Friday, December 31, 2010

What was that about?

Matthew 27:51-53 "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many"
It's curious how this bit is found only in Matthew, the gospel to the Jews, and dropped so quickly that Matthew presumes the reader would immediately know the significance and move on to the next point.  For myself, I think it's a reference

Ezekiel 37:1-6 "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD."
And now the Key point I think Matthew is referencing
Ezekiel 37:11-14 "Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD."
That would mean that the rest of Ezekiel 37:15-28 is a fulfillment of the Samaritans being rejoined to Israel, the King ruling over all time is Jesus on His ascension and crucifixion, and that the promise of eternity in paradise of safety is, like the rest, a spiritual fulfillment of the goodness of God. 
That is to say, Ezekiel 37 is trying to get us to see that it's fulfillment is in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  That scripture is grounded and rooted in the cross.  Small wonder then that Paul says in 1 Cor 15:3 that the key to understanding is the crucifixion.

Rewards for God's doings

Ezekiel 36:25-27 "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey my rules."
Matthew 25:21 "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'"

I have heard it asked, how is it that God can praise the man for merely doing what God made Him to do?  The Calvinist answers that God would not be good unless He loves and praises the good, therefore in a sense God is compelled to enjoy His works  and beauty being reflected.  This is true.
But it came to me as I was washing my daughters hands by giving her the soap, and the water, and the elevation to do the task, and then by moving her arms and hands as I dictated, that she was indeed cooperating with me, and trying to emulate me and learn from my instruction.  For this I praised her, and yet nobody would raise the same charge against me "How can you praise your infant daughter for doing what you made her to do?" 
I am training my daughter to do things, in heaven God will be dispensing rewards in exactly the same way.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Because he never believed from the beginning

Matthew 26:21-25 "And as they were eating, He said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." And they were very sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?"  

He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray Me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." 


Judas, who would betray Him, answered, "Is it I, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You have said so."


The wife actually pointed this one out to me.  Prov 18:22

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The verse that makes you Calvinist

John 6:44 - No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Some verses must be interpreted in the Arminian way or the general sense, see John 3:16, but some other verses simply won't tolerate it.  This is one of those that only allows the Calvinist understanding.

No one can come to Me
Is the universal negative. There is no man alive who can accept Christ into his heart, or bow to him as Lord, or come to Him asking for anything in any way.  Unless Jesus is wrong it is simply impossible for any man to come near to God.

unless the Father
The first person in the Trinity is the only one who has the power to break the universal negative we just read.

who sent me
Jesus is sent from the Father, to do the Fathers will. John 6:57, John 8:18, John 5:37, John 8:16, John 8:42 (among many other passages testifying to this).  He did not come of His own accord, or to do His own will, but He was sent.

draws him.
So unless the Father Himself draws the man it is impossible that he come.  Now this word ἕλκω, which means to compel or drag, is not a word that is used to mean a passive wooing but an active overpowering.  Elsewhere in the Bible it's used to speak of seizing by force Acts 16:19,  Acts 21:30, of the disciples dragging their fish ashore in a net John 21:6, John 21:11, of being dragged into court James 2:6, or of a sword yanked from it's sheath John 18:10.  It's best translated draw here because in society they used to ἕλκω water from a well.


and I will raise Him up on the last day
We may naturally think the word draw has a wooing sense, that God is gently drawing the whole word, until we finish reading this verse and see that only the believer will be drawn, for only they will be saved.  No one can come unless dragged, and everyone so effectually dragged is saved- the two thoughts are intimately connected.  Nobody wooed fails to be saved.
The only way to restore the gentle wooing sense of draw is to chop the verse in half and assert that these are two different people - one set are wooed, and another are raised to eternal life.  Alas, the and breaks that thought.  


The only way to get through this verse is to either accept the Calvinistic concepts of Perseverance of the Saints, Total Depravity, and Effectual Calling, or to skip over the verse by not believing it. 

