Category Archives: Christianity

Silent Night

Our Christmas Carols are extremely influential in framing our ideas and beliefs about Christmas.  Most of the time this is a good thing.  As I sing Christmas Carols I am impressed by the clear gospel message and the statements of substantial doctrinal ideas.  In the next few days leading up to Christmas I want to point out a few of those that have impressed me this year.

Last night at our Living Nativity we sang “Silent Night”.  Here are the words:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth ”

My understanding is that the carol began simply as a poem by Joseph Mohr that was given to Franz Gruber to put into a song in because the organ at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf Germany was broken and they needed a song to be sung with guitar.  Hence our most popular Christmas Carol was born.  Click here for a more extensive rendition of the story.

My interest was peaked this year by the last line of the song:  “…Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.”

The emphasis on the deity of Christ even at His birth is an important statement in this song.  We believe that Jesus the Son became incarnate, or took on human flesh at His birth.  He has a human beginning, but as the Son, he is eternally one with the Father and as such has no beginning.  Hence, He is Lord at His birth because He is Lord at all times.  There is no time where Jesus is not Lord.  He doesn’t earn lordship, or become the son at a particular time in His ministry (ie at His baptism).  At His birth He is fully God.  This helps us to understand later statements of Jesus that seem to impugn His divinity (No one knows the day or time, only the Father, not even the Son).  Jesus at His birth, unable to talk, with all the requisite restrictions of humanity still retains His Lordship/Divinity.

This theological construction is called the Hypostatic Union.  We believe that Jesus is one person with two natures: human and divine.  They are distinct and not mingled.  He is not some sort of hybrid, or superman.  He is fully human.  He is fully God.  He is not 50% God and 50% man; he is not a mixture of the two.  He is not a man who has some special dispensation of godliness within Him, nor is He just a good embodiment of the principles of God.

This doctrine was outlined by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The theological terminology for the interaction of the two natures is Communicatio Idiomatum, Latin for “communication of properties”.  These doctrines are deserving of our time and study as many divergent theological positions held by aberrant Christian groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals misunderstand and distort the truth of the nature of Christ at these points.

Silent Night got it right here:  Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

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Christians Are Mixed Up

According to recent polls cited by the USA Today, Christians are a mixed up lot.  Read the article, More U.S. Christians mix in ‘Eastern,’ New Age beliefs.

Some of their observations:

•26% of those who attend religious services say they do so at more than one place occasionally, and an additional 9% roam regularly from their home church for services.

•28% of people who attend church at least weekly say they visit multiple churches outside their own tradition.

•59% of less frequent church attendees say they attend worship at multiple places.

Pew says two in three adults believe in or cite an experience with at least one supernatural phenomenon, including:

•26% find “spiritual energy” in physical things.

•25% believe in astrology.

•24% say people will be reborn in this world again and again.

•23% say yoga is a “spiritual practice.”

It is an interesting phenomenon that I encounter often as a pastor.  This article was no surprise to me, in fact, I was surprised that the numbers weren’t higher.  Here are some of my observations:

Anti-intellectualism

Thinking is not in vogue in the church.  Reading is not a common practice, and if it is, it does not include books that challenge the intellect and build a strong intellectual or doctrinal foundation.  It is the rare Christian who reads philosophy, has mastered logic or engages in apologetics.  Many Christians do not evaluate their belief system against the Scriptures nor do they engage in Systematics.  Can I add that many pastors are in the same category.  As a result, the beliefs of believers are muddled. They are regularly exposed to shoddy and contradictory preaching, rarely systematic, rarely doctrinal.  The result is Christians remain mixed up, and even worse feel that it is acceptable.

Scientific Climate and corresponding High touch climate

We live in a scientifically influenced society where people are desperate for corresponding scientific “proof” for their faith.   So we have institutions dedicated to Creation research/Intelligent Design.  We ignore science when it challenges our belief system, we appeal to it when it “supports” it.  We seek its solace as it brings “certainty” to our faith.  Yet on the other hand we ignore it when it comes to evaluating weirdness, like speaking to the dead.

