November 27, 2014

Give Thanks, His Love Endures Forever

Eric Enstrom
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
4 To him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
5 Who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
6 Who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
7 Who made the great lights—His love endures forever.
8 The sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
9 The moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
10 To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever.
11 And brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
12 With a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.
13 To him who divided the Red Sea asunder His love endures forever.
14 And brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever.
15 But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.
16 To him who led his people through the wilderness; His love endures forever.
17 To him who struck down great kings, His love endures forever.
18 And killed mighty kings—His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites His love endures forever.
20 And Og king of Bashan—His love endures forever.
21 And gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures forever.
22 An inheritance to his servant Israel. His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate His love endures forever.
24 And freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

Psalm 136 is a song/psalm of praise. It is praise to the Lord who performs great wonders. One of the main under girding themes is the Lord’s enduring loyal love.

This is a this is a Psalm of Thanksgiving. The function of a Thanksgiving or Todah Psalm, or Psalm of Declarative Praise is to praise God for something He has done for the Psalmist. It is written to offer thanksgiving in the form of worship. It is a kind of praise offered to God that arises out of personal or communal experience yet in the context of overall commitment to God. The experiential dimension of todah psalms is easily seen in the middle section of the psalm as the worshiper recounts or gives testimony of his experience. 

This is also a Salvation History psalm to recount in some way the story of God’s creation of the people of Israel. Most often, this includes an abbreviated version of the exodus story, concluding with praise to God for his deliverance, or calling the people to respond in praise and faithfulness to God’s grace. 

(v. 1-3) Intro: A call to thank God who is “Lord of Lords” because “His love endures forever (refrain after every statement of thanks).

(v. 4-9) Creation Hymn: Gives a summary of the Lord’s “wonders” and “His love endures forever (refrain after every wonder)”.

(v. 10-22) Redemption Hymn: An excursus of the Exodus and God’s redeeming actions in it “His love endures forever (refrain after every statement of God’s redemption.

To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

...And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

...With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

...To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

...And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

...But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

...To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

(v. 23 & 24) Redemption Hymn (summary): These two verse are also redemption hymn but they are more of a “summary redemption hymn” or a last quick reminder that whenever Israel suffered, Israel’s history of redemption continued, Egypt, the wilderness, etc.

This Psalm is also referred to as a “antiphon” or a song that was intended to be sung “antiphonally” by two distinct groups in worship. One portion of the congregation would make one of the statements or phrases and the other part would respond with the refrain, "His love endures forever." I’m guessing it sounded something similar to a cappella refrain in Bohemian Rhapsody (sorry, couldn’t think of a better example).

Here is a modern orchestral interpretation of Psalm 136.

Ross, Allen , John Walvoord. "Psalm 136." Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 1985. 889. Print.

November 25, 2014

In Their Own Words XXII: There's A Mind Behind Our Mind

[An ongoing series about the profoundly ironic theological/philosophical quotes scientists or those in academia make.]

“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter—not of course our individual minds, but the mind in which the atoms out of which our individual minds have grown, exist as thoughts.” ~Sir James Jeans

Sir James Hopwood Jeans was a knighted English mathematician, physicist and astronomer. He was on of the main contributors to the development of an understanding of how stars evolve. He published the above information in his 1931 book The Mysterious Universe. He is also known for his contributions to physics, quantum theory and radiation.

In 1928 Jeans was the first to theorize a steady state cosmology based on a the idea of continuous creation of matter in the universe. This theory was over-ridden when the 1965 discovery of cosmic microwave background was widely interpreted as the tell-tale signature of the Big Bang. Due to Jean’s reputation as a scientist and an author, he became rather popular and well-known. His books made him an acknowledged expositor and author of the revolutionary scientific discoveries of the early 20th century including Relativity and Quantum theory. He was knighted in 1928 due mostly to his formidable reputation among his peers and due to his notoriety as an author about astronomy.

When it comes to his religious views, Jeans was documented as being an agnostic. He did not believe in God but nor did he deny one.

So other than a rather unremarkable quote by a non-believing man, what we see is a relatively non-descript scientific worldly life. From a Christian point of view his studies and life’s work may have some bearing on our everyday lives but this seems unlikely. So from a Christian point of view Jeans really becomes of interest to us because of his quote from a book that combined the awe of the created universe, science and philosophical reasoning.