the Church of Christ objects to John 6:44

In the last post we looked at the verse that only allows for the Calvinistic interpretation.  The only real way out of this is to ignore the verse.  To prove my point I hold up James Burton Coffman's Commentary  on this verse (famous Church of Christ theologian) who says the following (which I have reorganized for ease of use)
  1. Those who find in this an irresistible and sovereign act of God in calling individual sinners find much more than is in it, for the very next verse tells exactly how the drawing is accomplished: "They shall all be taught of God." 
  2. To suppose that God draws some and not others would be to suppose that God is partial and unjust Acts 10:34
  3. The murmurers [the unbelieving crowd] in this passage had rejected the teaching of God relative to [because of] the lowliness of the Messiah, thus thwarting God's drawing of them unto himself. The fact of [the] rejection [of God's drawing] by some does not nullify the promise; the ones who respond will still be raised up at the last day.   
Let's answer him in reverse order. 
3. Notice first that this has nothing whatsoever to do with John 6:44.  He claims that God is indeed continually thwarted in drawing [by this he means wooing which we showed to be wrong] all men, the consequence of which is that God is not greater than man.  Seeing the bind he places himself in Burton adds that if you change your mind and cooperate God's offer is still good, and God is capable of becoming stronger again with your help.  Which doesn't really get him out of the bind of making God less powerful then man at all.
2. To suppose that God effectually draws some men and not others would be to make God unjust.  Ignore Ezekiel 33:20, Romans 9:14-16 for a moment.  When Moses request for more life was turned down but Hezekiahs was not was that unjust?  When God gave great riches to Solomon but not to Saul was that unjust?  When God made Babylon rule the world at the expense of Syria, Assyria, Judah, Sidon, and Egypt, was that unjust?  To believe this to deny the right God has to do whatsoever pleases Him, to say nothing of the fact that the verse itself tells us that everyone so called will receive eternal life (and we know that not everyone receives eternal life, ergo not everyone was called)
1. Those who teach what the verse says will be thwarted when they realize that God Himself regenerates the hearts and minds of the people, thus allowing them to accept Him; that God Himself teaches the inner man to love Him anew.  I fail to see how this contradicts John 6:44.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hyper Calvinism is really all about me

The main tenant I have with Hypercalvinism is that it makes too much of men.
On the surface it looks like it makes the least of men of every given philosophy considering that it asserts men are so fallen that it does not even ask them for repentance, but in reality it elevates men to a place they ought not to be in. Under the guise of humility it hides a growing pride. It's hypocrisy.

Take as an example the substutionary atonement (1 Cor 15:3, Rom 14:15, 1 Peter 2:24).  The hypers agree to this doctrine, making it look as if they make much of the God who saves those incapable of saving themselves, but they go on to assert that Christ has died in this way only for the elect.  The Bible is clear however that His wrath is due sinners Ezr 8:22, Mat 12:36, Col 3:6, and that we are sinners Rom 3:10. To save us Christ dies as a sinner in our place Rom 5:8, 2 Cor 5:21.  We are invited to take comfort and acceptance therefore in our sinfulness, because Christ dies to save sinners, 1 Tim 1:15, not in election as if Christ died for the elect.  The Bible speaks much of our sinfulness, and comparatively little of our election because it's emphasizing the chief thing: our sinfulness.

On the other hand the hypercalvinist (and I include the high Calvinist as they commit the same mistake just to a lesser degree) take the same verses and see Christ dying for the elect, of which I am one.  In verses that speak of Christs death they no longer see the word sinner, they see the word us, or me.  In other words, Christ came to die for me, and took the wrath due me because I'm electHe dies for the elect to pay their debt and not a single bit more, nor does He have compassion on the non-elect.  How can He? He dies for specific sins of the elect, so the non-elect in no way have any of their sins paid for, as their sole function was ever to bring Him glory by burning forever in hell.
You will never find a hyper thinking of himself as a reprobate or a sinner, nor are the elect ever under a serious wrath considering God always wanted to save them. Eph 2:1-3 is talking about a different kind of dead and a different, special kind of wrath. Those warning passages do not apply to a Hyper because of how special he is, how important he is.  That is the mark of pride.

This is why most Biblical doctrines get destroyed- ultimately it's because the hyper is wrapped up in himself. Take common grace for example. A hyper will insist that there is no such thing because Christ never had an intention to save the non-elect and so never purchased good for them, but the underlying motive for this conclusion is that I'm special and they are not, they shall not share my inheritance. It sounds like the Judiazers.  "I will not share my inheritance in Abraham. I will not share my God's blessings. I will not share with the Gentiles because I am special, I am better than them. I thank you God that I am not a sinner."  Luke 18:11 is the prayer of the Pharisee and hyper Calvinist alike.
Likewise the need for sanctification.  Go join a HyperCalvinist forum or group and see how much regard they have for others.  Do not slander, love your brother, these are unnecessary because I am already saved, I am elect, I am chosen. I have already overcome all sin and passed from judgment to life. The blessings in Christ are mine, not Christ's who then gives to me.
Likewise evangelism.  What do I care if you go to heaven or not?  God will see to it if He wants.
Likewise fellowship with everyone else. What is destroying the desire to commune with the body is Pride, the vice that utterly destroys all ability to get along with others.

