Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Propaganda and the Death of Truth

In an age of 143 character quips and 10 second sound bites, the one yelling loudest and longest supposedly "wins". But what do they win? Has anyone ever really changed their opinion on an issue on the basis of tweets and sound bites? Look at who the social media blurbs are addressed to. "Liberals are really going to be mad when they see this!" "Conservatives just don't understand x, y, and z." Ninety nine percent of such social media sound bites are preaching to the choir. Liberals will not be mad, because they will not see the blurb, and if they did, they will not care. Conservatives will not be reading your brilliantly contrived propaganda sophistry, and if they did they will pick it apart in other blurbs you will probably not see, let alone read. Watching all of this going on in social media is like watching a comedy, but sadly, as with much comedy, the roots of that comedy are found in tragedy.. Welcome to the post-modern world. Behold the fruit of your post-modernity...

So this week, once again as they have done so many times before, the propaganda machines from all sides of the political fence are generating "drama" out of some issue or other; said drama calculated to advance the specific agendas, goals, and world views of the groups behind those propaganda machines. Emotions are appealed to on both sides and critical scrutiny and careful dispassionate rational thought and discussion is the casualty of the sophistry and "new speak" used to bend popular political and cultural will and thought into channels that feed the never ending lust for power and control of said groups. ...and all under the rubric of "news"... Of course "propaganda" is a word little used or understood. We can't talk about the nature of propaganda lest we expose the house of lies and deceit the propaganda machines have created. May God Almighty have mercy on us and deliver us from this scourge...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Second Word

"Truly I tell you, today you will walk with me in Paradise..."

Accordingly it is almost impossible for us not to identify with the thief's request. Please, dear Jesus, remember us. Insure that our lives will have significance so that we will be more than bubbles on the foam of life. Jesus's crucified companion, however, does not ask to be remembered so that his life will have significance. Rather he asks, as the Psalms have taught Israel to ask, to be remembered when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Such a request makes sense only if Jesus - a man undergoing the same crucifixion the thief suffers - can fulfill such a request. We desperately ask to be remembered, fearing we are nothing. In contrast this thief confidently asks to be remembered because he recognizes the One who can remember...

Here in this crucified Messiah, we see the love that moves the sun and the stars. To be "with Jesus" means we are not "lost in the cosmos," but rather we can confidently live in the recognition, with faith, that God is not other than the one found in Jesus of Nazareth. How could we ever think we need more than this thief? Like the thief we can live with the hope and confidence that the only remembering that matters is to be remembered by Jesus.

Excerpt from: "Cross-Shattered Christ", Stanley Hauerwas; (Brazos Press,2004)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Salvation is of the Lord

...It is all of God. Man cannot save himself, and the Law of God cannot save him, because it is weak through the flesh, our flesh. And even if the salvation planned and prepared by God Himself had to depend upon our flesh - my faith, my holding on, my abiding, or anything else - it would fail. But, thank God, it does not depend upon us at any point; it is altogether from God: it is God's action upon us at any point; it is altogether from God: it is God's action from beginning to end. The God who saves us is the God who keeps. He keeps us, we are in His hands, it is God's action.

This is vital to the whole argument of the Apostle. You can not have assurance of salvation, you can not have certainty of your final glorification unless you realize that salvation is altogether of God..."

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Romans: Exposition of Chapter 7:1 - 8:4: The Law: Its Functions and Limits", (Comments on Romans 8:3-4)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This is the end...

...of the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen.

As I write, the New Year has already swept over Asia and Europe, and very shortly will be reaching the North America continent. Time is a peculiar thing. We know time is not absolute but is relative. Or as the fictional Doctor would put it time is, “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey-stuff”. The Apostle Peter tells us that with God, one year is as a thousand, and a thousand years are as one. But for us in our finiteness, time goes forward without any going back; though we know it is not absolute in the scale of the universe, it is absolute to us in our experience of it. The end of the year means we are another year closer to the end; the end of our finite lives; the end of the world and universe as it will someday soon or later come to its cataclysmic end. Thus we are told to number our days, knowing that our life under the sun is brief and transitory. But we do not count them with the angst of stoic resignation. We count them in the hope of ultimate redemption and restoration; the New heavens and new earth where in dwells righteousness. So it is in that ultimate hope we enter into this new year of our Lord, two thousand and fifteen.

Peace be unto you...

.

