a deconstructive process, whereby language is stripped of any fixed meaning so that all meanings are supposedly given equal weight. The postmodernist wants to eradicate the very notion of fixed, absolute, and universal meaning[1] for a variety of reasons, but which all mainly have to do with the idea of power. French Philosopher Jacques Derrida, for instance, spoke of “the marginalization of the other” through one’s utilization of language, while Michel Foucault spoke of “the marginalization of the other” by institutions (e.g. prisons, mental hospitals, and religions) which seek to express power by the creation of words, phrases, concepts, etc that define what it means to be human (whether they do this with respect to conformity to social norms of behavior (as in the case of the prison), with respect to sanity/optimal/ideal mental health (as in the case of the mental hospital), or with respect to spirituality (as in the case of religions)). Both Derrida and Foucault taught that these categories of thought were not truly fixed and that any attempt to say that such categories were indeed fixed would simply be either the author’s recognition of the instability of meaning and his own sorry attempt to pin down fixed, absolute, and universal meaning (as in Derrida’s case), or would be an expression of power that is seeking to dominate others by means of the creation of “knowledge” (as in the case of Foucault).

Friedrich Nietzsche: Immutable Truth Vs. Uncertainty

Before we go on to see the Biblical origin of postmodernism, we need to look at the claims of the postmodernists and trace their origin in the history of philosophy in order to have a dual basis for refuting expressions of it in Emergianity, as well as in academic contexts. In order to do this, we need to look no further than to the German philosopher Friedrich W. Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a brilliant classical philologist, the son of a Lutheran minister who died when Nietzsche was only four years old, who over time abandoned belief in fixed, absolute, and universal truth and thought through some of the consequences of what he thought a societal recognition of the non-existence of God and fixed, absolute, and universal truth would entail.

Why did Nietzsche believe that fixed, absolute, and universal truth were illusory? To put it bluntly: He was a materialist who simply believed that matter is all that exists. For Nietzsche, it went without saying that energy and matter are all that exists, so in an age when Darwin’s Origin of the Species claimed to destroy the need for a Creator, Nietzsche was simply drawing out the logical implications of his “scientifically justified” – at least so he thought – materialism. Nietzsche’s rejection of the spiritual world is not based on anything but his own assumption that everything = energy and matter.

At the root of all human interactions, therefore, was power. While the postmodernists extend this “will to power” to language itself, Nietzsche’s main focus was on the expression of power through religion and morality. His favorite religion to attack, unsurprisingly, was Christianity, which he said reduced to nothing more than a system of slave morality. Christians, he thought, propagated a system of morality that attempted to guilt trip others who had more power, money, and confidence to be aggressive, sexually promiscuous, proud, etc. Nietzsche’s superficial analysis treats all Christian morality as nothing more than the imposition of restrictions upon the “masters” (the biologically, intellectually, etc superiors) by the slaves (the biologically, intellectually, etc inferiors).

Thus, the link between Nietzsche and the postmodernists becomes clearer. But what about the Bible?

Where Does the Bible Fit into All of This?

When we turn to Genesis 3:1-5, we encounter the serpent, the craftiest of God’s creatures, who by an ambiguous use of language deceived Eve into believing that the commandment to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would not bring death to humanity. According to the serpent, the commandment was simply an imposed restriction on the behavior of others, an exertion of power by means of a moral law that was designed to oppress and marginalize “the other.” After Eve explains why she cannot eat of the fruit of the tree, the serpent says:

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

-Gen 3:4-5

We can break down the serpent’s words here and see that they are in complete conformity to the words of Nietzsche, Derrida, and Foucault. For instance, “You will not surely die” is a complete contradiction of what God had told Adam. The serpent has subverted the original meaning of God’s Word in order to establish his own unorthodox belief about the consequences of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the second place, the serpent is implicitly denying fixed, absolute, and universal truth. In the third place, he is also emphasizing a sort of materialism, for he subjects the universal proposition “You shall surely die”[2] to verification by Eve’s sensory experience (which cannot establish universals). In the fourth place, he is implicitly denying that anything but matter and energy exists, for Adam and Eve do die on the day that they eat of the fruit, but this immediate death is spiritual death, physical death would come some time later.[3] And in the fifth and final place, the serpent is telling Eve that God’s commandment is rooted in nothing more than God’s desire to hoard power for Himself. God is, according to the serpent, marginalizing Adam and Eve by imposing His rules upon them; God is, according to the serpent/Nietzsche/Derrida/Foucault/Emergianity, purposefully constructing artificial restrictions on man’s behavior for the sake of keeping all power to Himself.

What is terrifying is that Emergents claim that God is the One who subverts and overturns traditionalism, belief in absolute truth, etc etc…But Scripture shows us that it is Satan who does this out of his hate for God, God’s creation, and God’s elect people. The “god” of Emergianity is not the God of Scripture, but the god who balks at the Truth of Scripture, the “god of this world” who is seeking to deceive and devour as many as he can prior to Christ’s return.

If you are a Christian and you are playing around with writers like George Elerick, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, and/or Tony Jones, please take this article to heart. Read Genesis 3 and compare the methods of the serpent to the methods of Emergianity’s leaders. Repent of your sin and trust Your Savior who knows all things. If you are an Emergent, then please understand that the “god” you worship is not the God of Scripture. The Jesus you love is not the Jesus of Scripture. The religion you follow is not the Christian religion. And repent of your idolatry. Read Genesis 3 and compare the serpent’s methods to that of your favorite Emergent leader, and no longer ignore the clear truth:

The Bible teaches us that postmodernism originated in the mind of satan, the enemy of God, God’s creation, and God’s elect people. There is nothing profound about Nietzsche, Derrida, or Foucault – they’re just repeating the same tricks that Satan used to deceive Eve in the Garden.