I propose this is the explanation for so many (if not most) Arminians who convert swing all the way out to HyperCalvinism.  Conventional wisdom has it that they are like a pendulum, but in reality they are just taking a small step further, trading their self importance under free will in for a greater self importance under election.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Free will is God's sovereignty - an introduction

What started as a hunch will now be propounded: that what we think of as the 'free will' of man is actually the sovereignty of God. That the two ideas are one thing, and the way to resolve the crisis is to look higher up at God than we did before.  Having said this, I suspect there are perhaps a number of other ways out of this trap.  The guys over here think the idea is to think outside the box.  Worth considering as well.  I know that this is a huge issue that many stumble at, but there are number of good reasons to ignore the failure of the ancients and push forward.
  1. Many (most?) people get part of the way to clearing up the discrepancy and simply quit. This site that I really respect just isn't trying when it says:
    Scripture is clear that God knows the future (Matthew 6:8; Psalm 139:1-4) and has total sovereign control over all things (Colossians 1:16-17; Daniel 4:35). The Bible also says that we must choose God or be eternally separated from Him. We are held responsible for our actions (Romans 3:19; 6:23; 9:19-21).How these facts work together is impossible for a finite mind to comprehend (Romans 11:33-36)
    It's no wonder they can't figure it with that attitude.  Just because a task is impossibly big doesn't mean we shouldn't try at all.  It just means that we have to be careful since the guard rails are off.

  2. There exists in the sinful mind a dichotomy between the two ideas, that because there can be only one sovereign, the two people or ideas must be in opposition. The Arminian says "Free will is given by God and He doesn't tamper with it. I have no scripture to back this up but otherwise men are robots."  The HyperCalvinist says "Well God is sovereign therefore there is no such thing moral agency.  He directly causes all things, even men to sin." and the moderate Calvinist says "God establishes moral agency by his sovereignty but beyond that no man can know."  In all cases there is a preconception that the two ideas are not similar but different in a fundamental way.  Parallel lines that meet only somewhere in heaven. I reject this dichotomy too.  Now that I have said that you probably see the answer I'm driving toward.

  3. There is the seeds of this idea/proposition already in place, and in orthodox soil.  The Westminster Confessions says this in chapter 3
    "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."
Of course, having said that last sentence I have given away the game.  But it's worth a more full treatment, nonetheless.  One more thing, an analogy- there is a famous math problem my dad used to torment me with when I was younger and incapable of sustained rational thought: Three people pay $10 each for a motel room for a total of $30. The manager realizes he has over charged them and gives $5 in ones to the bellhop to return to them, but the bellhop keeps $2 for himself before giving each of the men $1. If each of the men paid $27 (9x3) and the bellhop kept $2, (27+2=29) then where did the extra dollar go?
There could not be a more perfect analogy for the problem of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.  The problem resolves, or should I say vanishes, when viewed properly, and yet becomes formidable when viewed improperly.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free Will *is* God's Sovereignty Proved

Time to make good on my promise of a rich full treatment of this concept.  So that we are on the same page I'm going to define for you the meaning of the key words I'm going to use.

Sovereignty- The ability to carry out or affect all things desired.  God is sovereign over creation Rev 4:11, because of His power Phil 3:21 which He created alone for His pleasure Ps 135:6, Ps 115:3 and purposes Prov 16:4.  He is sovereign over the weather Gen 6:17, Ex 10:21, Ex 9:23-26Job 38:22, Mark 4:35, over the elements Ex 13:21, 2 Kings 2:8, events, Prov 16:33, John 1:7, Luke 13:4.  He is sovereign over animal creatures Ex 32:35, 1 Sam 6:4, Ps 104:21, 1 Kings 17:4-6. He is sovereign over Satan Job 1:12, Ps 103:20.  He is sovereign over nations Ps 47:7-9, Dan 2:20-21.  And yes, over men Ex 3:21, Ezekiel 7:27, Prov 16:33.  In fact in these select verses we have said nothing of God predestining nations and people, of choosing them by His grace alone.  All we have done is show that when God wants something He gets it.
Piper says it like this
God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Eph 1:11) which includes the fall of sparrows Matt 10:29, the rolling of dice Prov 16:33, the slaughter of his people Ps 44:11, the decisions of kings Prov 21:1, the failing of sight Ex 4:11, the sickness of children 2 Sam 12:15, the loss and gain of money 1 Sam 2:7, the suffering of saints 1 Peter 4:19, the completion of travel plans James 4:15, the persecution of Christians Heb 12:4-7, the repentance of souls 2 Tim 2:25, the gift of faith Phil 1:29, the pursuit of holiness Phil 3:12-13, the growth of believers Heb 6:3, the giving of life and the taking in death 1 Sam 2:6, and the crucifixion of his Son Acts 4:27-28. 
 But I say it like this
Whatever God wants to do, He does. Dan 4:35
Agency- A person appointed to act on behalf of someone else. We are appointed to act as a ruler on behalf of God over the animals, rocks, plants, and created order.  Gen 1:28.  We are given charge to carry out the will of God.  We are His hands, as it were 1 Cor 12:27, Col 2:19.

