Dec 052017
 

The Reformation viewed from the East…

Great piece on Warren Throckmorton’s change of mind about reparative therapy…

Jesus didn’t come to bring peace on earth…

Cop movie theology…

Where evangelicals are giving the most and the least…

Ravi and his PR firm’s response in CT…

Why that response cleared up nothing…

Remembering theologian Thomas Torrance…

Congregational serial killers…

Younger evangelicals indifferent towards Israel…

The Advent question…

Are American evangelicals reinventing Christianity?

Why we should all be observing Advent…

How often communion?

Four Christmas myths we’ve totally bought…

Mere sexuality…

Christmas belongs to those who mourn…

Are you ‘struggling” with sin?

Cocktail theology…

Don’t mess around with Jerusalem…

When a woman rewrites Proverbs 31…

The church’s fate is not electoral…

God’s plan for Mike Pence…

Russell Moore’s 17 best books of ’17…

Huge thanks as always to EricL for the link help…support him at top right…

 

Dec 052017
 

1. The Ravi Zacharias scandal has went just as I expected. He lawyered up, hired the standard PR firm, and used the mainstream Christian media whores to change the narrative to one that the insanely idolatrous free market celebrity church would accept. It will be accepted, accompanied by raging scorn for those who dared stand up to the machine.

If Nathan stood up to David today, David would hire a PR form, a host of attorneys, and sue the prophet into silence…

2. The prophetic ministry of the church today is almost solely being staffed by people with no resources except a computer, an internet connection, and the truth…and it’s going about as well for them as it did for many prophets of old who the enemies of God destroyed…

3. The reputable bloggers I know always have information that for one reason or another they can’t publish, usually to protect victims. It’s often the unpublished material that pushed them to publish in the first place. I will go to my grave with some things…and go to that grave early because of them…

4. What have we learned again? Never, never, repent, just ‘explain”… repentance is for losers and people who can’t afford lawyers…

5. It’s really hard to enjoy a football game when you’re waiting to find out if one of the participants will be paralyzed for life…this might be my last season trying…

6. When I look about at all the moral corruption and violence of this world and realize that this is the world Christ came to save in the Incarnation, wonder abounds…

7. I thought I’d given up my favorite sins to follow Jesus, then He had to mention my cynicism…

8. When that player was injured last night there were hundreds of comments on social media celebrating the injury. The next big reality show may feature lions and those deemed criminals by society…

9. The cure for cynicism is Advent…

10. Loving ones enemies is very difficult…because it requires that you have actual enemies before you can try to love them…Jesus wasn’t speaking hypothetically…

 

 

Dec 042017
 

Essentials

The Letter to Diognetus

“No, you can’t tell people anything, you’ve got to show ’em.” 

Bruce Springsteen 

Born to Run

 

The Franco-Prussian war was in full fury.  Prussian General August von Werder was laying siege to the French city of Strasbourg.  He had decided to reduce the city through a massive and continuous bombardment.  On 24 August 1870, Prussian artillery rained down shells on the city and destroyed Strasbourg’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Municipal Library. Thousands of manuscripts, rare books and ancient artifacts were destroyed.  Among them was the sole surviving manuscript of the second century Epistle to Diognetus. Discovered in Constantinople in 1436, the manuscript had made its way across Europe, eventually coming to reside in Strasbourg.  Now it lay in ashes.  Thankfully, before its destruction, two accurate recensions had been made so, while the manuscript was lost, the message was not.

It causes one to wonder, how much has been lost through the centuries?  From the destruction of the great library of Alexandria (first under the Romans, then under the Copts and finally under the Muslim conquest) down to the destruction of monastic libraries in our own time, by the former Marxist government in Ethiopia or the destructive rage of ISIS, tens of thousands of ancient Christian manuscripts  and codices have been reduced to ashes.  What treasures might have been among them? Perhaps the earliest Gospel manuscripts, or the original letters of Ignatius of Antioch, or some lost account of the Council of Nicaea?  Perhaps Jerome’s list of sources as he prepared his Latin translation of the Bible? We will never know.  Yet, in spite of the destruction of much that was written, the life of the Church has continued; and that life has been a greater witness to the truth of the Gospel than all the ancillary writings that have surrounded it.