-h.

[For a more in depth analysis of Genesis 3 and its relation to postmodern philosophy, see An Ancient Strategy over at Involuted Speculations.]

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[1]This desire to eradicate fixed, absolute, and universal meaning is itself an attempt to establish fixed, absolute, and universal meaning, and is, consequently, self-referentially absurd. The postmodernist ideal is simply a way to squelch the voices of all who disagree with their philosophical presuppositions.

[2]Gen 2:17

[3]Cf. Eph 2:1a

Exegeting John 3 – Part 3

My intention in Exegeting John 3 part 2 was to  get through verse eight, but I fell a few verses short.  I ended in verse 5

John 3:5  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God

Let’s do a short recap:

  1. Jesus knows the heart of all men, and knows all about Nicodemus
  2. Nicodemus is a ruler of the Jews, what we would call an O.T. Scholar
  3. Jesus telling Nicodemus “You must be born again” aims directly at the Jewish connection that their standing with God is based on being a descendant from Abraham.
  4. Jesus is making a reference back to Ezekiel 36 and the New Covenant in John 3:5

 

With that being recapped, I would like to try and move on in our exegesis of John 3, keeping in mind those things we have already determined to be ‘in play’ when it comes to this passage of scripture.  The real problem that we have in exegesis of scripture is remembering the context throughout the passage, and fighting the temptation to insert into the text ‘what the scripture says to me’.

John 3:6

(6)  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

 

The Lord here is differentiating the two births that have been talked about.  He defines the birth that Nicodemus mentioned as ‘flesh’.  It will be nothing but a fleshly birth, and will always be as such.  This birth does not produce spirituality, nor can it.  Paul described the limitation of the flesh this way in 1st Corinthians:

1Co 2:14

(14)  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

 

I can use this verse because its context is in line with John 3.  Do not use verses out of context to try and prove a point, you only discredit yourself by doing that.

So here it is established that there is a birth that is of the flesh to which the outcome of it is flesh.  It cannot be spiritual, it is incapable of producing spiritual fruit.  The outcome of the work of the Spirit, the spiritual birth, is all spirit, and is not produced by the flesh.

John 3:7-8

(7)  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.(8)  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

A direct command to Nicodemus is not to wonder or marvel at the reality or necessity of the new birth, or at how it happens.  Understand, man by his sinful nature wants to accomplish something to ‘earn’ the right to go to heaven, whether it be by deed or repetition of a creed.  Jesus by these words takes any notion that this is in man’s control completely away here.  He uses a natural phenomenon of the blowing wind to describe what happens when one is born again.  Let’s list them out:

  1. Blows where it wishes – it goes where and when it wants to
  2. You hear its sound – it gives evidence of its work
  3. You don’t know where it comes from or where it goes –  not the direction, but the source and final destination of the wind is unseen by human eyes.

This describes what happens when one is born again.  You see the evidence of the new birth, but you cannot physically see it happen.  This birth is totally in the spirit, by the Spirit.


So we conclude:

  1. The works of the flesh do not produce the work of the Spirit.
  2. The Spirit is not controlled by the flesh
  3. The Spirit produces the spiritual birth

This post has been shorter than the previous ones, but I did this on purpose.  We have established the foundation work needed to work our way through the rest of passage we are going to go through.  We will start in verse 9 and work our way through verse 22.  This may take a few more posts, but we are almost there.

God bless.

How to Deal with Emergianity (Pt.2)

[Continued from Emergianity]

How to Never Say Anything

After thoroughly dismantling the linguistic theories of the prominent analytical philosophers and liberal theologians of his day by exposing how logically inconsistent with themselves these theories were, philosopher Gordon H. Clark wrote:

There is indeed a way for these people to avoid logical difficulties, paradox, and analogy. To quote one of them: ‘It is possible to lead a religious life without discussing it or verbalizing very much about it. ‘ If a person never says anything, he obviously does not flounder in fallacious implications. No one can refute him, for he says nothing to refute. What one can truly say of him, however, is that he is not a Christian, for Christ commanded His followers to make disciples, ‘Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:20). Christians must “verbalize” (to use contemporary gobbledygook).[1]

The kind of linguistic philosophies with which Clark dealt grew out of a foundational empirical epistemology that attempted to eradicate metaphysics from language, and thereby eliminate the stubborn problems of metaphysics that philosophy had still not even moved an inch closer to solving, in spite of having over 2,000 years to hash them out. On the one hand, the analytical philosophers (e.g. A.J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolph Carnap, etc) considered metaphysical language to be completely nonsensical since it has, as far as they saw it, no objective reality to which it corresponds.[2] On the other hand, the liberal theologians of his day, following the lead of these empiricists, similarly maintained that linguistic meaning is confined to  spatio-temporal reality (e.g. matter, bodies, space, time, biological organisms, etc), but did not dismiss metaphysical and religious language altogether. Instead, they maintained that language was simply an inadequate means of signifying that which was too great to be confined to linguistic constraints, namely, God and all spiritual matters attendant thereunto.