In Jean’s forward to his book The Mysterious Universe he said that, "…there is a widespread conviction that the new teachings of astronomy and physical science are destined to produce an immense change in our outlook on the universe as a whole, and on our views as to the significance of human life. The question at issue is ultimately one for philosophic discussion, but before the philosophers have a right to speak, science ought first to be asked to tell all she can as to ascertained facts and provisional hypotheses.”

Jeans understood that the things being learned in astronomy, quantum physics and other advances were totally reshaping the scientific horizon of the modern age. I suspect though that he and his peers didn’t fully see the direction or impact of scientific discoveries of the early 20th century and where they might lead. His quote at the beginning of this post and his books hinted at it but never fully elucidated it. It seems the deeper science dug over the last century the more things became complex. I suspect many in the scientific community thought the deeper people dug the more simplistic the data and facts would become.

Conversely, when science hit baseline scientific strata, they found unfathomable complexity and mystery….hence the adjective in the title of Jeans’ book: Mysterious. He began to recognize that quantum theory and the atomic age had opened a Pandora ’s Box of philosophical and metaphysical implications. Science had hit a dead end and was at a loss to explain the mystery of the Quantum world and to a greater extent it still is. In the 50's science would enter the age of genetics and DNA further exacerbating science's conundrum. Science had reached the threshold of philosophy and it is at that point it began to flirt with metaphysics. 

Scientists are now in an ever deepening spiral of complex and ludicrous theories to reflect a deepening reality in science. To avoid conceding the fact Creation was indeed created (by God), science has now opted to pursue non-scientific postulations and theories to explain the existence of humanity on earth. They have put forward theories such as Panspermia. Panspermia is from the Greek πᾶν/pan meaning "all", and σπέρμα/sperma meaning "seed". It posits that the life on Earth was seeded here because life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, comets, spacecraft, etc. In an effort to avoid admitting God exists, some scientists would rather believe in aliens! Science is now making leaps of faith to believe in aliens from other planets to justify life on Earth. Mind you that they have no proof or evidence of this but they believe it in a vacuum of no evidence. You need to ask yourself. Which is more plausible…a Creator or alien farmers? Which do scientist have more proof for?

As I said, science marched right up to the threshold of philosophy and became perplexed not knowledgeable. So instead of acknowledging God, they chase fruitless and fanciful theories and myths...just as they claim Christians do.

Jeans seems to take the middle road in his original quote. He philosophically acknowledges a “unanimity” or what we would more commonly understood as harmony in the universe. The universe is balanced. It is organized like a fine-tuned orchestra but Jeans stops just short of saying so. He then goes even farther down this philosophical path and injects “knowledge” or intelligence into this harmony. Not just any intelligence but a cognizance or consciousness. He specifically says there appears to be thought in the universe. What he is saying or implying is that the universe is not an accident but it appears there is a mind in the universe (Pantheism/Panentheism). Conversely, a Christian believes that the evidences in the universe point to a mind that created the universe or can “intrude” upon if from elsewhere (theism). Jeans has firmly planted his feet in the metaphysical at this point in his quote but planted it on the wrong side. Furthermore, he has chosen a pantheistic religious view.

Jeans then crosses wholly over the science and philosophical threshold into metaphysics at the end of his quote. He says in a pantheistic way that mankind should acknowledge the consciousness planted Universe and should recognize this mind or consciousness as, “…the creator and governor of the realm of matter”. 

In essence he is saying there is a force or signature in the Creation that is more than the sum of its parts. There seems to be an instilled mind in the Creation. He is acknowledging some form of design and intelligence. He literally says that there is a rooted intelligence in the very atoms that create our intelligence in our own brains. We exist because something existed before us. In a roundabout manner Jeans states that there is a mind that created our minds and it is “at work” directly in the forces and matter around us. He just looks into the wrong philosophical worldview to try and ufind it. God is not in and of the Creation but the Creator and sustainer distinct from it (Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20). This is where the distinction needs to be made between Jeans' pantheism and Christian theism. 

In a way (ironically), I believe that scientists who dreamt up Panspermia might actually be on to something with their idea of seeding Earth. It is probable that life on earth is due to seeding by an Alien life form. The Being is indeed alien to humanity in that He is not familiar to us or like other things we have known.