Now, what of the text before us?  Firstly, it has been mistakenly called an epistle or letter, owing to the document being addressed to one Diognetus.  It is not a letter.  It is, perhaps, one of the earliest examples that we have of an apology for the Christian faith. It has been postulated that this apology may have been written to the famed tutor of Marcus Aurelius, which may indicate a dating of c. 150.  Another possibility, however, is a magistrate of the same name in Alexandria who is referenced in papyri dated between 197 and 203.  On the other hand, it may have been addressed to a figure from antiquity who is wholly unknown to us. The style of the letter and the concerns raised within the text causes me to opt for the earlier date of the mid-second century. The text itself has been divided into 12 short sections or chapters.  The final two chapters, 11 and 12, may be from a different hand. There are also two small gaps in chapters 7 and at the end of chapter 10 that perished after its original transcription in antiquity.  What has survived, however, is remarkable.

An “apology”, in this context, is not saying “sorry” for a slight or an offense. Instead is a reasoned defense of one’s belief and/or behavior.  Within the hellenistic culture of the day, an apology (apologia or “defense”)  was, strictly speaking, the speech offered by one accused in a judicial proceeding.  In time, however, it morphed into a defense of a philosophical or theological position given in a speech or in literature, sometimes, but not always, given at a trial or inquiry. We think of the speech given by Socrates at his trial in Athens or, indeed, Paul’s defense given at his hearing before Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26:2).  During the second and third centuries, the Apology became an important genre of Christian literature as the early Church sought to stake its own identity over against the claims of Judaism on one side, and Graeco-Roman culture on the other side. 

It is important to note in this context that Christians were viewed with enormous suspicion during this period.  Regarded as messianic renegades by the Jewish diaspora, Christians were also considered ignorant and superstitious when measured against the panoramic backdrop of Greek philosophy and Roman literature. Moreover, Christians avoided the normal social life of the day. They did not frequent the baths or the gladiatorial games.  Most Christians came from the lower ranks of society, even to the inclusion of slaves as equals.  They failed to participate in civic rituals.  They considered marriage as a permanent state, rather than transitory.   They refused to offer even token sacrifices to the genius of the Empire, or to the local gods who protected and ensured the welfare of the cities in which they lived.  Given to private meetings of “brothers and sisters” and secret ceremonies apparently involving private communal bathing (baptism) and participating in meals rumored to consist of human flesh and blood (the Eucharist) they were suspected of incest, immorality, magic, human sacrifice and cannibalism.  If all this were not enough, they worshipped a Jew who had been executed under Roman law, and spoke of another kingdom, exciting charges of disloyalty, revolutionary activity and treason.

It is against this background of popular perceptions, that the anonymous author pens his defense of the faith to Diognetus.

The text is very short. It can be read in the space of ten or fifteen minutes. The author writes to explain the manner in which Christians worship God (Diog. 1).  As would be expected, in chapters 2-4, the author carefully explains why Christianity is superior to the worship of idols (in the Graeco-Roman context) as well as superior to the sacrifices, laws, and customs of the Jews, from whom he makes a pronounced differentiation in terms of the Christian community.  In chapters 5-6 the author provides a description of the Christian community as a contrast.  This is followed in chapters 7-8 by a theological and philosophical defense of Christianity as being of not only divine origin, but also of being God’s instrument of salvation in terms of human history. The 10th chapter is an appeal to Diognetus himself to embrace this faith.  The remaining two chapters (Diog. 11-12) are likely an addendum by another hand (possibly later). It may, in fact be a short homily, which is of interest simply owing to its antiquity and the thematic presentation of Christ the logos coming into the world (a favorite theme of early apologists) and the Church as the continuation of that advent.