Religious language, then, was emptied of having a single fixed meaning, since the Bible was not meant to reveal truth to us clearly via propositions. Rather, the Bible, the liberals argued, contains symbolism that points us beyond the spatio-temporal confines in which we find ourselves. Thus, at lest they believed, they saved the Word of God from the analytical philosophers who sought to make metaphysical and religious language meaningless. Yet, what they did was simply agree with their opponents by asserting that there is no objective reality to which metaphysical and religious language refer – they just changed their interpretation of what they perceived to be the case. In other words, the analytical philosophers interpreted the lack of spatio-temporal referents in religious language, at least as they saw it, as proof of the vacuousness and nonsensical nature of religious talk. Liberal theologians, on the other hand, interpreted the lack of spatio-temporal referents in religious language, at least as they saw it, as proof that God, and spiritual matters related to Him, could not be placed inside of a linguistic, propositional box.

So what does this have to do with Emergianity? Well, the fundamental tenets of the Emergent religion[3] don’t presuppose that metaphysical and religious language are meaningless. For the Emergent, all language, and consequently concepts/doctrines expressed via the medium of language, are full of meaning. In fact, there are so many different ways that a text can be interpreted that one would be a fool to assume that any one individual or institution has a monopoly on truth.[4] What is problematic about their assumption, however, is that it also renders language meaningless by claiming that all meaning is subjective and, therefore, relative. The modernist liberals of Gordon H. Clark’s day destroyed metaphysical and religious meaning by claiming that language lacked the capacity to adequately communicate truths about God to us; the postmodernist liberals of the Emergent religion destroy metaphysical and religious meaning by claiming that all metaphysical and religious language conveys some aspect of truth about God, thereby making all claims about God equal (in principle, that is, since they don’t consider the historical orthodox Creeds and Confessions to be either historical or orthodox), and rendering such language meaningless.

How to Deal with Emergianity?

Our original question rears its head again and asks us: Now that we know what Emergianity is, what its fundamental beliefs are, and how this system of religious thought collapses in upon itself, How do we deal with it? We expose the absurdities entailing belief in the fundamental tenets of the Emergent religion, as I’ve shown in Pt.1. By using their beliefs against their beliefs, we expose their system for what it is: Pure rebellion against God. This rebellion against God goes much deeper than their refusal to bow the knee to Jesus Christ and their antagonism toward  orthodox doctrines such as the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures and Penal Substitutionary Atonement – it goes to the very core of what it means to be a creature made in the image of God. In order to dismiss these doctrines, Emergents must first deny that they are creatures who are made in the image of God, creatures who have been given a priori conceptions by God, in order to know and worship Him, and must crown themselves gods. Subversion, therefore, is the necessary response to their writings/publications/etc; we must approach them in the same way that they approach Scripture: Seeking to understand the plain meaning of their words, solely for the sake of claiming that their words mean the exact opposite of what the Emergents originally intended.

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[1.]The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Volume 5: Language and Theology, p. 246 (Trinity Foundation, 2008)

[2.]There are many contemporary atheists who parrot this view of metaphysical and religious language (e.g. George H. Smith, Dan Barker, etc). The modern atheist will expose his commitment to an empirical epistemology in such statements as: “God is made in the image of man,” “God is the projection of ancient man’s conception of the father-figure,” and so on. Attacking this presupposition, viz. that every word must have a physical correlate in order to be truly meaningful can be done by simply pointing out that if it is true that every word must have a physical referent, then it is also false, for the statement is a universal statement, and induction never leads to universals. Therefore, the statement that every word must have a physical referent is self-refuting.

[3.]Part 1 discusses these fundamental and universal beliefs of the Emergent religion.

[4.]It is important to note that this is a strawman that is often constructed by Emergents. Historic orthodox Christianity doesn’t teach that it alone possesses all truth. Emergents are either ignorant of the doctrines of general revelation and special revelation, or they are being deceptive when they characterize orthodox Christians as claiming to be the sole possessors of all truth.

In the Navy: Gay Marriage?

It was released Yesterday by multiple news agencies that Navy Chaplains will be trained in how to officiate same-sex weddings. I have to say that this is something that is extremely strange and frustrating. How a branch of our military can up and choose to “marry” homosexuals when it isn’t legal on a federal level is very strange. All of that aside, I want to focus on the implications for Christianity.

In Christian theology, homosexuality isn’t a class of sin all its own, although it is in a somewhat unique classification ( see 1 Cor 6:18-20). Homosexuality isn’t a worse sin than adultery, Incest, and the like.  It is a sin, and must be called a sin, not so that we can abuse homosexuals, but rather so that we can call them to repentance and the forgiveness of even that sin.  We are suffering in this age from the approval of sin.

This question we must ask is how to we as Christians respond to this?

The Gospel

Our weapons as Christians are supernatural. We proclaim the Words of Christ and we use the Law to convict men of sin and the Gospel to change the hearts and minds of men.

***UPDATE***

According to CNN, Late in the day on 5/10, the navy reversed its policy, suspending the memo that would have pushed forward this approval of sin. It is unclear as to why they made the switch, however, I think that the common grace of God is perhaps the best bet as to the reasoning. Please continue to pray and appeal to our great God and Savior that he provide a continual platform for us to preach the gospel and proclaim the truth.

How to Deal with Emergianity (Pt.1)

What is “Emergianity”?