In our scientific age, we crave a corresponding non-scientific, esoteric experience that is beyond explanation.  We base our conclusions on major and eternal issues on emotion and visceral reactions.  It is an odd combination:  Christians seek scientific affirmation of faith, then seek irrational affirmation of faith in their practice and in their “non-scientific” areas of doctrine.

Post-modernism

Post-modernism is a view that elevates the subjective and diminishes the objective (very simplistic definition of a very complex idea).  Post-modernism has infected the thinking of the average person in our culture.  It reveals itself in statements like, “It is true for you but not for me”.  The philosophical underpinnings of Post-modernism feed the propensity toward the mixed up ideas displayed by Christians.  It really isn’t necessary for people to have organized and consistent ideas, rather it is important for the subject to feel good about their ideas.

The subjective approach looks for doctrine and church to bring emotional satisfaction, not intellectual consistency.  This may not be true of the sophisticated post-modern who may go to great lengths to think and justify their philosophical position, but it is the effect upon the average church goer.

So even though communicating with the dead is outside the boundaries of Christian doctrine and science, the average Christian dispenses with those boundaries because they find comfort and solace in what speaking to their dead relatives brings.

Consumer mentality brought to spirituality

People treat church like they do shopping or picking a restaurant.  Denominational loyalty is diminishing and church’s marketing toward felt needs has produced a shopping environment when it comes to church.   I recall seeing an advertisement in the newspaper from a church offering a television as a prize give away item in an attempt to lure visitors.  Worship services are like concerts and sermons like motivational messages, geared toward the relevant and the cultural context. Graphics, titles and content all garnered from the media (TV and movies).

Hence people feel free to jump from congregation to congregation, hearing the same regurgitated sermons that are aimed at their felt needs.  Story, media and illustrations fill the sermons, content takes a back seat, doctrine is rarely spoken of at length.  They have very rarely had any long term systematic teaching.

Anti-authority

The most telling quote in the USA Today article is “In short, we believe our own experiences are authentic, and no “authority” can say otherwise.”

“Our own experiences rule the roost.”  This philosophy applied to the church is antithetical to the function of the church in the life of the believer.  Maybe the most challenged idea in our postmodern culture is the idea of authority.  The appeal of many of the evangelical/non-denominational movement is the diminishing of a clear cut authority.  The more traditional expressions of church, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline  Protestant (Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian) found their people on a mass exodus to the free movement.  Now that the shine has worn off, many are moving back to some of those churches, but desiring the experience without the authority.

The equation of anyone’s opinion with the position of the church or the position of the pastor/elders is not a biblical one.  In fact the reversal is now the case, the individual is evaluating church and doctrine and elevating themselves above the church.  This is now seen as the norm.

Interesting.

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Calvin’s 500th Birthday

Bad computer day at the office, then a funeral, so a short tribute to Calvin.

Today marks the 500th birthday of a great theologian.  Here is why I like John Calvin:

  • He loved theology, high thoughts about God
  • He loved the Bible, evidenced by his commentaries and his multiple references in the Institutes
  • He loved God, and the idea of the sovereignty of God which cannot be underemphasized

Here are some facts about him:

  • His first draft of the Institutes of The Christian Religion was written by the age of 25 or 26.
  • The definitive edition was completed in 1559, at age 50.
  • His section in the Institutes on the Trinity should be read by every Christian.
  • Some have said that his influence on America is as great as any of the founding fathers.

He may have been the greatest Christian thinker given to the church in its history.  These days he gets a short shrift by some who have not read any of his works and simply rely on the bad information of others regarding his theology.  Far from perfect, John Calvin had his moments, but the legacy of theological and Biblical work he left behind is unsurpassed.