Now, for contemporary students of apologetics, one might note that this is not an ancient version of Evidence That Demands A Verdict which focuses on “the trustworthiness of the Bible and its teachings”.  If anything, second and third century apologists might have a bit more in common with modern day equivalents such as C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton, all the while, however, addressing the concerns of their own time.  Today, of course, we have apologetics and apologists spread over a wide field of topics –  Biblical Apologetics, Scientific Apologetics, Philosophical Apologetics, Historical and Legal Evidentialism, Moral Apologetics, and even Creationist Apologetics.  Yet the heart of the apologetic argument in this second century text is not really about any of these topics.  It is about who Christians are and how their faith is evidenced by the lives they lead.  To quote Mr. Springsteen, “No, you can’t tell people anything, you’ve got to show ’em.”

“Christians differ not from other men in country, or language, or customs. They do not live in any peculiar cities, or employ any particular dialect, or cultivate characteristic habits of life. The truths which they hold result not from the busy ingenuities of human thought; the counsels of man in them possess no champion. They dwell in cities, Greek and barbarian, each where he finds himself placed, and while they submit to the fashion of their country in dress and food and the general conduct of life, they yet maintain a system of interior polity, which beyond all controversy is full of admiration and wonder. The countries they inhabit are their own, but they dwell like aliens; they take their part in all privileges, as being citizens; and in all sufferings they partake as if they were strangers. In every foreign country they recognize a home; and in their home they see the place of their pilgrimage. They marry like other men, and exclude not their children from their affections: their table is open to all around them; they live in the world, but not according to its fashions; they walk on earth, but their conversation is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their lives transcend all law; they love all men, and are persecuted by all; they are unknown, and yet are condemned. Death to them is life; of their poverty they make many rich, and in the extremity of want they still possess all things. They are treated with dishonor, and by dishonor are made glorious; their integrity is insured by the insults which they suffer; when cursed they bless, and reproaches they pay with respect. When doing good they are punished as evil-doers; and when they are punished they rejoice as men that are raised unto life. By Jews they are treated as aliens and foes, by Greeks they are persecuted; and none of their enemies can state a ground for their enmity.”

“In truth, Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body.”  (Diog. 5-6)

Today, we are surrounded by words. Books line our shelves. The inbox on our email servers are filled with correspondence, newsletters and the like.  If we tire of the talking heads spewing words on the television screen, we can self-select even more words in blogs and videos online. Moreover, we can also easily add to this proliferation of words. Owing to advances in technology, we have the ability at our fingertips to constantly “tell” people what we believe concerning a myriad of topics on a wide variety of social media platforms and in varied forums.  

Yet, maybe we have it wrong.  

For the apologists of the early Church, the central argument for the faith was to be found not in words, but in the actual lives lived by Christians. Interestingly enough, this is a pattern of what one might call “practical apologetics” that has been repeated through the centuries.  When, in the 13th century, the early Franciscans were viewed with suspicion and alarm by many owing to their embrace of a radical Christianity, their answer was remarkably simple – “Come and see the life we live”.  When John Wesley and the early Methodists were excoriated by church leaders for their “Holy Clubs” and societies, the response was the same, “Come and see…” When Anglo-Catholic clergy were exiled by their bishops to slum parishes in the 19th century and attacked for restoring the centrality of the Eucharist to Anglican worship, they invited their critics to leave their comfortable establishment parishes and experience for themselves the “beauty of worship” amongst the poor of the city.  Even in our own time when a middle-aged pastor in southern California outraged many of his fellow evangelical and charismatic leaders by allowing into his church hippies, kids off the beach, rock musicians and the like, his response to his critics was simple, “Come and see…”

Our greatest apologia is the life that we live as the Church.

Maybe it’s time to return to that earlier form of “practical apologetics”.

Maybe it’s time to not merely “tell” people what we believe.