Moral
- an act or thought worthy of praise or condemnation, depending on how it squares with God's character.  Because God is worthy of praise 2 Sam 22:4, Ps 18:3 He is moral, and because we are made in His image Gen 1:26, we are moral, and our actions are worthy of praise Matt 25:21.

Free- uncoerced by sin.  John 8:36, 2 Peter 2:19.  Sin finds it's origin in our hearts Acts 5:4, Mark 7:21-23, never in God who is utterly pure and incapable of sin. Hab 1:13.  God is therefore the truest free being in existence. 

Will- the part of us that takes our volition and desires, and effects them. God often speaks to this part of us when demanding our perseverance, see 1 Sam 7:3 as an example.

From our definitions above we know that free will is that part of us that takes our desires and actualizes them and is untainted and uncorrupted by sin. But Scripture says unequivocally that we are by nature slaves to sin, so this is wrong, our will is by no means free John 3:19-20, 1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 12:3 to name a few.  Is that what the protest is over?  No.  What people most often mean when they speak of free will is the power to affect and accomplish what I please.  Notice what that is (look above)- it's sovereignty.  "How can Free Will and God's sovereignty coexist?" is therefore reduced to, "if God has unlimited power, how can He make us in His image and give us power to carry out His will for ourselves?" To ask it is to answer it. 
What you are seeing when you look at free will is actually an expression of God's sovereignty.  The problem has resolved itself because we are no longer seeing two different things in conflict, but the same thing from different perspectives.
Once we grasp that it is easy to put everything into a right perspective and draw the application.  Say for example, I want my daughter's room picked up, so I tell her to clean it.  Does she then have control over which toy goes in what box?  Yes, clearly. Does her freedom to do as she pleases in there mean that my sovereignty over her is fake? On the contrary, she has been given power and responsibility in order that she may do my will, and her freedoms are at that very moment proclaiming the supremacy of my sovereignty.  Does the fact that she is expressing my sovereignty in the form of cleaning as she pleases make her a robot?  Hardly.
God's working out his plan by giving sovereignty to His agents so they can act on His behalf is the truest and most complete expression of His sovereignty there can be.  In other words, our freedom is not only established and upheld by Him, it's Him expressing His sovereignty through us in an unparalleled, astonishingly magnificent fashion.  What does scripture say? Phil 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure"
Here His desire is to have us do a task for Him- to use our freedom over ourselves to work out our own salvation.  By His unfailing strength He will make us succeed, but because it's His power flowing into and through us to enable us to accomplish His desires.  He tells you to do it, gives you the enabling freedom, and then you do it. His will, His expression, His achievement, our action.  The thrust of the passage is His sovereignty, understood through the lens of our agency.

Therefore I conclude: our free will is
  1. Better called our sovereignty, which is an image, or shadow of His own
  2. Established and upheld by His sovereignty
  3. The way He carries out His supremely sovereign plans
The unbeliever Arminian will argue further by saying that this arrangement of us freely doing what God wants is either not God retaining His sovereignty, or is not us retaining our freedoms.  He will insist that the two wills may not be one under the other, but must be equal. But this is to demand that the creature is as glorious as God Himself.  It's a hecklers veto- "if I cannot be God then no one shall be, for I shall be sovereign, I shall be like the most high."  Paul answered precisely this in Rom 9:20.  There is no real questioning at that point, it's simple rank rebellion. To deny that we are free is to deny that He could make us free and still retain control- it's to limit His power.  To deny that He is sovereign is to limit His power again.  To place them one under the other, and show that one is an expression of the other is the way out of the trap. 

