Sunday, October 28, 2012

On Covenants & books

I'm reading through this excellent book: Kingdom through Covenants, by Gentry and Wellum, and it has been really helpful in understanding some of the implications of what it means to establish a covenant.
I'm currently on their discussion of how God covenanted with creation, however, and I find the idea to be somewhat... insufficiently argued up until this point. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm very much pro-covenantel, and I do think that God covenanted with Adam. I would also agree that God covenanted with Noah and therefore the creation through him, but I remain (as of the time of this writing) unsold on God's creation being a covenant with creation. And why do I bring this up?

Because these two authors have done a really good job helping me see (or more accurately, have been able to lift some of the fog in my own understanding) what a covenant really is. In Hodges systematic theology a covenant is defined as an agreement between two parties, naturally a covenant can not be less than this, so I figured this had to be right. But these two guys have shown me more clearly that you can call a covenant an oath bound agreement between two parties, but then again you can call a string quartet some guys rubbing horse hair together. Hugenberger is helpful to point out that a  covenant is more like:
1. A relationship
2. With a non-relative
3. That involves obligation
4. Taken by an oath.
And I might add that a covenant presupposes an existing relationship between these two parties.

Unlike a contract, which is entered into for expected benefits or mutual agreements and is often thing oriented, a covenant is a desire for relationship, it's person oriented and the obligation is not on performance but loyalty, or better yet, faithfulness. Classic example: marriage. It's not about things, it's not about what you can get, nor is the desire to terminate, it's about going deeper with a person, being faithful to them, and loving them.

When that definition was presented that intuitive part of me that checks this kind of thing gave me a green light- it feels right. But once I did that I had to throw up my hands, clutch the air as I ball my hands into fists of rage and shout so loud that the kids might wake up, for the model that I have used, the Covenant of Redemption is kicked over. CURSE YOU DAVID PONTER YOU UNASSUMING PINK HAIRLESS APE! NOW I KNOW WHY THE HYPERCALVINISTS HATE YOU- BECAUSE YOUR SPIRITUAL PANTSING IS HUMILIATING! MY DAY IS COMING SIR, ONE DAY IT WILL BE MY TURN!
Ponter has always held that the Covenant of Redemption is a suspect tool read back into the text. While it is an agreement between the three persons of the Godhead to save mankind, it's immediately obvious that it can't be a covenant because they are already family, they don't need to take oaths, they are not estranged, and so forth. It don't fit at all. What it is is the love of the Son to do the will of the Father, what it is not, is a covenant.

Ah well. I still have the Covenant God makes with Adam, and nobody has been able to take that one away from me yet.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The gospel is the fulfillment of the Promises

65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
65:18 But be all of you glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
65:19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
65:20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
65:21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
65:22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
65:23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.
65:24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD. 

21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Revelation can't be talking about the new heaven wherein we have perfect bodies and sin no longer because of the invitation in verse 6: come! If you thirst, if you hunger, if you are meek and seek strength, if you are persecuted and need a refuge, if you are tired and need rest, come! That's the gospel message. Therefore the idea of a new Temple must be of the Spirit within our hearts, and the security must be the one God provides to us as believers in Him.
But look how it was foreshadowed in the OT to Israel, who was a physical model of the spiritual reality: a perfect existence where the animals would not fight, nor would creation kill. It's the perfect subdued land that has submitted fully to God. The imagery of the animals is realized as the gospel invitation. Come, for God is making all things new.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The second table is the first table

The first of the two tablets Moses brought down from Sinai contained all the laws concerned God, have no other God's before me, do not make or worship idols, do not take His name in vain, honor His sabbath. The second table of the law is traditionally understood as referring to men: honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not covet.
But of course having phrased it that way: traditionally referring to men, you know what I'm about to say next- I find the Old Testament, particularly the book of Malachi to make a strong case that these commands are also applying to God, and we should be understanding the commands in relating to Him.

Honor your father and mother? Malachi 1:6a "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?"

Do not steal? Malachi 3:8b "You are robbing Me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. "

Do not bear false witness? Malachi 2:7-8 "For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts" (The priests are not giving a faithful relay of God's word.)

Do not covet? (this one is more indirect, they want what they are not getting, what belongs to God) see Mal 1:9 "And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts." 

Do not commit adultery? Malachi 2:11 "For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god."
Although I will say that Jeremiah 3:20 is far more explicit, "Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD.'"

Murder? Well that's pretty hard to point to considering God is Spirit, but there is the murder of Jesus.

Some food for thought. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I'm getting stupider

I'm getting to the point where I see things around me more clear than ever. The nature of tyranny and how it takes from everyone, then offers to give them back what was stolen from them if they behave, how tyranny scares you by threatening to take away your comfort and livelihood, and leaves you with absolutely nothing.
I also see that the lusts of the flesh are so tempting, and yet they are dead empty and worthless. Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of porridge is just exactly the perfect analogy of how mankind forfeits their status as a creation in order to consume something that is perishing - these kinds of things I see better.

I also have been working on my book more - a lot more. I'm up to chapter eight now and I must say, the book after the re-write looks good, real good. It's almost something I would pay a few dollars to read and keep even if I didn't write it (that may just be me deluded, but I'm really happy with how it looks anyway). When I get done writing something I feel that the person working on it knows his stuff.