Maybe it is time to “show” them what we believe; that is, if we can…

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Dec 022017
 

Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Dec 022017
 

The Book of Revelation – Introduction Pt. 1

This revelation is about Jesus from the Father. At the same time, it is also the revelation by Jesus for us.

 

 

We know the writer had the name John – which John? There are many options and word count is short and everyone can Google. My take is that it is the Apostle John. St. Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, says that John wrote in the 1st century during the time of the emperor Domitian – in the 90s while John was exiled to the prison island of Patmos. I go along with the teaching that John left Patmos at the death of Domitian and returned to Ephesus and to pastor and plant churches until the reign of Emperor Trajan where he probably died.

I lean toward the position the Revelation was written before John’s Gospel. The three Synoptic Gospels were already written 25 years earlier and after his release from prison, John was pressed to write his own account of Jesus while he walked the earth. Was Revelation actually John’s first Gospel? (I will discuss this more in Introduction Pt. 2.)

We also need to study the role of the Caesars. At this time there was a tremendous amount of Caesar / Emperor worship and much of Revelation is to proclaim to the churches that no matter what their eyes see, no matter what they are told, no matter what they may be experiencing, Jesus, the slain lamb is in charge. We will discuss this later, but often it is missed that the book tells us the terrible things happening on earth and then flashes back to a heavenly scene to assure the churches what is actually happening. This was the cause of the Roman persecution against the church – Emperor worship and the refusal by Christians to participate. The Book of Revelation is loaded with the words the angels are singing, things like ‘you are above all Lord’ and that is precisely the language the Caesars wanted for themselves. Because the Christians would not worship the Caesars, they were charged with various serious crimes such as being atheists – refusing to worship the ‘true’ god. John, preaching this message of Jesus is Lord and not Caesar is probably what got him exiled to the prison on Patmos.

We will see that Roman persecution is the concern of the visions, and we will see that chapters 4 & 5 are the ones on which the whole book turns. God reveals himself to us on the cross as the Lamb slain. This book is solely about Jesus Christ and his Church – it is not about Israel, it is not about anti Christ, it is not about a 1,000 year earthly millennial kingdom – it is about Jesus Christ.

Below are some lists and charts of what you must be familiar with if you wish to really understand this book. I know it looks like a lot, but do the work – read, study and compare the passages listed.

Numbers in Revelation: (a partial sample)

1 = Unity, primacy, sovereignty, divine completeness: Christians saw this number as symbolic of God the Father

3= The number three always signifies some important event in Salvation History: Jesus’ ministry lasted three years – He arose from the dead on the third day – the earth was separated from the waters on the 3rd day. It is one of the four “perfect” numbers. Christians see this number as symbolic of the Trinity

4= This number signifies God’s creative works in association with the earth –the four seasons, the four winds, etc.

6. = Symbolic of man who was created on the 6th day; a symbol of man in rebellion against God (especially in multiples of six – “666”).

7 = This is the second “perfect” number signifying perfection and fullness, particularly spiritual perfection. It is the number of the Holy Spirit and the number of covenant.

8 = The number symbolizing salvation, rebirth, resurrection and regeneration – eight people were saved in the Ark, an Israelite child was reborn into the covenant on the 8th day of life, and Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the 8th day.

10. = This is the third perfect number which signifies perfection of divine order – the Ten Commandments.

12. = The fourth perfect number signifying divine government – the Covenant people/ the Church. It is the number of Israel (descendants of the 12 physical sons of Jacob) as well as the number of the New Covenant Church (spiritual descendants of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles).

40. = The number signifying trial and/ or consecration – the series of 40 days in the Flood narrative, Moses’ 40 days on Mt. Sinai, and Jesus 40 days of testing in the wilderness.

50. = The number symbolizing divine deliverance/ mercy -the celebration of the Jubilee Year every 50th year.

And what about numbers such as 144,000 & 1,000 or 3 ½ and 666?