A Union Soldier's Year End Reflections

"Another year has rolled past and joined the many gone before in the vistas of the past. Its glorious deeds of valor and achievements, its scenes of anguish and bloodshed, of wrong and oppression, are subjects for the future historian. Its ever varying scenes and emotions are indelibly impressed upon my mind, which death alone can efface. The snow has clothed the earth in a lovely mantle of white as though to hide the sad past, and offer a clear page for me in the coming year. Let me then look forward with hope and determination to keep in the path of virtue and right, striving to improve the blessings and privileges offered me, so that when 1865 closes I need not look back with regret at the year spent."

~ Jenkin Lloyd Jones, 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, December 31, 1864, writing from Nashville, TN.

(Copied from DOTCW.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blessed...

"...Blessed is he who is alone in the strength of the fellowship and blessed is he who keeps the fellowship in the strength of aloneness. But the strength of aloneness and the strength of fellowship is solely the strength of the Word of God, which is addressed to the individual in the fellowship."

~ Life Together, "The Day Alone", Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Understanding “Immanuel” in Isaiah 7

“Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

Observations:

Ahaz was asked to request a sign, but in his unbelief refuses to do so. Isaiah in his rebuke of Ahaz announces the Lord will “give you (in context referring to Ahaz) a sign.” A time frame is given which is a critical part of the sign to Ahaz. A child will be born, and by the time the child attains a certain age of discernment Syria and Israel will be no more. Commentators debate what that age is, but none will say it is more than the age of 12. Both the child and the child’s age are critical components of the sign to Ahaz. The name Immanuel (God with us) was a sign to Ahaz that God had not abandoned His people. God’s purposes for His people would be accomplished in spite of Ahaz’s unbelief.

As Leupold observes, “The major difficulty happens to be that a contemporary person is almost demanded by the very situation involved… At the same time a contemporary child seems to be inexorably demanded by the passage.” (Exposition of Isaiah, H.C. Leupold)

Then we come to the Gospel of Matthew where this prophecy of Immanuel is cited:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Leupold holds the view that the fulfillment of the Isaiah 7 prophecy was delayed until the time Matthew speaks of. I find that explanation unsatisfactory and problematic. For the matter prophesied to be a sign to Ahaz, there had to be some kind of fulfillment in Ahaz’s lifetime. The birth of Isaiah's child, Maher-shalal-baz, in the immediate succeeding context of Isaiah 8:1-3 seems the best understanding of the immediate fulfillment of the sign prophecy to Ahaz in chapter 7.

How then are we to understand Matthew’s use of the Isaiah 7 prophecy of Immanuel?

The best understanding of Matthew’s reference is that the woman who at the time of the prophecy was an unmarried virgin and then became Isaiah’s wife and bore him the son spoken of in chapter 8, is a type or foreshadowing of the Virgin Mary. Likewise the child of Isaiah 8:1-3 was a type of or foreshadowing of the Messiah Jesus. This is in essence, the view of the following commentators:

"Language is selected such as, while partially applicable to the immediate event, receives its fullest, most appropriate, and exhaustive accomplishment in Messianic events. The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained “accommodation”; rather the temporary fulfilment of an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:10). Evidently the wording is such as to apply more fully to Jesus Christ than to the prophet’s son; “virgin” applies, in its simplest sense, to the Virgin Mary, rather than to the prophetess who ceased to be a virgin when she “conceived”; “Immanuel,” God with us (Jn 1:14; Rev 21:3), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah’s son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly (Is 9:6), “the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Is 8:18), the mighty God.” Local and temporary features (as in Is 7:15, 16) are added in every type; otherwise it would be no type, but the thing itself. There are resemblances to the great Antitype sufficient to be recognized by those who seek them; dissimilarities enough to confound those who do not desire to discover them." (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible”)

A virgin shall conceive. The word for virgin here is carefully chosen. Etymologically ‘almậ does not necessarily signify a virgo intacta (an untouched maiden). In actual usage in the Hebrew Scriptures, however, it refers only to a maiden chaste and unmarried (so far as the context shows). This well fits the prospective mother alluded to in this situation. Judging from 8:1-4, the typical mother was the prophetess who became Isaiah’s wife within a short time after this prophecy was spoken. Therefore she was a virgin at the time this promise was given. She serves as a type of the Virgin Mary, who remained a virgin even after her miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit. The son of this prophetess, correspondingly, is a type of the Messianic Immanuel as shortly will be explained.” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Isaiah contribution by Gleason L. Archer Jr.)

This view of type and fulfillment best satisfies the demand for an immediate fulfillment in the time of Isaiah and Ahaz, and allowing for an understanding of Jesus Christ being the fullness of what is meant by the name Immanuel per Matthew’s citation. This is what is pointed to by the more direct prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”