Before we can know how to deal with Emergianity, we need to define Emergianity. In a word, Emergianity is what is commonly called “the Emergent Church Movement.” Since the Emergent Church Movement is neither a church nor a Christian movement, at least in any Biblical sense, I feel like I have a moral responsibility to not call it a church or Christian movement. Emergianity, then, is a portmanteau of the words Emergent and Christianity. Of course, adherents of the Emergent religion wouldn’t like my categorizing them, but this is necessary. Refusing to be defined – when one is easily definable – is a great way to avoid responsibility before God for what one truly believes, teaches, and wants others to believe as well. There are differences in the Emergent religion; however, there are certain fundamental, underlying beliefs that are shared by them all. Let’s look at these.

1. Everything Must be Subverted

Well….everything but the idea that everything must be subverted. In other words, there are always questions to be asked that will, inevitably, contradict Orthodox Christian beliefs. For the Emergent, everything is re-definable, subject to new interpretation, “open for conversation.” This may seem like an unassailable hermeneutic, until you apply it to itself. What results is a contradiction that completely invalidates their hermeneutic, for if everything is open-ended and by its nature incapable of closure then either (a.)this hermeneutical principle itself is closed and incapable of ever being open-ended (i.e. you can never question its validity) or (b.)this hermeneutical principle is open-ended and, therefore, open to being replaced by another that produces doctrinal closure.

2. Every Belief Must Be Questioned

Well…everything but this fundamental belief. No good Emergent will question whether or not this belief must be questioned; he simply believes that every [orthodox] belief must be questioned. And it is his goal to convince you that his belief [that every orthodox belief must be questioned] is correct. The problem is that this also reduces to a level of absurdity that even the Emergents do not want to come to have to face, because if you question whether or not every belief must be questioned, then you begin to dismantle the very foundation of their anti-Christian movement. Doing so would expose them as having very firm and fixed beliefs that they are unwilling to question or “have a conversation about.”

3. No Two Emergents are the Same

Except, of course, with respect to points 1., 2., and 3. What unites Emergianity is not an explicit set of fundamental beliefs, but an implicit set of fundamental beliefs. Points 1., 2., and 3. are shared by all those who adhere to Emergianity. And this, of course, is an absurd belief, because if “No two emergents are the same,” then they are at least the same with respect to being different from one another. This might seem like I’m just playing with words here, but hear me out. If all emergents are essentially different, then they all share this essential trait. The Emergent, then, has a core conception of himself that is universally applicable to all others, making them essentially the same. We need to work this out a little more in order to show what they truly believe. Essentially, if all Emergents are different this means that there is a further reason as to why they are different.

4. God Cannot Be Placed Inside of a Box

Except for this one, that is…Noticing a pattern yet? This fundamental belief is, again, absurd, for if its true then it is false. Here’s what I mean: If God cannot be placed inside of a box, then He cannot in any way be limited by human conceptions of what He is like, what He is capable of doing, or whether or not He can adequately reveal Himself to humanity, then He is limited by our human conceptions of what He is like what He is capable of doing, and whether or not He can adequately reveal Himself to humanity. After all, Emergents know that God cannot be placed inside of a box….right?

Deconstructing Emergianity’s Fundamental Beliefs

There are more fundamental beliefs common to all Emergents, I’m sure, but I’ll let you look for them. Before you do that, though, we need to deconstruct the beliefs that we have already listed. How do we do this? By showing how these beliefs contradict one another. For instance, take points 1. and 4. If everything must be subverted, then this would include the belief that God cannot be placed inside of a box. This would mean that God would have to be placed in a box, and if He is placed in a box, then we cannot subvert anything, for He would immediately regain the Sovereignty Emergents have tried so desperately to eradicate from His infinitely holy nature.

Another way we can demonstrate this is by comparing points 2. and 4. If Every belief must be questioned, then the belief that No two emergents are the same must also be questioned. And if this belief is questioned, then any historic orthodox Christian can claim that adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith or the London Baptist 1689 Confession of Faith, for him, define what it means to be Emergent. And if this is the case, then anyone who does not hold to these confessions are outside of the pale of what it means to be Emergent.

The possibilities are endless! Individually, the fundamental beliefs of all emergents completely fall apart; and taken in conjunction with one another, the fundamental beliefs of all emergents completely fall apart. So if the Emergents don’t realize this, it’s your apologetic duty to show them. An effective way to do this, I think, is to apply their beliefs to their beliefs. Once you have done this, they will cling to their beliefs and expose themselves for what they are: Rebels against the very image of God that resides in them, who are incapable of breaking the shackles that the moral Law has placed upon them – no matter how hard they may try.

[Continued in Part 2]

The Consumer Driven Church, Part 1

Today, I believe that churches struggle with something that is a product of our American mindset, and it is so deeply ingrained into our culture that we must wage war within the Body to rid the American church of this ailment, namely consumerism. Additionally, I believe that there is a mindset in our churches that church staff members are employed by the congregation, and thus it is their job to serve as that congregation desires. This sub-biblical (anti-biblical) model is deeply rooted in many American churches and I believe it affects the Body from the congregation to the elders/pastors.

We in America are a consumerist people; our mode of life could be summed up in the song “American Kryptonite” by Five Iron Frenzy when they say repeatedly, “Buy, take, break, throw it away.” We are a society predicated upon greed and covetousness, and that mindset doesn’t check it self at the church door. When we consider the number of and purpose of the advertisements we see on a daily basis it is easy to see why covetousness is something that is rampant in our culture.

When looking at todays seeker friendly church, the entire purpose of the movement is to make the church friendly or acceptable to people who are driven by consumerism. I remember having a conversation with a pastor who told me that if the bathrooms in the church weren’t nice enough people wouldn’t stay. Maybe that is true, but does this consumerist concept of “people will come to church if it fits their wants, needs, desires, hopes, goals, etc…” mean that they will become saved?