Sevens in Revelation:

Churches 1:4; 2:1-3:22
Letters 2:1- 3:22
Spirits 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6
Golden lamp-stands 1:12, 20; 2:1; 4:5
Stars 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1
Lamps of fire 4:5
Seals 5:1; 5:5; 6:1
Horns 5:6
Eyes 5:6
Angels 8:2, 6; 15:1, 6, 7; 15:8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9
Trumpets 8:2, 6
Thunders 10:3, 4
Thousand people 11:13
Heads 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9
Crowns 12:3
Plagues 15:1, 6, 8; 21:9
Golden bowls 15:7; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9
Hills 17:9
Kings 17:10, 11
Last seven visions Chapters 20-21

 

Visions in Revelation – Ezekiel:

Parallels between the visions in the Book of Revelation and the visions of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel Ezekiel Revelation
1. The throne vision Chapter 1 Chapter 4
2. The book opened and eaten Chapters 2:9-3:3 Chapter 5:7-10; 10:8-9
3. The four plagues Chapter 5 Chapter 6:1-8
4. Those slain under the altar Chapter.6 Chapter 6:9-11
5. The wrath of God Chapter 7 Chapter 6:12-17
6. The seal on the Saint’s foreheads Chapter 9 Chapter 7
7. The coals from the altar Chapter.10 Chapter 8
8. The 1/3 destruction Chapter 5:1-4 &12 Chapter 8:6-12
9. No more delay Chapter 12 Chapter 10:1-7
10. The eating of the book Chapter 2 Chapter 10:8-11
11. Prophecy against the Nations Chapters 25-32 Chapter 10:11
12. The measuring of the Temple Chapters 40-43 Chapter 11:1-2
13. Comparing Jerusalem to Sodom Chapter 16 Chapter 11:8
14. The cup of wrath Chapter 23 Chapter 14
15. The vine of the land Chapter 15 Chapter 14:18-20
16. The great harlot Chapters 16, 23 Chapters 17-18
17. The lament sung over the city Chapter 27 Chapter 18
18. The scavenger’s feast Chapter 39 Chapter 19
19. The resurrection Chapter 37 Chapter 20:4-6
20. The Battle of Gog and Magog Chapter 38-39 Chapter 20:7-9
21. The New Jerusalem Chapters 40-48 Chapter 21
22. The River of Life Chapter 47 Chapter 22

 

Visions in Revelation – Daniel

Parallels between the visions in the Book of Revelation and the visions of the Prophet Daniel Daniel Revelation
1. Three and a half time period (a time, 2 times and ½ a time) Chapter 12:7 Chapter 11:9, 11
2. The 10 horns Chapter 7:8 Chapters 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 8
3. The Leopard, the Bear, and the Lion Chapter 7:4-6 Chapter 13:2
4. The Beast mouthing boasting and blasphemies Chapter 7:8,11 Chapter 13:5
5. The war against the Saints Chapter 7:21 Chapter 13:7
6. The worship of the Beast’s statue Chapter 3:5-7, 15 Chapter 13:15
7. The Son of Man coming on the Glory-Cloud Chapter 7:13 Chapter 1:7 & 14:14

 

Introduction Pt. 2 – Next Week

Dec 012017
 

Chester has finally learned how to purr.

It’s not a a normal purr, sounding more like a combination of a purr and a growl and a smoker clearing their throat.

Whatever it sounds like, it’s an affirmation that he is finding some measure of contentment in his circumstances, sometimes.

The rest of the time he spends expressing his discontentment.

 

 

He starts howling and crying about 5:30 in the morning having let his vocal cords rest for just a few hours since the last round of howling and crying.

He wants out.

His catbox is not clean enough.

His dish is only half full.

He’s only had six cans of food today and he knows there’s more somewhere.

I like Miss Kitty more than I like him.

He wants out!

On and on…except…

Except now a couple of times a day when he is exhausted from yowling, he jumps up in my lap, lays down, and purrs.

The only cure for his discontent is to get as close to his master as he can.

For a few minutes all is right with his world.

Then he jumps down and begins the feline serenade from hell again.