Isaiah 40:13–14 ~ “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

This Alien is quite different from us in that He is holy and we are not. He is not only from beyond the galaxy, He is from beyond the universe. He is outside of Creation and can enter as He so chooses like He has done in the past. He is ontologically distinct from the universe. He is wholly other. He holds things together. The very image of what He is, is indeed knitted in our DNA and minds and without Him in our lives...we are incomplete.

Genesis 1:27 ~ “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Jeremiah 1:5 ~ “"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

Like an artist leaves hints or signatures of his mind in the art he creates, so too God leaves traces of His glory in creation. We have been told that these signatures or signs of intelligence can even be seen by non-believers. In Sir James Hopwood Jeans we see another perfect example of General Revelation or the ability to know about God or spiritual matters through natural means, such as observation of nature and through philosophical means.

Romans 1:19-20 ~ “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Therefore, the only difference between a believer and non-believer is Special Revelation which is revelation of Jesus Christ both from the Holy Spirit and Scripture. This is then followed by acknowledgment and acceptance of this fact. That which was once alien to us has become like us. In so doing He revealed Himself and the intelligence behind the universe. That intelligence was revealed in the form of the perfect God-man Jesus Christ who came on behalf of mankind to bridge the gap between our sinful minds and God’s holy mind. God’s Mind…from which the Creation (galaxies, stars) that James Jean studied was spoken into existence. God is therefore the origin of Jeans’ “unanimity”, “thought”, “creator”, “governor” and “mind”. He just avoided saying so as an agnostic.

November 23, 2014

Yoked Together With An Anchor

So the question arises about the joining of Christians and non-Christians in a business when complications arise. What exactly are Christians to do? Should they have even agreed to do business together?

When it comes to spiritual matters it is generally not a good idea to be tightly tied to unbelievers. 

Business agreements are more or less forms of contracts or covenants. There are different types of contracts based on where you are in the business and what function you serve. Because of this there is leeway in some of the contracts and the differences should be understood. Some business contracts / agreements carry more weight or spiritual gravity. To miss the importance of some of the nuances in these relationships can be spiritually deadly. Because some of the aspects of business relationships are very akin to marriages, this dynamic should be noted first.

The concept is pretty simple.

If a married couple contains one non-believer and the other becomes Christian or is a Christian, the believer needs to stay in the marriage in hopes that there will be a sanctifying effect on the non-believing spouse. This principle then needs to carry over to a business model.

Firstly, the most spiritually profound relationship most akin to a marriage is the business partnership. Partners are people on equal footing. Partners are formative of the direction of the company as a whole. Partnerships pretty much should require only dealing with other Christians. In truth a Christian is living by a creed or code that requires they behave and think in a certain manner that may put them in opposition to a non-believing partner. A non-believer is not always going to behave in a biblical standard. They are capable of behaving in accordance to a biblical measure but not always doing so in a cognizant matter. Partnerships for all purposes are covenants acutely similar to marriages. The Bible is clear here.

2 Corinthians 6:14 ~ Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Amos 3:3 ~ “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?

The Bible is telling us that we are not to be bound together with unbelievers if only to avoid the implications involved with a double allegiance. Christians are bound to a biblical God-fearing standard and the unbeliever is bound to the rules of the flesh and the world. Because partnership requires a solid agreement that has spiritual implications, it is deemed foolhardy to enter into partnership with a person that does not hold themselves to God’s principles. You have two different value systems that, at their root, can never truly meet in the middle if the non-believer disagrees with a biblical requirement. It usually always ends up being the believer that bends inadvertently to avoid conflict and to remain Christ-like. At that point a covenant changes allegiance and the Christian’s allegiance turns towards the world. The believer then makes something else his motivating factor…something else becomes their God. It becomes their idol.

Exodus 23:32-33 ~ You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

If a person is in a spiritually unequal partnership, it should be treated like an unevenly yoked marriage since a marriage is a contract/covenant. We need only remove the marriage implications from the following passage to understand how to deal with a business partnership.

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 ~ To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

There is always the potential when God is involved for an unbeliever to come to the faith and God will often use the believer as the conduit to do so. If the unbeliever wishes to leave, let them do so. If there is the potential for a loss if a business partnership is broken the narrative of King Amaziah tells us that a believer who believes in a God knows that God can compensate for the loss if He wills it.