As I examine this issue in several installments, I will be working from the following presuppositions:

1. There are going to be both Regenerated and Unregenerated people in a congregation
2. Unregenerated people are Sinful by nature, and are enemies of God by nature and birth
3. The only thing that causes men to have the mind of Christ is Regeneration

There are a couple points that we can and will address within this discussion of consumerism. First, giving to the church. Second, pastoral employment.

I think that one of the most consumer driven parts of the church is the giving. I believe that giving is a biblical concept; however, it seems that many people in todays churches have the mind that if the music is good and the preaching makes them feel good they will give money to the church. I can tell you that in my experience, this has been a belief that has been explicitly stated to me by at least one pastor I have worked alongside.  It is in effect paying for your weekly concert and motivational speech. This is far from the biblical picture of giving. If you give to your church based on how well the service went or how much you liked it, I would suggest that you should repent of your sin. You have usurped the church’s right to teach what it feels fit to teach and have selfishly made your giving into a cover charge and that is disgusting. It is trampling on the Word of God which clearly says in 1 Peter 5:1-5 and Hebrews 13:17 that the church is to submit to its elders. Moreover, it neglects the new covenant method of giving which is summed up for me at least in Romans 14:23 (b) – anything not of faith is sin.

Another way that consumerism shows itself is the call for giving based on what one receives from the church, or what the church does for the community. At some point I imagine most of us have heard such a call. This pragmatic call makes giving obligatory and the motivation is generally selfish, as in “what can I get” or “look what I am making possible.” This is not the model of giving defined by the New Testament, which is motivated by the Gospel, God’s giving to us. We are to give from faith with gladness, not for a pragmatic purpose, but for a theological purpose of worshiping God.

I want to make a brief note about pastoral employment periods. I have heard these statistics specifically from several sources (however they are not published) that the average time frame for a pastor to serve at a church is 18-24 months. That is 1.5-2 years. Think about that for a second. If the pastor’s purpose is to preach God’s Word and shepherd the flock, the operational job of the man, is the same. So what would cause pastors to be reassigned in a denomination or just fired by the elders after 18 months? I would submit it is the consumer mindset of the church. We are often looking for what we get out of the service, how we feel, what we like, what we don’t like and perhaps most importantly, whether or not the church grows. It is this concept that causes pastors to be run out if the congregation doesn’t like the pastor’s style, voice, delivery, or whatever, but it isn’t based upon the one thing that matters: the Gospel. The American church treats its pastors worse than anyone else; while it works to love the wolves, it neglects and attacks its shepherds.

All of this should cause us to ask, what must we do? The answer is simple: we must repent of our sins. Let us focus on seeing how and when we are acting in a consumer-minded fashion, and look instead to the Gospel in all things. We must exalt and desire only Christ, above our covetous desires for material things. We must abandon our idols given to us by our culture. Only when we rethink our views on material objects, and their importance in our life, will we truly exalt Christ to his proper place and crush consumerism in the American church.

“Paul’s” Pneumatology?

Flesh Versus Spirit: A Brief Study

A very brief and superficial reading of the New Testament by otherwise brilliant men in the past has led some to conclude that Paul the apostle constructed certain doctrines fundamental to the Christian faith out of thin air. In particular, these critics claim that Paul’s pneumatology (i.e. “his” theology of the Holy Spirit) is not derived from the Old Testament but is an admixture of Hellenistic Judaism, Greek philosophy, and whatever else they want to throw into the mix.[1] “The Pentateuch,” one may argue, “has not even the slightest indication of a doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Paul is simply mimicking Greco-Roman religio-philosophical speculations about such matters. He is, in short, forming a hybrid of Jewish and Greco-Roman thought.” Such was the idea of Bultmann, and which, unfortunately, persists today among those whose chief task is to say as much as possible as they about the Bible without ever having opened it up.

In truth, Paul’s doctrines are clear expositions of what is already contained in the Old Testament. This is exactly the case with “his” pneumatology. For when we pay attention to what the text actually presents us, we see that Moses’ writings present us with a doctrine of the Holy Spirit that, although not as clearly articulated as our Lord’s in John 14-16, or Paul’s in Romans 8, and elsewhere, still gives us much the same information about the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

This is the case when one compares the following: (i.)the giving of the Law by the “finger” of God (which is the Spirit of God, cf. Ex 31:18 with Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20), (ii.)the construction of the golden calf by the people, and (iii.)the giving of goods to the construction of the Tabernacle. Events (ii.) and (iii.) stand in antithetical parallel to one another in a variety of ways. They both consist of the Israelites freely giving their own goods to the construction of the means of worship (the former being false, and the latter being true). They both involved all of Israel being under the leadership of one individual who commands them to do so. Etc. The primary difference, and this is essential to understanding where Paul’s pneumatology derives its origin (which is not in Greek and Roman philosophy!), is that event (ii.) was done without the Spirit, indeed by those who had not the Spirit at all. Did the Israelites have the law? Yes, they did. But could they obey? No. Could they properly worship the One True God? Not at all. Rather, when left to their own devices, they fall into gross sin, giving their belongings, their all, their lives and their goods to an idol.