However, the more time he spends on my lap the less time he howls afterwards.

Spending time close to me reassures him that he’s loved, he’s safe, and he’s provided for.

He decides how much time that will be…my lap is usually available.

I was petting him this morning while chewing over my own discontent.

The last few years have been an unending series of crises, great and small.

After a while, they all seem great…

I used to howl about it, but I’m weary of that too.

Then Chester asked me how much time I spend with my Father.

I think it was Chester…

I threw him off my lap.

I have to go clean the catbox.

Make your own application…

Dec 012017
 

Julie Anne Smith released an excellent report last night on the Ravi Zacharias scandal.

We know now that there are good reasons to believe the allegations that he has used false credentials and had an “inappropriate” relationship online with a woman other than his wife.

 

 

Now, I confess that I have never listened to Ravi Zacharias for more than a couple of minutes and I have never read any of his books.

I have no idea what or if he has contributed to the kingdom of God.

I do know that the evidence strongly suggests that he shouldn’t be representing Christ or Christians to the secular world at this time.

His organization says that they will answer all these allegations, but they said that quite a few days ago.

Experience tells me that they are doing what other groups caught in scandal have done of late, which is to let the news cycle pass them by and and find redemption in the short attention spans of the public.

What if, however, he actually told the truth and repented?

What if he admitted he falsified his credentials and confessed his moral failure?

What if he agreed that his academic record would be corrected in his public record and writings and agreed to spend the next couple of years in therapy away from the public?

What if he publicly apologized to the woman (or women) he manipulated for his own pleasure?

What would we do with Ravi then?

I would consider him worthy of Christian forgiveness and restoration as his repentance would speak louder about his apologetic then any of his books or speeches.

Now, if you think any of that will actually happen, you probably think you’re going to get rich from the email that nice man sent you from Nigeria.

What will actually happen is that his organization will say as little as possible and blame some combination of atheists, liberals, the devil, Democrats, and bloggers for maligning him.

Christians, (who love their celebrities) will embrace those explanations and heap scorn those so named.

He’ll have to scale back a bit for a while, then it will be as if he’s never sinned.

Julie Anne will be called everything but holy.

The church in America will once again demonstrate its priorities.

We will once again demonstrate why we must rely on political power instead of the power of the Holy Spirit.

I hope I’m wrong.

I’m probably not.

 

Nov 302017
 

I met Herman Selderhuis in Geneva back in 2009. His biography of John Calvin had just been released and he was to deliver a paper during the week long celebration of Calvin’s 500th birthday.

He couldn’t stay long…it was he and his wife’s anniversary and he had to get back to the Netherlands…she didn’t think listening to scholars bleat on about John Calvin was a properly romantic way to note the occasion.

He was still gracious enough to give me some of his time and I appreciated it greatly.

 

His work on Calvin was outstanding and now he’s applied his gifts to the life of Martin Luther.

Selderhuis has a way of capturing the men behind the copious mythology that surrounds them and has an almost miraculous way of translating massive amounts of research into almost conversational text.

There are tons of books about Luther…but if you want a great biography that is not laden down with scholarly verbiage, this is the place to start.

Buy it with Herman’s volume on Calvin and you will know more about these two great Reformers than most…

Buy it from us on Amazon by clicking here…

I conned T into going to the Justice League movie with me last week.

It should have been called “Wonder Woman and Others Wearing Costumes”.

Gadot defines the role forever…but the rest of the movie is pretty weak sauce.

My question however, has nothing to do with the film.

My question is, how the hell does anyone afford to go to the movies more than once a year?

Thankfully, I rarely want to…

Why I buy Apple computers…the machine I’m writing this on is now eight years old…

I was going to put some “Christian” music on T’s mp3 player, but he hasn’t done anything to be punished that way…

I’m guessing that the scandal around Ravi Zacharias will have the same impact on his career that the ones surrounding Gospel For Asia have had on that den of scoundrels… minimal…

I forgot everything else I was going to mention…

 

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