Why then has God appointed this system to exist?  I submit because it makes Him more glorious. 
If His plan included rocks and water and hail and snow doing certain things at certain times and He was able to control them and use them for His purposes we would see that He is indeed great and glorious. 
If it included animals that act and have volition, pleasures and stimulus to do His bidding and carry out His plan it would be another, even greater thing. 
But God shows us how utterly huge and magnificent His mind is by using other sovereign agents to achieve His ends. It gives us a frame of reference to understand Him that would not be possible otherwise.  "Look man, you have this much power, which is a great deal, that allows you to reshape the world as you desire.  Think of the myriad of ways you do, think how you use the sand to make microchips, and quadrature amplitude phase modulation to manipulate microwaves to talk to each other over your wireless internet.  Consider that.  In the same way that you have power over the elements, I have power over you."

So there it is.  The question that asks how can there be free will and God's sovereignty is easy to answer: because God is sovereign and created us in His image.  For whatever reason it's a lot easier to think rightly about your sovereignty than your free will, perhaps because in the first case your mind is drawn upward, and in the second drawn inward. The trick to resolving the difficulty is to rid yourself of the sinful component in your mind that demands you be equal with God.
May God be praised as we meditate on the magnitude of His sovereignty. 

PS: The $9 each man pays already includes the bellhop's $2 fee.  To add it again is to double count it, which is wrong.
PPS: I understand the cavil that argues that God cannot will evil or evil to exist, therefore God cannot be sovereign in giving men the ability to rebel.  I will post about this in the future. It's a lot easier to answer than you might think.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Romans 3:25 excerpted from my book

I have had a devilishly hard time getting this passage to read right, but here it is anyway, after the revision.

[How is this offering Jesus made to God on our behalf] to be received [by us?] 
by faith.
We are justified the very moment we have faith in Jesus. We receive the gift by faith, for faith.
Acts 16:30-31- “Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

John 11:25-26- “Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
John 20:31- “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

[Why would Christ save us in] this [way?  What] was [the reason for it?]
to show God’s righteousness
All of God’s glorious attributes, wrath, justice, mercy, love, holiness, are seen clearly only in light of the cross.
Isaiah 62:2- “
The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
1 Corinthians 1:30- “
And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption”
1 John 4:9a- “I
n this the love of God was made manifest among us”

[Isn’t He always righteous?  What would lead people to think He wasn’t?]
because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. 
To show His patience God passed over our past sins, to keep His enemies from impugning His righteousness He could not do so forever.
2 Peter 3:4- “They will say, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation."
Galatians 4:4-5- “
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Something interesting in this- according to Paul here the cross was for God to show us His character, it really doesn't speak to us at all in this instance, it draws 100% of the attention up to God.  I further suspect that this is saying the same thing as what Jesus says in Mark 10:45.  It seems to me that Jesus is predominately known in a creature, creator way that would not be present without His sacrifice.  He is going to bring people in, but not for their sake.  He wants to make known His glory upon us, and He cannot do that unless we are created, so He creates.  He wants to make Himself known, so He comes to the Earth to come to the cross.  He is the tirminus in all thoughts, He provides us a (true) frame of reference outside ourselves.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review