By utter contrast, when the people have their hearts stirred by the Lord’s Spirit, when the Holy Spirit puts wisdom into their hearts, when HE enables them to will and to do His commandment, then the people worship YHWH. They willingly give their goods not because they are autonomously motivated-pelagian worshipers of Yahweh, but because the LORD made them willing. Here we see that the natural man cannot believe, worship, and obey the Lord, but the man who has been given the Spirit can and will! The natural man hates the commandments of God, but the Spiritual man regards them as his delight, as that in which he finds pleasure. He is willing, yes, more than willing to do what God has required of him so that HIS temple and HIS means of worship might be properly established.

One may attempt to argue that I am reading into Moses’ writing, but this again evidences that they are speaking out of ignorance, for the same theme is found in Ezra’s recollection of the rebuilding of the Temple during the Jewish exile, under King Cyrus. The same language that Moses uses when he speaks of the those whom the Lord had stirred up, and those whom the Lord had given wisdom, specifically for the purpose of building the place of worship in which God would dwell, this same language is used by Ezra in 1:1, 5. Furthermore, the language of freewill offerings is used in Ezra 3:1-7, as it is used in Ex 3:20-29. The picture is very similar, so similar, in fact, that I’m sure the liberal will sidestep the fact of progressive revelational consistency, and attempt to avoid the question of Paul’s derivation of “his” pneumatology by trying to make the book of Exodus a post-exilic work. Unfortunately, at least for the liberals, this speculative and inaccurate dating of the book of Exodus, if true (and it isn’t) would still make Paul right in his understanding of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. So the liberal is caught in a dilemma: Either the Exodus narrative is pre-exilic and Paul is correct in his understanding of the Holy Spirit, or the Exodus narrative is post-exilic and Paul is correct in his understanding of the Holy Spirit. In either case, Paul is not deriving his theology from Greco-Roman philosophy/paganism, etc…

So, then, we must ask: What does Moses have to say about the Holy Spirit? Very much of the same that the New Testament says of Him, viz. (i.)He is the source of written, that is to say propositional, revelation (cf. Ex 31:18 with Matt 12:28 & Luke 11:20, also 2 Tim 3:16); (ii.)He is the source of wisdom and understanding in relation to the means and commands regarding how the people of God are to worship (cf. Ex 31:1-11 with 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Ephesians 3:3); He is the One who, by regeneration, makes men willing to believe (for He opens their eyes to see, cf. John 3:1-8); He is the one who makes men fit for their place in the worship of God by giving them gifts whereby to serve God (cf. Ex 31:1-11 & Ex 35:20-35 with 1 Corinthians 12 & Ephesians 4).

“Paul’s theology of the Spirit,” therefore, is no mere invention of a Hellenizing ex-Pharisee, but the very exposition of the Old Testament Scriptures given by the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit made the Israelites willing to give and offer their property and time and energy to the building of God’s tabernacle, He did the same with the Israelites during the time of their exile under king Cyrus, and now He moves the hearts of the children of God to do the same. Note the progression from tabernacle to temple to Body of Christ, and see that it is ONE Spirit who is working the same way, albeit under different circumstances: (i.)to move God’s people to fulfill His purposes leading up to Christ, and (ii.)to empower God’s people to fulfill His purposes and point to Christ and Him crucified and raised, as well as look forward to His return (cf. Ephesians 4:1-16).

What we see in Paul’s pneumatology, therefore, is not all that much different from what we find in the Old Testament. Ultimately, the pneumatology of Paul is not derivative of Mosaic pneumatology but finds its origin in the Holy Spirit Himself who is revealing His Person and Work to us in the course of redemptive history. The liberals have no sound footing upon which to stand when they claim that Paul derived “his” pneumatology from anywhere else besides the Scripture.

Soli Deo Gloria

-h.

[1] One should note that their methodology pretty much leaves the question completely open to an innumerable, if not infinite, variety of interpretations. Popular versions of Bultmann’s ridiculous conspiracy theory method of textual criticism can be found in the spiritualistic/occultic productions/publications of people like Helena Blavatsky, Jordan Maxwell, and the creators of Zeitgeist. We may, however, also point the reader to the general silliness of postmodern “theologians” (e.g. Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, and George Elerick to name a few) who still promote this nonsense in order to promote their agendas.

Exegeting John 3 – Part 2

Exegesis is not easy work. The men that weekly spend their time trying to honestly bring you the meaning of the Word of God have taken on a hard task.  We are overrun with ‘pastors’ that only know the scripture from the topical point of view.  Some, if not most of them, decry expository preaching as ‘lazy’ and the ‘easy way’.  However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Surely there are men that spend hours upon hours studying for a topical message, and there are those that are lazy in the realm of expository preaching.  Yet the disadvantage the expositor has is he cannot type his main topic key word into the electronic search of his computerized bible and find and use every verse that happens to contain that certain word.  No, the real expositor of God’s word wants to know what God has said, and wants you to know it too.  As I was preparing for this blog, my 12 year old son was sitting next to me.  I found myself showing him how to try and understand what John 3 was teaching and then telling him, “Silas, it doesn’t matter what this scripture means to me, it only matters what this scripture means.”  So with that, let’s find out what our passage today means.

Now last time we determined “who” Nicodemus was.  This post is going to be looking at John 3:3-8, building upon what we have already learned.