For more on Calvin see Reformation Theology and Monergism dot com

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The Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestantism

About 10 years ago Biola University commissioned some of their staff to compile a report with regard to the differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the distinctives of Biola.  There are two versions:  the 82 page task force report and the 8 page synopsis of the report.  Both are down-loadable in PDF:

Summary of the Task Force Report:  Eastern Orthodox Teachings in Comparison with the Doctrinal Position of Biola University

Task Force Report:  Eastern Orthodox Teachings in Comparison with the Doctrinal Position of Biola University

The report focuses on the following issues:

  1. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone
  2. The Doctrine of the New Birth Through the Instrumentality of the Word of God
  3. The Teaching that the Reception of Christ as Savior and Lord is Sufficient for Eternal Life
  4. Scripture and Tradition;  sola Scriptura
  5. The Church and its hierarchy
  6. The exclusivity of the Orthodox Church
  7. The canonization of saints
  8. Prayers for the dead
  9. Various Beliefs about Mary
  10. The veneration of icons
  11. The denial of guilt in original sin

Here is an LA Times article from the time period that highlights the impetus behind the reports.

Here are some interesting articles published in Christianity Today from about the same time period:

Why I’m Not Orthodox, by by Daniel B. Clendenin
Higher Education: Universities Question Orthodox Conversions, by Scott A. Swanson

Here is a link to What Orthodox Christians Believe?

So why my sudden interest in the Orthodox Church?

Friends are a part of the Orthodox Church and a recent discussion led to the discovery of this controversy at Biola of which I was previously unaware.  One of the professors whose presence at Biola spurred the initial report, John Mark Reynolds, is still a professor at Biola.  In light of the report and the tradition that Biola comes out of, this is truly a remarkable ecumenical statement.  If it is possible at Biola for an outspoken and influential professor to maintain his Eastern Orthodoxy and remain at Biola, discussion, dialog and some measure of true fellowship must be possible anywhere.  I am sure that there are alum’s and trustees who are not at all excited.  The Scriptorium, a blog authored  by the Torrey Institute at Biola (with a disclaimer) and John Mark Reynolds even has a link to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of North America (Biola quasi plugging the EO?).

I have found that many American Christians are ignorant of the Orthodox Church and these are some good introductory kinds of articles for your perusal.  Dialog is good. What are your thoughts?


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Chuck Smith, Kenosis, Again

Play

Chuck Smith is at it again.  A few years ago I wrote about his view of  Kenosis Theory and how it is an egregious error theologically, categorized by many as heresy.  See this brief article on the CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry), which classifies it under the category “heresies”. Very simply Kenosis theory is an attempt to explain how Christ could be a man (with the limitations of humanity) and God at the same time and it specifically deals with Philippians 2:6-7.

This post is important.  The nature of Christ, our definition and understanding of who He is, is a critical and primary doctrine.  It has been debated, and is presently debated, yet there is a correct perspective. A singular and undisputed answer to the question of the nature of Christ that has been historically and traditionally affirmed and held to by the church.  It is not up for grabs or re-interpretation.  Here is the creed of the council of Chalcedon which has served as the defining voice of our understanding of the revealed Christ:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood;
truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body;
consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;
in all things like unto us, without sin;
begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably;
the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ;
as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us. **

From the discussions of the early church regarding the nature of Christ, and there were many, this statement established the agreed upon understanding of the early church regarding the nature of Christ.  Rejected views included Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism and others.  Essentially what we believe about the nature of Christ is that he is one person with two natures.  He is fully human and fully God, at the same time including the time of His incarnation.  Kenotic Theory denies this essential understanding of the nature of Christ.

Kenosis theory denies the full deity of Christ during his human incarnation.  It claims that Jesus laid aside his divine attributes of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence while on the earth in human flesh.  The various views of Kenosis often see those attributes restored to Jesus upon His ascension into heaven.  This is the view put forward by Chuck Smith in the audio clip I have provided at the end of this post.  He says that in order for Christ to become a man he had to lay aside his divine characteristics of omniscience and so forth, fully restored to that place later on.