Okay, so I know this isn't a normal post which has to do with theology thoughts and scriptural meditations, but I wanted to share this here anyway because I'm so upset at the watering down of the book. 
Last night the wife and I went to see the New Chronicles of Narnia movie.  I had just finish reading this article, which I find brilliant: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=23-06-030-f
which made the movie so much worse.   
Spoilers Below
After the first scene (which had no business being in the movie) of Edmund trying to slink into the military, VOTDT had a great 10 minutes of following the book closely, and the result was well done.  Meeting Eustice, the crew, the ship, sailing to the Lone Islands nearly put you in the action.  Unfortunately that's the end of following the book (I do recognize that it's very hard to gather momentum with this novel, it doesn't lend it self well to cinema, sure, but that's what we are paying them the big bucks to figure out isn't it?) and that's when the plot gives way like a malibu house in a mudslide.  Caspian decides to go alone into a hostile zone?  What?  The pirates turned out to be slavers in the sway of a terrible green CG mist? Oh yes, you know, the killer mist of dead people from Lord of the Rings III the return of the King.  What was it gaining the people to sacrifice the people on the island, as opposed to selling them for profit? What would make the writers think that a cowed island would rise up against their oppressors?  This makes no sense, it just begs the question, why did they not set out to save the world from the mist to begin with and forget going along with the book? Why the pretext of the lost lords?  Forget the lords, what's better than seven dudes?  Their seven swords by which we may fight and defeat the magic gas! 
The movie holds steady as we are introduced to life aboard the Dawn Treader, (although why they would pick up people on this voyage I have no idea). Eustice is a little monster every bit as unpleasant as the book, but alas, the noble mouse Reepeecheep has devolved into a smack talking fencing coach.  He has lost all of what made him so knightly, and it shows.
They reach the magicians island, which is not manicured and well groomed, but wild and unkempt looking.  Seeing this the crew decides to sleep the night on a hostile, unexplored territory without a guard.  (What kind of idiots are these Narnians anyway?)  The dufflepods then kidnap Lucy while the rest sleep. Why you ask? Because kidnapping is more action oriented, kids love kidnapping. She goes into the invisible house (why isn't the book invisible when the house is?) and rips out a page, reads the spell, makes everyone visible, but Aslan is chopped from this scene entirely.  Who needs him?  As it turns out the magician made all the hostile nuisance dufflepods invisible to protect them from the mist.  (If that was effective and they could rip pages from the book, why didn't they save the invisibility spell for when they encountered the mist?)
Back on board the ship the mist attacks Lucy who then prepares to read the beautifying spell she stole and is in for a rude surprise - she has become her sister.  I wish they would have implemented that back at the Island, because although it's clever, it really makes no sense.  Aslan explains that the chief virtue is being yourself.  (Hey Lucy, don't try to be beautiful, or virtuous, or who God made you, just have more self esteem.)
When they land on the deathwater island next, (yes, out of order from the book, it's annoying but easily forgivable) the movie sinks lower.  Deathwater pond is underground, in a cave, and when the item touches the pool it becomes solid gold, as opposed to what the water touches becoming gold. Why did they need to change this?  What motivation would the lord have to dive into it completely?  It's not hot there, if he wanted to drink the water he would have dipped his cup in and freaked out, not dove in, and certainly not dove in in a kneeling down position. Why the mist again?  The quarrel between Edmund and Caspian was at least well done.
Eustice then discovers the dragon horde and becomes a dragon by merely possessing the band.  (They did well with every dragon scene in my opinion. Good size, good physics etc.) Now they have a dilemma, there is nothing on this island (why a dragon would inhabit a waterless, foodless island is senseless, as they are too big to reach the deathwater cave) so after a night he decides to fly along with the ship, and even tow the ship, to Ramandus island. Yes skip the whole scene of Eustice meeting Aslan, skip his repentance, him changing back.  Who needs it?  And it gets even more offensive for Christians.  Lucy is sleeping on the island with the stow-away little girl who is troubled in her soul. Lucy comforts her by telling her that Aslan will make it right, and she asks in protest "But how can he, since he couldn't save her from getting kidnapped in the first place?"  Lucy is rightly stumped.  "Uh well I dunno, but I guess we should have faith anyway?"  This is such a thinly veiled dig at Christianity it makes me angry to think of even now. "Is God all loving? Is He all powerful?  Well there is suffering in the world and I don't have everything I want so God can't exist." 
On Ramandus island they lay down the 6 swords, talk briefly with Ramadu's daughter, eat from Aslans stone table, and prepare to sail to the Island that is going to destroy the world.  I might not be remembering this right, but I think they mentioned it's the stone table from the first movie that Aslan was sacrificed on.  Which just makes me more angry.
At last the climax of the movie, what every scene involving magic gas was building to- they must travel into Mordor to destroy the ring the dead island where the remaining Lord and sword lies.  Caspian gives a rousing generic speech "Go think of something motivating someone once said to you and go win this thing for Aslan Narnia" And they are off.  Once there they find the Lord Rhoop alone on a rock with no water, no food, no room to sit or lie down, who has been there for at least months, warning them all to turn around.  They are then over come by mist, again, and we see even more White witch.  She ends up logging about 3x more face time then Aslan. I'll admit that the sailors facing their fears was interesting, but the whole point of the book was that their dreams became real. Not subjective, objective. 
Now what does every action movie need?  If you said a videogame esque boss fight to end the movie you guessed right.  The Kracken from Pirates of the Caribbean Leviathan appears because during the trial they think their worst fears, so it takes on the form foreshadowed earlier.  Right then Caspian says "What did you do Ray is it?" and Edward responds "I thought of the most harmless thing possible- the Staypuff marshmallow man sea creature"
Who rescues the sailors but Eustice the fire breathing dragon, who is now full of courage and an awesome force for good?  Yep.  In fact the fight was going well until the 70 year old, starved, and dehydrated Lord Rhoop grabs his magic sword and throws it, 100 yards, on a perfect dart, for no reason, through Eustices magic dragon scales (that even the Leviathan couldn't penetrate) sinking deep into his shoulder.  This causes Eustice to leave (although why is not clear, he could have flown onto the ship and begin breathing fire at the beast until it expires) and meet Aslan.  This scene was forced and had no business being in the movie at this point.  As a reformed Christian who loved Lewis growing up I would have advised them to remove it, it adds no value to the plot.  It was obviously a bone thrown to Christians (See stupids? We left your scene in for you, although it's just as out of place and senseless as real repentance.)  For no real reason Eustice tries to cut himself and Aslan helps him out.  I suppose it was his reward for fighting, Aslan shows up and decides "Well you learned your lesson, I wanted you to come to Narnia to learn courage, so I will reward you here by restoring you, since you earned it through good deeds."
Flying into the air, exploding in fire, Eustice is not only transformed back but teleported to Aslans stone table (that everyone ate off of!!!) and does battle against the mist which seeks to restrain him, eventually placing the 7th sword with the rest and allowing the monster to become mortal.  Meanwhile, holding up the blue glowing magic sword Sam acquired from Frodo to keep the spider at bay err, sword of Griffendor acquired from the sorting hat, the basilisk serpent monster impales his own brain and dies this time for good. Harry Potter the crew is saved.
The kids, Reep and Caspian then sail to the end of the world and find Aslan on a narrow sandbar.  Aslan invites everyone who wants to to go to heaven, but Caspian refuses, telling Aslan off more or less. (As opposed to the book where Caspian has a tantrum and Aslan sharply reproves him when Reep wasn't enough) Although Reep decides to go on, the kids decide against dying, and want to go home as well.  Aslan approves of all choices, as all choices are equally good in his eyes.  He doesn't make decisions anyway, he just affirms ones you make.  He tells them that they must learn to meet him by his human name- Buddah.  Or Muhammid, or whatever, everything is equally valid, it's cool guys.  As if the concept of a supreme sovereign deity who does as he pleases in heaven and on earth, and none can restrain him or ask what has he done is the stupidest thing the writers have ever heard.  Reep goes, he has earned it at any rate, like everyone says.  Heaven is for those who have done well on this earth and choose to go on, which is really just as good as living out your ordinary life.   
Aslan has been completely stripped of his greatness, his glory, and his power.  Like Reep, he is reduced to an encouraging psychologist who wants everyone to do what pleases them. But on the bright side Aslan doesn't really tend to leave his country, so he won't bother you if you don't want him to. The end.
PS: I read an article about how Liam (the voice of Aslan) saw Aslan as a generic religious leader based on the script.  I mocked him for it, but now I'm sorry I did, because based on this movie he was perfectly right to think and say that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Imputation every day