Nicodemus in verse 2 ended his statement “..for no man can do these miracles that thou does except God be with him.”  What most of us would expect Jesus to respond with is “Yes you are right, I have come from God and God is with me, now ask me to come into your heart..”.  Okay, maybe you wouldn’t think that, but what Jesus does do is devastating to the Israelite national pride.  Jesus goes after his birth:

John 3:3  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

First off, we see the emphasis Jesus is putting on this truth statement.  The Greek word is amen.   Jesus is amen’ing the beginning of His statement.  This should get us focused to what Christ is about to say.  Truly, truly!  Amen, Amen!  What is this important phrase Nicodemus is about to hear?  “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”.  Born again?  Now you have surely seen this phrase translated “born from above” or as ‘born anew’.  Both are legitimate translations of the phrase that is used.  However, context has to be the determining factor on what is being said here, but before I get to that, let’s look at what is meant by ‘kingdom of God’.

(I am using the question “Who is Jesus talking to?” to determine what the context is telling us)

The Kingdom that Christ brought was not a kingdom of flesh, it is a Kingdom of the Spirit.  The Jews expected the Messiah to come and establish an earthly reign and restore the ‘kingdom’, that is Israel as a sovereign nation.  However, Christ did not come to establish His earthly throne, but a heavenly one.   This heavenly kingdom would be established by His crucifixion, burial and resurrection, not by the wielding of the sword, all that believe in Christ are in that kingdom. 

By Nicodemus’ reaction to what Christ said, we find that the translation is better to be rendered ‘born anew’ or ‘born again’.

John 3:4  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Remember, I said Christ goes after Nic’s birth, his heritage, but in Nic’s mind, it is his earthly birth that gives him the very right to be in God’s kingdom.  He a Jew, an Israelite, circumcised just like Granddaddy Abraham.  He has every right by his physical birth to lay claim to the promises made unto the patriarchs.  When confronted with the idea of needing a second birth, he immediately points it back to his physical birth.  “can he enter a second time, into his mother’s womb, and be born?”.

This ‘new birth’ however is not physical, which the Lord is about to tell us, but it is spiritual.

John 3:5  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

We have the emphasis on this statement as well.  The ‘listen Nicodemus, this is important and true’, Amen Amen. We have seen the word ‘Except’ twice now.  Except a man is born again he cannot see, and now, he cannot enter into the Kingdom.  So Nicodemus’ pointing back to his physical birth has been eliminated as an opportunity.  Men don’t enter the kingdom by who their earthly ancestry is, but only if they are born spiritually.

In John 1 we see this:

John 1:11-13  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  (12)  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  (13)  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This birth is not something we do, nor is it the result of something we do.  Let’s look at what John Calvin said about these verses:

12.But to as many as received him. That none may be retarded by this stumbling-block, that the Jews despised and rejected Christ, the Evangelist exalts above heaven the godly who believe in him; for he says that by faith they obtain this glory of being reckoned the sons of God. The universal term, as many, contains an implied contrast; for the Jews were carried away by a blind vaunting, (19) as if they exclusively had God bound to themselves. The Evangelist declares that their condition is changed, because the Jews have been rejected, and their place, which had been left empty, is occupied by the Jews; for it is as if he transferred the right of adoption to strangers. This is what Paul says, that the destruction of one nation was the life of the whole world, (Rom_11:12;) for the Gospel, which might be said to have been banished from them, began to be spread far and wide throughout the whole world. They were thus deprived of the privilege which they enjoyed above others. But their impiety was no obstruction to Christ; for he erected elsewhere the throne of his kingdom, and called indiscriminately to the hope of salvation all nations which formerly appeared to have been rejected by God.
He gave them power. The word ἐξουσία here appears to me to mean a right, or claim; and it would be better to translate it so, in order to refute the false opinions of the Papists; for they wickedly pervert this passage by understanding it to mean, that nothing more than a choice is allowed to us, if we think fit to avail ourselves of this privilege. In this way they extract free-will from this phrase; but as well might they extract fire from water. There is some plausibility in this at first sight; for the Evangelist does not say that Christ makes them sons of God, but that he gives them power to become such. Hence they infer that it is this grace only that is offered to us, and that the liberty to enjoy or to reject it is placed at our disposal. But this frivolous attempt to catch at a single word is set aside by what immediately follows; for the Evangelist adds, that they become the sons of God, not by the will which belongs to the flesh, but when they are born of God. But if faith regenerates us, so that we are the sons of God, and if God breathes faith into us from heaven, it plainly appears that not by possibility only, but actually — as we say — is the grace of adoption offered to us by Christ. And, indeed, the Greek word, ἐξουσία is sometimes put for ἀξίωσις, (a claim,) a meaning which falls in admirably with this passage.
The circumlocution which the Evangelist has employed tends more to magnify the excellence of grace, than if he had said in a single word, that all who believe in Christ are made by him sons of God. For he speaks here of the unclean and profane, who, having been condemned to perpetual ignominy, lay in the darkness of death. Christ exhibited an astonishing instance of his grace in conferring this honor on such persons, so that they began, all at once, to be sons of God; and the greatness of this privilege is justly extolled by the Evangelist, as also by Paul, when he ascribes it to
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love
with which he loved us, (Eph_2:4.)
But if any person shall prefer to take the word power in its ordinary acceptation, still the Evangelist does not mean by it any intermediate faculty, or one which does not include the full and complete effect; but, on the contrary, means that Christ gave to the unclean and the uncircumcised what appeared to be impossible; for an incredible change took place when out of stones Christ raised up children to God, (Mat_3:9.) The power, therefore, is that fitness (ἱκανότης) which Paul mentions, when he
gives thanks to God, who hath made us fit (or meet) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints, (Col_1:12.)
Who believe in his name. He expresses briefly the manner of receiving Christ, that is, believing in him. Having been engrafted into Christ by faith, we obtain the right of adoption, so as to be the sons of God. And, indeed, as he is the only-begotten Son of God, it is only so far as we are members of him that this honor at all belongs to us. Here again the notion of the Papists about the word power is refuted. (20) The Evangelist declares that this power is given to those who already believe. Now it is certain that such persons are in reality the sons of God. They detract too much from the value of faith who say that, by believing, a man obtains nothing more than that he may become a son of God, if he chooses; for instead of present effect they put a power which is held in uncertainty and suspense.
The contradiction appears still more glaring from what immediately follows. The Evangelist says that those who believe are already born of God It is not therefore, a mere liberty of choice that is offered, since they obtain the privilege itself that is in question. Although the Hebrew word, שם (Name) is sometimes used to denote power, yet here it denotes a relation to the doctrine of the Gospel; for when Christ is preached to us, then it is that we believe in him. I speak of the ordinary method by which the Lord leads us to faith; and this ought to be carefully observed, for there are many who foolishly contrive for themselves a confused faith, without any understanding of doctrine, as nothing is more common among the Papists than the word believe, though there is not among them any knowledge of Christ from hearing the Gospel. Christ, therefore, offers himself to us by the Gospel, and we receive him by faith. — Calvin’s Complete Comentary

