Saturday, April 09, 2016

Death Destroyed

"Now, if it is by the sign of the cross and by the faith that is in Christ that death is trampled down, then, if judging by truth,it is none other than Christ himself who shows the trophies and victories against death and renders it fully weakened. And if formerly death was strong, and therefore fearsome, but is now despised, after the sojourn of the Savior and after the death and resurrection of his body, clearly it is by him, the Christ who was raised upon the cross, that death has been destroyed and conquered."

Athanasius, "On the Incarnation", (translated by John Behr)

Monday, April 04, 2016

Come My People

(Excerpt from a recent lesson I presented to our adult Sunday school classes at my church.)

The Protection of the People of God from the full fury that is coming - Isaiah 26:20-21

Isaiah 26:20: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” (ESV)

To the Israelite living in Isaiah's time these words would evoke Passover imagery: The angel of death passing over the houses marked by the blood of the Passover lamb. Those first born who were in the houses with the Passover lamb's blood on the doorposts would be spared. Those who were outside of the marked houses would die.

This imagery reflected in Revelation 18:4-5 – Judgment on “Babylon”:

“Come out of her, my people,lest you take part in her sins,lest you share in her plagues;for her sins are heaped high as heaven,and God has remembered her iniquities."

What is this “fury”?

Isaiah 26:21: “For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.”

The main point of this is not about wondering or arguing if Christians will be preserved "from" the great tribulation or if they will be preserved "through" the great tribulation. It is not about if we hold a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation view of the end times. It is about what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1:

“There is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

True Christian believers, those who are "in Christ Jesus", are NOT nor ever will be under the WRATH of God period! They may suffer tribulation and distress and even death itself. They may experience the loving discipline their heavenly Father exercises toward His wayward children. They may face persecution even unto death for the sake of the name of Christ. But be very sure of this, they will NEVER be recipients of the wrath of God; that wrath they deserved was put on Jesus’ head at the cross, and those who are in Him are forgiven and declared righteous for His sake.

(The complete outline and notes for this lesson are available here.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Into this Alien Land...

"We are not left alone in this frightful world. Into this alien land God has come to us."

Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline; (as quoted by Stanley Hauerwas,With The Grain of the Universe)

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Day After the Michigan Presidential Primary

So as the Donkey & Elephant Circus leaves town today, the Rube is left contemplating the massive transmission failure that left him in the dust of Brutus Buckeye and the Texas Cactus.

On the other side Maleficent remains stunned by the totally unexpected upstaging of her easy pickings by the Magical Mr. Magoo.

Meanwhile the circus clown, masquerading as the Wizard of Oz, goes merrily on his way having once again deftly maneuvered the smoke and mirrors to avoid detection as the man behind the curtain.

We hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you for coming.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

War and Propaganda

  "It is not a nice thing to see a Spanish boy of fifteen carried down the line on a stretcher, with a dazed white face looking out from among the blankets, and to think of the sleek persons in London and Paris who are writing pamphlets to prove that this boy is a Fascist in disguise. One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. The P.S.U.C. militiamen whom I knew in the line, the Communists from the International Brigade whom I met from time to time, never called me a Trotskyist or a traitor; they left that kind of thing to the journalists in the rear. The people who wrote pamphlets against us and vilified us in the newspapers all remained safe at home, or at worst in the newspaper offices of Valencia, hundreds of miles from the bullets and the mud. And apart from the libels of the inter-party feud, all the usual war-stuff, the tub-thumping, the heroics, the vilification of the enemy —all these were done, as usual, by people who were not fighting and who in many cases would have run a hundred miles sooner than fight. One of the dreariest effects of this war has been to teach me that the Left-wing press is every bit as spurious and dishonest as that of the Right."

"Homage to Catalonia", George Orwell

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Nature of Revolutionary Civil War

“The bloodlust in revolutionary civil wars stems from the apocalyptic nature of such contests, the attempts on each side to create a new society and cultural order, not merely a different political system, totally purged of antagonistic elements. In these conflicts the enemy is perceived not as an ordinary political rival, but as a kind of metaphysical incarnation of evil that must be eradicated before it infects, or imposes the same terror on, one’s own side. A revolutionary civil war is not an ordinary political contest, but a contest of ultimates about society, religion, and culture, perceived to demand a total and uncompromising solution.”

~ Stanley G. Payne, “The Spanish Civil War” (Cambridge University Press, 2012) pg. 103

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Studies in Romans 8 & 9

After my retirement in December 2013, I became involved in a Tuesday morning men's Bible Study at my church; West Cannon Baptist Church in Belmont, Michigan. The Bible study was going through the Epistle of Romans and using Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ detailed multi-volume exposition as the main reference.

Starting in early 2015, I was asked to share teaching responsibilities for the Bible Study in conjunction with my friend Bob who up to this time had been the only teacher. We worked it out that Bob would take a section of the Romans passage we were on, and then I would take the next section of verses.