2 Chronicles 25:6-9 ~ He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this.”

After this example things start to become more muddled and a bit confused when we carry them over to a business relationship. There are other Scripture scenarios that might be used to draw out principles in certain situations.

We then have the employees who are usually deemed subordinate. We need to realize that employees are people that the owners or operators bring in their circle to help do business. There is still a need for allegiance to a value system by the employee and that system must be Christian in a Christian company. The employee must at least behave in a Christian manner when hired by a Christian. It is part of the covenant or employee contract that an employee must acquiesce to as a condition for hiring and employment. Please note I did not say the employee had to become Christian…but they are most certainly expected to live up to basic moral and ethical standards put forth by Christian ownership.

In other words, employees don’t have to be a Christian to work for a Christian owner but they must not degrade the conditions on site and influence people away from God or cause apostasy. Employees rarely affect the direction of the company through their decisions but if employees do cause too much dissension it can invariably be destructive. Its called a spirit of discontent. The bottom-line is that employees can affect morale and culture and that is exactly why they need to adhere to a Christian owner's standards. If not, they have the ability through poor unbiblical behavior to swing people away from God and the righteous standards in Scripture. A similar situation to this is what we saw in Solomon binding himself to pagan wives for political gains. They were merely business decisions with unbelievers to either maintain peace or gain more influence, power or money. Because he did not expect them to move to his Godly standard, he moved to theirs and they corrupted his spirituality. The value system in a company must always be Christian or the Christian will most likely end up compromising to the ways of the world.

Then there are finally contractors. Contractors are people that are brought in from the outside strictly on a contract or short-term basis. This is pretty much a no-brainer. Contractors are contracted to get work done. Contractors most often are a temporary stop-gap measure. They offer a service you don't have on staff or don't have the capabilities to provide. They need to do the work in accordance with an agreement and move on. This is strictly a business decision. It is not a covenant like a marriage. This is more or less how we do business today in the market square. When I go to a bakery I am not necessarily looking for a Christian bakery to make me a Christian cake. I just want a cake I cannot make on my own.

Your prayers are almost invisible in the equation in the world but for discerning the correct thing to is absolutely critical. You must never forget that a Christian’s primary business partner or more specifically their “partner in covenant" is God. By not praying we are essentially ignoring and not communicating with the person that has the largest stake or interest in our business (our lives). As any businessperson will tell you, businesses/covenants without proper communication with their primary shareholder will most certainly fail to meet their expectations. If they don’t fail they will certainly struggle greatly without input and help from their largest partner.

Hebrews 6:19 ~ "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain..."

Either way, these business covenants tie us to spiritual anchors. They also show what anchor we chose in this life. Anchors can be good and firmly anchor us in God's word and his righteous principles or the anchors we're tied to can be bad and drag us to the bottom spiritually. Which anchor do you wish to be tied to? The one that will lift you up to eternal life or the one that drags you under drowning you in sin and the abyss of condemnation?

November 21, 2014

Prodigal Grace II: Live To Give, Give to Live

[Continued from previous post]

I ended the last post with a question and I'll ask it again to start this one. Why is there no retaliation or rebuke by the father against the Prodigal Son for his sinful stupidity? It is actually quite simple. I suppose that it is the same reason God doesn't do it to us when we often times deserve chastisement. It is called love and grace.

What most fail to realize about the story of the Prodigal Son is that every single one of us has had the opportunity to be the father, the son or the brother in this narrative. At some point in our lives…we have been all three. The one abusing grace, the one giving grace…or the one greatly in need of grace. If we retaliate we are doing so against people that are just like ourselves. This would not be loving our neighbors as ourselves, would it? In these situations in our lives when we know we did wrong, was a tongue-lashing really necessary? Would it have improved the already bad situation. Just the fact that we are already repented tells God and others that the turnaround has already taken place, a verbal beating might move everything back to square one.

The Grace Abuser

We often abuse grace when we realize we are saved by God’s grace and it is permanent. Paul told us in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not continue to sin so more grace abounds. In other words, just because we are saved does not give us license to do whatever we want over and over in habitual sin or even regular sin. As Paul also said…

1 Corinthians 10:23 ~ “All things are lawful” [to a Christian] “but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

If a person continues to willingly and habitually abuse grace (habitually sin) that person may wish to check to assure that they are even in the faith. Habitual abuse of grace is not the sign of a true believer since a true believer will not continue to habitually sin.