I'm also teaching at church more - much more. And the resources I'm using to put together my lessons are not good, and somehow the things that come out of my mouth when I go to teach are good. When I listen to Catholic radio or that apostate Jesus Christ radio show my command of Scripture is immediate and powerful.

But in spite of this, there is a part of me that feels stupider than ever. I can feel it, way deep down, in that core of you that inner man. I know that I'm not as good at holding knowledge as I used to be, somehow. If need to recall a verse or a bit of scripture I can do it, but something feels out of place. That may be because in all this work I'm doing for my book or class I'm not as able to meditate and just get away and think things through, draw parallels to other things, and just spend time thinking clearly. It's like the more light that is shining on my life the larger I see is my ignorance for so many things, the larger is this cave and how great is that emptiness. My youthful confidence in the faith is being ebbed away as well - I never ever used to question my weakness because I thought of myself as strong, but now I don't. I now understand better what it means to be weak that Christ may be strong.

I read an interview with a man who was considered the greatest living theologian a few years back, when asked what it felt like to the greatest he responded with, "Dreadful. To think it has come to this that I am the greatest, I who know nothing." For a long time I thought that this wasn't right, that a man should know who he is, but now I'm not so sure, I think he understood something of what scripture speaks of: He must increase, and I must decrease, for surely I am more stupid than any man, And I do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor do I have knowledge of the Holy One. For who among us has ascended into heaven, or descended from it? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if you know?
Surely not man. It was not I, for I am but the dust of the earth. Behold I am vile. I lay my hand over my mouth.Once I have spoken, but no more will I answer. Twice, but I will proceed no further.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Catholicism sinks low... again

For the most part I thought that Catholics are just like Protestants, except that the place they pray has a different name, but the more I listen to Catholic radio the more I'm convinced that Catholicism is really, really badly off. Like for example, this:

If you go to a holy site, pray to a dead person, and then to Mary, take a cracker that is actually, physically claimed to be the body of Jesus, confess your sins, then you can have your sins removed.

This makes me so mad I don't even know what to say. You might as well say "Spin in a circle three times and put on multi-color socks." Admitting you are guilty takes away sins how? Magic? Asking some dead human is going to get you what? Who says they hear anything? Where is it written that they can hear you, and will care to respond? Pray to Mary? Jesus never called her 'mom' He called her 'woman.' What good is a holy site? The person is holy, the believer is the temple of the Living God. And what good is a "plenary" indulgence that only takes away purgatory for the sins you have already committed?
Escape hatch for all of this: sacred tradition. Because we say so that's why its good enough. Please.

It's a sham and a mockery. There is only one thing that can take away sins and it's the shed blood of Christ. He is the perfect sacrifice and it's by faith in Him that we are saved to the utmost. Lining up a checklist of things to do to be saved is just sick. It's the other gospel that Paul pronounced an anathema on in Galatians. "If it be of works then it's not of Grace."

I suppose I should look on the bright side. At least they are not selling them for money. Yet. Again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The future of the church is small

Our church is pretty healthy, but I'm not sure that it's going to be so forever. Our big problem is the idea of an entertainment in place of a shared church service. In my old church the "laity" would lead service, and the preacher would give the sermon, while here the staff does it all. In my old church the families would sit together and the children would see their parents together worshiping God, but would break for age appropriate Bible classes after (or before). Here the parents put the kids in bible class, then attend service alone, then leave, skipping Bible class. Service has come to mean serve me rather than my reasonable act of worship to God.Even mid week we don't have bible studies with our children, we put them in children programs while we have our adult time. When we get together with friends it means find a baby sitter. Our children don't really get to interact with playmates their own age or make friends. That's all cultural. And it's dreadful.What it amounts to is a rejection of the family unit and a dependence on social fabric of 'experts.' But experts aren't there for your children, and they are not providing for the needs of your family. This is in fact a wholesale rejection of our duties as parents, to train up our children at all times, when we walk and lie down, when we go about our day. Instead we have outsourced it all to others and expect results from them.
This sends the message: Church is a preference we have and would prefer you not to be here for it. Is it any wonder that this is already bearing awful fruit? Once out of high school and on their own they leave Christianity altogether, because let's face it, church was only about entertainment to them, and there are actually a lot of other, better ways to be entertained.
When I was teaching the college age group, they would speak of how valuable the Christian life is, and how they get more success and happiness than if they were worldly and going about having sex and doing drugs. I thought that was a very mormon thing to say at first, but now I'm starting to think that that very statement is an indication of a terribly malady that is striking down our kids. Come to Church for what you can get out of it, it's good for you is not just the evangelism pitch but the core belief we are training into people.

The church that doesn't care to put the time in to training it's children, filled with members who give the minimum amount of time and then get out, and shows little regard for God for God's sake has no future. Even if it's gaining in popularity now by appealing to people's sense of 'get away and be served' it's not going to last. Once the last of the children grow up the church is going to by in large blow away.

The church of the future is going to be smaller for it, because popular Christianity has not cultivated God as a starting point. The house is being hollowed out and when the storm comes it's going to collapse.

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