Here are the problems:

  1. It is logically contradictory in that it states that Jesus is God and is not God at the same time. You cannot remove essential attributes of something and continue to call it that same thing.  God is by definition omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.  A being that is not omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent is not God.  The human nature of Jesus had all the constituent parts of humanity.  The divine nature of Christ has all the constituent parts of divinity.  That is what “fully human fully God” means.
  2. It confuses the natures of Christ. The doctrine affirms one person with two natures.  When we emphasize the human nature in Christ (who touched me?; he sleeps; not knowing the hour; dying) we are careful not to confuse the natures.  The distinction of the natures and the union of the natures (known in theology as the hypostatic union) maintain their integrity.  Each nature is complete and full.  Jesus is fully God (ie, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent) while at the same time fully human (able to be tempted, susceptible to death).  Kenosis theory confuses the natures by robbing Christ of divinity simply because the Bible speaks of his real humanity.
  3. It robs the atonement. If Christ is not fully God, then the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is limited in scope.  He would be unable to bear the full penalty of sin upon himself, only God could do that.
  4. It violates the plain meaning of the text. The passage in question is Philippians 2:6-7.  In this passage we are told that  “Jesus…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  The context of this verse is humility and service and the injunction to follow the example of Christ.  The example given is of the humility of Christ in attitude, the attitude of a servant that Jesus takes on supremely exemplified by becoming human.  It says nothing of laying aside essential attributes of His divine nature, nor are we to lay aside any of our attributes in following this example. He did not regard equality of position something to grab, rather, he submits himself to the Father and carries out the mission of the incarnation. It says nothing of ridding himself of omniscience or any other attribute.   The primary thrust of the passage is the example of Christ as a servant.

So we come to Chuck Smith.  Why name names?  Why not handle this personally, as the Scriptures say to do?  Why not talk to your brother in private and if you convince him you have won your brother and settled a problem appropriately.  I wish I could.  I have been following this issue for a while and have written several emails and letters to Pastor Chuck and members of his staff.  Although publicly Pastor Chuck says he responds to every letter he receives, I have received no response.  My letters have been irenic and respectful.  Some people are beyond the scope of my capacity to gain a voice or an audience.  If any of you have that capacity, you should use it.

I believe this is important because the program that is broadcast locally on KWVE and globally via the internet and other radio stations is widely listened to and the claim on the part of  Pastor Chuck is that this is the Christian viewpoint.  He speaks for Christianity on his program.  The program is “authoritative”, meaning there is a strong claim on the program that the answers we give are Biblical and reflect “the Christian” understanding of the Bible.  In fact and with high irony, the answer given in the following clip is in response to a caller who is trying to answer a Jehovah’s Witness.  Chuck’s answer is as wrong as the Jehovah’s Witness view he is criticizing as heretical.  Brian Broderson criticizes the JW’s for not being corrected when they make clear errors.  It is ironic how this same attitude is classically portrayed by themselves in this broadcast. Don Stewart is also part of the answer team, a fellow Talbot grad who generally does a good job but needs to go back and amend his statements regarding Jesus in this program.

I write this if not for anyone else but those who both read my blog and listen to Chuck.  He is not a theologian and he is often mistaken when he talks about theological details.  He is a great pastor and has a great legacy, but he is just a guy (he would be the first to say it).  Listen carefully, and check stuff out.  On this issue he is very wrong.  I think the issue is important enough that someone of the stature and influence of Chuck Smith should not be given a pass on bad doctrine because he is likable.

So take a listen.  This answer given is at minimum wrong, considered by most Christians to be heresy.   (Pastor’s Perspective Broadcast, June 30, 2009.  Clip begins at 49:36 and continues to 53:03)

Maybe you think I am overreacting and the issue is not that clear or important.  Make a comment I would love to hear your perspective.

** Chalcedonian Creed. (2009, July 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:27, July 2, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chalcedonian_Creed&oldid=299804459

Some thoughtful and interesting works on Philippians 2:1-11:

“The Frog Prince, The Matrix, and the Way of the Cross: A Meditation on Philippians 2:5-11” by Bruce Fisk
“Response to “The Frog Prince, the Matrix, and the Way of the Cross” by Bruce N. Fisk” by Telford Work

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Casual Sex with God

Some things need to be said in an extreme manner.  Many Christians are having casual sex with God.

I got a late start on the reading of the Shack, really thought that it was an innocuous work of fiction.  But since I have read it, reviewed it, and talked to people about it,  more needs to be said.  I also have been reading some articles on worship and worship music.  Much of the criticism of both the book and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is similar, and valid.  There is a common element that needs pointing out.