My daughter pulled the hand towel off the stove rack this morning.  I told her that that was a no and to put it back, but the thing is she wasn't tall enough to loop it and make it stay, she could only bunch it up over the bar, and if she took her hand off it would fall.  But was this half way effort enough for me?  Yes.  I then gave her a big thank you big girl even though she hadn't actually done what I told her to do, and yet she understood just fine that she had achieved what I wanted.  Her obedience to me, and her faith that I would see it accomplished if I willed it. She was incapable of doing it, but who was she to argue if she was or not?  I knew that and credited to her account as if she had, while finishing the job myself. 
It's remarkable how often regular every day lessons for spiritual applications present themselves, and how very.... well... ordinary the idea of imputation is.  You don't have to be a theological genius to understand imputation of sin and grace through faith, odds are you are doing it all the time.  And there is a great genius of God in that I believe.

Christ at the Center of History

It's elementary to say the Bible is about Christ, that Adam exists as a man who foreshadows the second Adam.  You see that truth clearly when you study the fulfillment of the prophecies in the New Testament, until you come to the one about Jesus and the holy family fleeing Herod into Egypt. Hosea 11:1 is a strange one, because it seems to not fit in at all.
Kevin DeYoung posits the correct interpretation on this thought: that Christ is the new Israel. That in the same way the man Adam, or Moses, or Jonah foreshadowed Christ, the entire nation together foreshadows Christ. Israel came from Egypt, was baptized in the Sea and cloud under Moses, faced the trials in the wilderness, preached the law from Sinai "thus says the Lord" and came into the promised land.
Jesus came out of Egypt, was baptized, faced trials in the wilderness, preached the law "you have heard it said... but I tell you" and entered the promised land of rest.  Therefore Israel the nation is the foreshadowing of Christ. It's the analogy, the weak mist, the ghost compared to Jesus, who is more than the fulfillment of scripture and history, He is the source of it's strength. It is what it is by mirroring and copying Him. 