What I am making available in this Google Drive folder is my notes for those studies I was responsible for. I have not done any editing to put these in more of a publishable or academic style form, but make them available “as is”. See link below.

Studies in Romans 8 & 9

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Next American "Civil War"?

From time to time in the universe of Internet one may come across some comment or discussion of the possibility or probability of a second American civil war. For some, such comments come from a perspective holding to a romanticized "lost cause" view of the first American Civil War of the 1860's; a view that engages in the vain yearning or perhaps more accurately the vain conceit that the "South" will somehow "rise again..."

For some time now, I have viewed such romantic conceit as totally out of touch with the reality of modern warfare and the changing face of what modern civil war has become. My classic case in point for that assertion is the Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930's. I recently started reading Stanley G. Payne's account of the Spanish Civil War published in 2012 by Cambridge as part of their Cambridge Essential Histories series. The following is an extended quote from Payne's introduction on pages 1-4 in which he deals with how the nature of civil war changed in the 20th century.

"By 1918, civil war had broken out in Finland and Russia, and it was not the traditional kind of civil war in which two contestants engage in a power struggle with equivalent goals and similar values, but a new kind of revolutionary civil war of the sort first essayed in France during the 1790's and in 1871. In the new civil wars, sharply contrasting revolutionary and counterrevolutionary programs vied for power, aiming not merely at political domination, but at imposing totally contrasting programs in society, economics, culture, and even religion--two completely antagonistic ways of life, virtually two different civilizations. These civil conflicts were fought with unprecedented bitterness and violence, extending far beyond the field of battle. Red terror and its counterrevolutionary counterpart during the Russian civil war sought not merely to conquer, but to some extent to eradicate the opposition completely, rooting out antagonists physically as well as politically, as though they represented contending religious or metaphysical principles, forces of absolute good or evil that had not merely to be conquered but completely extirpated. The result was unprecedented political violence in many different parts of the former Tsarist empire, while violent internal conflict also broke out in central and southern Europe..."

"...In this perspective, civil war in Spain was not a complete anomaly, but rather the only massive internal conflict to break out in Western Europe during the 1930's. It would reflect all the tensions, hatreds and ideologies found in these other conflicts, while adding further features of its own, characteristic of Spain and to some extent Europe as a whole during the decade before World War II."

Simply put, a modern civil war in the United States would not look much at all like the Civil War of the 1860's. Further more, we have very ample reason to believe that a modern civil war in the United States would very likely make the first Civil War look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison in terms of the level of violence and terror from both sides of the conflict. Also a modern civil war in America would very likely involve two antagonists of whom both would be repugnant and despicable, but in their extremism, there will be no allowance for any middle ground or moderation. In the Spanish Civil War there was nothing to like in either the Franco party on the one hand or the so called Republicans on the other. Both sides had repudiated the democratic process and both sides engaged in their share of violence and terror.

There may very well come a time in the future when the United States falls again into the scourge of another civil war, but if it does, it will have little or nothing to do with the "South rising again..."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

tou θeoῦ Λὀγoς (The Logos of God)

" the grace of the resurrection banishing death from them as straw from the fire."

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God (tou θeoῦ Λὀγoς) comes into our realm, although He was not formerly distant. For no part of creation is left void of Him; while abiding with His own Father, He has filled all things in every place. But now He comes, condescending towards us in His love for human beings and His manifestation. For seeing the rational race perishing, and death reigning over them through corruption, and seeingf also the threat of the transgression giving firm hold to the corruption that was upon us, and that it was absurd for the law to be dissolved before being fulfilled, and seeing the impropriety in what had happened, that the very thing of which He Himself was the Creator were disappearing, and seeing the excessive wickedness of human beings, that they gradually increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves, and seeing the liability of all human beings to death--having mercy upon our race, and having pity upon our weakness, and condescending to our corruption, and not enduring the dominion of death, least what had been created should perish and the work of the Father Himself for human beings should be in vain,He takes for Himself a body and that not foreign to our own.

For He did not wish simply to be in a body, nor did He wish merely to appear, for if He had wished only to appear He could have made His divine manifestation through some other better means. But He takes that which is ours, and that not simply, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, ignorant of man, pure and unmixed with intercourse with men. Although being Himself powerful and the creator of the universe, He prepared for Himself in the Virgin the body as a temple, and made it His own, as an instrument, making Himself known and dwelling in it. And thus taking from ours that which is like, since all were liable to the corruption of death, delivering it over to death on behalf of all, He offered it to the Father, doing this in His love for human beings, so that, on the one hand, with all dying in Him the law concerning corruption in human beings might be undone (its power being fully expended in the lordly body and no longer having any ground against similar human beings), and on the other hand, that as human beings ha d turned towards corruption He might turn them again to incorruptibility and give them life from death, by making the body His own and by the grace of the resurrection banishing death from them as straw from the fire.

St.Athanasius, "On the Incarnation" , (Translation by John Behr)