In the Shack, the main character Mack is a seminary graduate and the author has him pondering the following after he finds a note left by God in his mailbox:

“Try as he might, Mack could not escape the desperate possibility that the note just might be from God after all, even if the thought of God passing notes did not fit well with his theological training.  In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course.  God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects.  It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerner’s access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia.  Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book.  Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?” (end of chapter 4, pages 65-66 in the paperback version)

This statement seems to be a major theological point in the book (I think that although it is a work of fiction, there is some theological axe grinding going on).  Apparently “Mack” didn’t pay attention in seminary.  Even the most cessationist perspective would distinguish between ongoing revelation and God’s means of ongoing communication. Most evangelicals would tend towards a fully closed canon, and allow for some measure of ongoing interaction and contact with God that ventured beyond simply reading the Bible.  The attack on formal training, sound exegesis as our foundation for truth (canon), and the necessity for gifted teachers and authorities in the body are slipped in here as an unassailable part of Mack’s experience, which is the new authority.

In the foreword the author in a not so oblique way, and with a oddly fundamentalist attitude, tells us all he is not interested in any sort of critique of his work, which I found oddly contradictory:

“A couple of final disclaimers: Mack would like you to know that if you happen upon this story and hate it, he says, `Sorry…but it wasn’t primarily written for you.’  Then again, maybe it was.”

Both of these statements reflect  the new epistemology that has begun to make its way into the church:  It is true if it makes me feel good.  If it makes me feel better, then it is true.  If the facts get in the way of my feeling better, there must be something wrong with the facts so let’s ignore them.  This is different than a previous epistemological problem in the church  that is similar but not the same, that is, the attitude that says I don’t care about the details just tell me what to do.  At least in the latter attitude, there was an acknowledgment of truth content back there somewhere, I just don’t need to know the details, a kind of taking my car to the mechanic pragmatism.

The sentiment I get from people who like the Shack is reflected in this statement is that I really don’t want to be corrected or challenged about the statements in the Shack because I liked it, it made me feel good.  And so with Christian music, it doesn’t really seem to matter what the content of the song is, it just needs to make me feel good.  And so it comes full circle, these attitudes then attach themselves to what the people in the body take from the church:  only that which makes them feel good.  Everything else is indispensable or debatable, not on solid doctrinal or biblical grounds, rather on purely emotional and individual grounds.

Now I understand this need we have for a good feeling.  I think peace is a good feeling, love has good feelings attached to it, security is a good feeling, harmony with my wife is a good feeling and feelings in general are important and not peripheral to life, nor to my relationship with God.  Evangelicals have underemphasized and diminished the importance of feelings in many areas including worship.  Sometimes I should feel the burden of my sin, the elation that comes with the joy of salvation, and everything in between when we encounter the Creator.

The problem with the Shack, and inane Christian songs like “Your Love is Extravagant” is that they aim for the feeling without regard to the truth content which necessarily distinguishes our books and songs as “Christian”.  One of the criticisms of CCM is that it views Jesus as my boyfriend (there is even an acronym now “JIMBee” songs: Jesus is my Boyfriend).

Those of us who are critical of mindless material, material that ignores truth content as it strives to elicit a response, find ourselves having to defend our posture.What is disturbing to me as a pastor is that this sort of valid criticism is often ignored.  We are told that we just need to relax, no one is getting hurt.

For me, it is like having casual sex with God. We woke up the next morning, rolled over and asked:  By the way what is your name?   It really doesn’t matter what his name is, I just like feeling good.  My apologies for saying it in such a way that seems to be in the same tradition as the things I am criticizing, just being shocking is not a guarantee of accuracy either.  Many seek to be heard by being provocative.  I hope that I am not simply being provocative with this post (although I know that the title is provocative, and potentially offensive), but that it also is an accurate assessment and critique, spoken in a way that will be heard by people who so easily dismiss criticism of their “feelings”.