That is a truly remarkable thought.  Christ bends all of human and cosmic history about Himself.  All nations, peoples, languages, relationships, and world events are taken after Him and find Him the source of their strength.  Not only is He at the center of all the Bible texts, stories, commands, songs, He is at the center of the created History.  He is more than the consummation of the Old Testament, He is it's substance, it's reality.  It in itself is the dimly lit history or analogy pointing to the truth found in Christ.  He is the foundation for existence, the highest end.  He is the one in which all things hold together, all the narratives and events.  
And not merely at the center of Scripture, but at the very core of the universe which orbits around Him, created after Him, in His likeness.
Paul would say it like this in Colossians 1:16-17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
But I confess I because of the size I had failed to apprehend the colossal statement that is, and it was not until I saw that the enormous history of the huge nation itself was foreshadowing Christ did I realize in some small part the magnitude of His anchoring presence in this world. 
It's one thing to bend all of scriptures about you, it's another again to bend all human history to you, and to have living nations existing for the sole purpose of reflecting your story.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jesus as the center of the Scripture

 John 5:39-40,46 - You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life...For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.
Matthew 21:42 - Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures (Ps118:22-23) : "'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?
Mark 14:27 - And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'(Zechariah 13:7)
Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.
We see that the whole of the Bible is drawing us into the idea of Christ, for Christ is conscious that He is fulling and the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Scriptures.  We therefore know that every book in the Bible from the Old Testament is really a story about Him.  Sometimes this is perfectly clear Psalms 40:7-10 Then I said, "Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation, and sometimes not as much Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  (I'll come back to this one in particular next post)

This is a foundational point in Reformed theology that the Bible is about Christ.  That the stories we read are foreshadowing Him. Song of Solomon isn't a holy "sex manual" it's a poetic message from Christ to His Church.  Ah, isn't it then wonderful to see the Scriptures open like a flower having understood that the Bible was written about Him, to Him, for His glory?  Makes so much more sense this way. See this well done video that makes the point for me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Blessing of Abraham

Abraham became rich.  Isaac became rich. Jacob became rich.  It seems like God is making it very plain who the blessing passed to.  He wanted to point out in a big neon arrow who had the blessing.  Yet we see Joseph became richest of all but the blessing was not given to him, to temper the idea that the blessing = mammon.  Judah nonetheless became a huge tribe and was more or less the Southern Kingdom.
I haven't thought enough the nature of the blessing, but it does seem clear that the blessed ones surely prospered, if nothing else, indicating their status. 

The TNIV 2 Tim2:12 Irony

In my estimation the KJV is perhaps the most helpful of all "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" because it has the idea of man as the head, the leader, and the woman usurping him before she can take power.  In other words she casts down the created order and sins to become the leader.

Here is the ESV "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." Okay, so that's not too bad either, but it opens the door a crack.  She may not be over a man, but here it may imply that she can be over him so long as she doesn't say or do anything.  The translators obviously tried to stand next to the Greek word αὐθεντέω means 'to exercise authority' and let the reader figure it out, which I'm all for.

Now here is the NIV2011 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet"  Great, as a woman I can have power and use it so long as I don't take upon myself.  I shant assume, but if handed authority I shant refuse.

There is something really ironic thing about that.  NIV2011 is supposed to be a dynamic idea translation, for example they went through the New Testament and stripped out all the references to 'flesh' and translated them based on context.  So for example in Romans 7 we have "nothing good lives in my flesh" becoming "nothing good lives in my sinful nature".  Nothing harmful there per se. 
Only the question is, why didn't they use their context clues, and dynamic equivalence to fix 2 Tim 2 :12 as well? How hard is it, if you are already doing it elsewhere?  A kid could figure it out, v13 is the explanation  for that rule: for Adam was first formed, then Eve. The reason lies in the created order- God wanted Adam to be the ruler and head, and Eve to be His beloved helper.
It cannot possibly be more clear then that.  So why does NIV2011 decided to help us poor stupid readers out elsewhere but not here?
I don't know.
But it is ironic.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Free will

The Calvinist asserts that man's will is not free, but must bow before a God who controls it.  Who turns it like a watercourse where He pleases, who hardens men, who appeared as a light to smite the opposition to His name and turn men to repentance.  Who must grant men repentance before they will have it.  Who gives faith as a gift, and the ability to accept the gift as another gift of grace.  A God who keeps even Pagans from sin.
In opposition to that is the Arminian (Church of Christ-er) who asserts that God is hands off, that He cannot touch peoples hearts, that men can repent whenever they want, that He has no ability to force men to do what they want, and cannot stop them from doing what they would like.


One of these is scriptural and has a corresponding verse for every thought. I'll leave you to guess which is which.