 

This post is getting long, so I am going to end it here with verse 5.  This verse has a tough phrase in it, but I think with the help of John Gill and answering the question of who Jesus is talking to, it has been made plain to me what Jesus is teaching here.

The first mistake that is made is trying to divide ‘born of water and of the spirit’ from each other.  It is done because there are those that want to claim this as a reference to water baptism.  However, we know from scriptural examples that one can be baptized and not be saved (Simon Magus) and that one can miss being baptized and by faith be in paradise with the Lord the day he died (thief on the cross).  So we can eliminate baptismal regeneration or the necessity of baptism for salvation as being what the Lord is referring to.  The phrase ‘born of water and born of the Spirit’ are being used together to describe the idea of being ‘born again’.  Jesus is referring back to an OT passage of scripture, which Nicodemus an OT scholar would recognize it.  He is in fact, describing to Nicodemus the sign and seal of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:22-27  Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.  (23)  And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.  (24)  For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.  (25)  Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  (26)  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  (27)  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Unless God does this to you, unless God births you into His family, you will die in your sins.

To be continued….

God Bless

The Christian Perspective on the Death of Osama Bin Laden

Most if not all of us have heard about the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.  The question is how should the Christian respond to this event?At some level I think that all of us who are Americans feel some sort of relief, some sort of satisfaction that, as President Obama said, ” Justice has been done.”

Here’s the problem I have, by all of the knowledge we have, Osama Bin Laden will be headed for the Lake of Fire. How can I rejoice about that? How can any person who considers themselves a Justified and Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, think in their heart that this is a good thing? Ezekiel tells us in chapters 18 and 33 that God doesn’t get any pleasure from the death of the wicked. If God doesn’t delight in the death of evil men, how can I? How can I rejoice that a rebel sinner has died in his sin, given that he will now never see the mercy of our great God and Savior.

At the same time, we see a consistent testimony throughout Scripture that God is Just, and commands his people to love justice. I don’t think it is any stretch of the text, to say that we are to love justice as God does. I believe that if a man has ordered the death of 1000′s it is proper to say that he no longer deserves to live; in other words, he has earned death. Taking his life was just.

In Conclusion, I think that the Christian perspective is one of mourning a sinner who failed to repent, but a satisfaction that justice has been served.

Orthodoxy and Orthropraxy

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy are important theological terms with an even more important application to how one lives their life. It seems that there is a major disconnect in American Christian culture between these two.  One, Orthodoxy, is what we ought to believe. The other, Orthopraxy, is what we ought to do. Even as I write that statement what I hear screaming from my computer screen is, “How dare you tell us we ought to do something, legalist! We have Freedom in Christ!” While there is truth in that statement, I believe that we fall into legalism primarily when when divorce our doctrine from its proper roll of defining our practice. Lets look to the text of Scripture, I believe that James chapter 1 addresses this issue for us.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27 ESV)

We must both hear and do the word. We hear the word, using James’ example, which is orthodoxy ( ie. We are to love and serve the church) and then we act upon that hearing, so as not to be hypocrites, which is our orthopraxy (ie. Visiting and caring for the widows and orphans). I believe that when we divorce orthodoxy from orthopraxy, we fall into one of several possible errors.

The first would be Liberalism. Often times what I see from people in this camp is that theology doesn’t matter, only action does. The problem is that they fail to see the truth in Romans 14:23 b. Right action is meaningless in God’s economy without faith in Christ.

The second problem with the divorce of orthodoxy and orthopraxy is the opposite of liberalism. I believe that this is best described by the term Antinomian, I see people who don’t care about doing the right things, as defined by the law of liberty. These people will function in such a way as to convey to the rest of us that because they have the right doctrine their actions don’t matter, because they believe the right things. Paul also addresses this issue in Romans 6:1-2.

Finally, there is the issue of Legalism. One form of legalism is to say that because of one’s practice one is more holy than others. The divorce here is a bit more subtle, in that the right doctrine of salvation has been separated from the right doctrine of sanctification. This is a bit more of a specific situation, however, it is clearly an inconsistency within orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

We must keep our orthodoxy in line with our orthopraxy. This isn’t legalism, it is liberty.

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