What is so disappointing is that truth content and sound doctrine are  not contrary to the production of good feelings, or the accurate production of conviction, which would include emotions.

Our relationship with God is sometimes described in the Bible by using the sexual relationship as a model.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  If we understand the Song of Solomon as more than a marriage manual or love poem between two humans, then the metaphor of physical intimacy paints for us a parallel to the intimacy that we desire in our relationship with God.  As such, “casual” would not be a term we desire to describe our relationship with God.

By definition, casual sex is sex that is not linked to the intimacy of relationship.  In order for relationship to be truly intimate, it must be accompanied by knowledge.  That knowledge must be personal and accurate.  Foregoing the pursuit of knowledge reduces the level of intimacy and causes our relationship to move more toward the casual which ultimately is unsatisfying.

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The Shack, Pt. 2

First, here is Ben Witherington’s review of The Shack (pretty sharp guy).

Ben Witherington is a worthy critic who gives a mostly positive but cautious review of the book. If you have read the book and are not theologically trained, I would almost insist that you follow up your reading with a healthy critique like the one from Witherington.

The Shack is a book by William Paul Young, I enjoyed the book, for the most part. It is a good read, hardly a classic like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (sorry Eugene), in fact some parts are downright embarrassingly trite. At one point Young has Jesus mouth the words “True that” like some beer commercial “I want to sound cool” guy saying “what’s up?” for “wassup?”  Young has God saying the same trite things that some pastors say when people are confronted with the devastation of sin and evil. God is recreated in his pastoral image. When I hear my words, frail human pastor, in the mouth of God, I am disappointed. The picture painted of the divine in the Shack is often simply a reflection of the author’s theological position, and often not a very good position at that. And that is where the huge challenge lies in the undertaking of a book like The Shack. His vision of God ultimately disappoints. It is like watching your favorite book put into movie form; that isn’t how I pictured it. The Shack does engage some great topics that Christians don’t normally talk about, like the Trinity, and addresses some heart tugging issues like the real problem of evil in the life of the main character, Mack. Continue reading The Shack, Pt. 2

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The Problem of Evil

5 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other,
7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

Isaiah 45:5-7 is a tremendous passage of Scripture which affirms the sovereignty of God.

I once heard a prominent church leader call this passage of Scripture “obscure”. That floored me. I found that observation to be shocking, naively ignorant of the breadth of the Scripture and the foundational nature of this passage to the understanding of the whole of Scripture. The truth expressed in this passage forms the background to Romans 9-11 and to the whole of the book of Job. It is impossible to frame theodicy (the problem of evil) biblically without engaging this passage of Scripture. In fact, the church’s anemic position on theodicy stems precisely from considering this passage obscure or from ignoring this passage.

Let me start with my conclusions:

  • Isaiah could care less about the modern discussion of the problem of evil.
  • Isaiah was focused on the exclusivity of God’s sovereignty: he is declaring God to be the only God.
  • Isaiah doesn’t deem to give an answer to the problem of evil, he simply says “woe to the one who quarrels with his maker.”

Continue reading The Problem of Evil

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Typology & Daniel 6

Here are the links I promised to those of you in OT Survey and Bible study on Daniel.

Tonight’s Old Testament Class covered the issue of typology.    Good article on Typology  by W. Edward Glenny from Journal of Evangelical Theology (JETS).  Here is another version of the same article by Glenny, easier to read as it is all on one web page.   Here is an overview type article from Wayne Jackson that is really similar to the material in Bernard Ramm’s chapter on Typology from  Protestant Biblical Interpretation.    Since I don’t have a link to Ramm, this will have to do.

Tonight’s Bible Study covered Daniel 6. Daniel 6 is a good example of a passage that has clear typological elements (innocent man wrongly accused and sentenced to death only to defy death and emerge from a grave alive; visitor races to the “tomb”/pit/den at dawn to find hero not dead but alive;  global kingdom proclamation similar to the great commission) and yet is not classically considered typology.  For a good article on the historical challenges with Daniel, check out this PDF file by A.R. Millard, “Daniel 1-6 and History,” Evangelical Quarterly 49.2 (April-June 1977).

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