1 John 3:9 ~ “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

Many overlook this and it is to their detriment. Many will say Lord, Lord but He might say that He never knew you. You my have walked through life under a false assurance and false pretense. I know people that were in eldership positions in churches that may have done this. I have done this in the past. It was utterly clear that not only didn't they/I manifest the fruits of the Spirit, they/I clearly sinned in a habitual manner and never once bothered to look inward. 

The Grace Giver

The one that willingly allows a wrong and does not seek retribution or revenge. This type of person realizes they are not giving of themselves. They are looking outward not looking inward. They realize that everything they have is actually God’s. In this way we understand that the giver of grace here is just redistributing or reallocating something that they were given stewardship of.

1 Corinthians 15:10 ~ But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Another sign of a grace giver is a person who trusts God, not their circumstances and their control over their circumstance. The father of the young man trusted in God. It is God who arranged the circumstances that allowed the son to go wayward but it also arranged that he eventually return home. Until he arrives back home we hear nothing of the father but when the son does return he is immediately giving grace to his son. As a matter o fact, the father runs to the son to give the grace. That is a true grace giver. I person that strives to give grace away. This is a person overflowing with the Spirit.

The last thing in this story that is notable about the grace giver is that they live to give. The father gave the son his portion without fight and also gave when he returned home. He didn’t point out why the actions were so wrong, he just gave. When the man returned home…same thing. Giving was on the grace giver’s mind, not rebuke.

Again we see hints of Jesus’ statements from the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:46-48 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The father still risks rejection from the returning son because he does not know the pretense under which the son returns. He risks his dignity and pride and sprints to meet his son. In this way the Father is being like God in Heaven. He accepts regardless of the possible outcome. He loves unconditionally, just as God does.

We must all live to give.

The One In Need of Grace

It is both sons and the father that need grace in the story. It is also all of humanity outside the parable. Some of them need it more than the others but all humanity benefits from grace. Do we continue to sin so grace abounds? No! Do we try to give it abundantly and freely to others? Yes! As I said before, we have all been all of the characters in this story at one time or another. As such we have all been in need of grace in all of their situations too. It is the very nature of believers as sinners that screams, "I need grace!" It is what has saved us from the wrath of God’s judgment. It is the grace of the Gospel.

This one is a critical to the Christian life. It is the main underlying premise of the whole story. The Father in the story is an image of God giving grace to the son who is the believer that has gone astray but returned to God. We being the son in this story are undeserving of the unmerited grace given by the father but receive it anyway. We, in the position of the father are the image of the Christian believer who, being like God, gives grace to others who are undeserving. The other son is an image of the person that is given grace of a normal life at home but abuses that privilege by refusing the grace to his brother and his father. Instead it is almost as if he wants retribution for what he has suffered (or perceives he has). The other brother is the one most worse off in this narrative yet he is the one least mentioned.

Sadly but reassuringly, these images are all snapshots of the sinful human condition and the sinful human need of grace. Because Christ died on the Cross for all sin, we have the possibility of redemption regardless of whom we emulate in this story. It is sad because of the fallen condition of sinful man but reassuring because...even in our fallen condition there is hope. It is reassuring because no matter how bad our sin condition is, there is enough grace to redeem us and we need do nothing to gain it other than believe in Christ.

November 19, 2014

Prodigal Grace I: A Fatherly Love

Luke 15:11-12 ~ “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”

Prod·i·gal  \ˈprä-di-gəl\ (Adjective) - Having or giving something on a lavish scale.

So why does the father of the prodigal son give him his portion of his wealth up front like this? Doesn't this seem foolish even by today's standards? He's taking a mighty risk that may fall flat and at first appears that it does. The father seems to have understood that in order to win the heart of his son, he had to risk losing him altogether. This was accomplished by giving him something even more dangerous and reckless than what he asked for. By giving him what he asked for that could potentially ruin his life, he has actually given him his son unmerited grace.

The young man’s father never stipulates what it will take for him to return to the fold. He never puts restrictions on his son’s return. Even though the son is clearly deserving of reprimands when he returns, he receives grace from his father (not so much his brother). The young man is essentially rewarded for poor behavior.


The father knows that the son is remorseful by observing his actions. To drum the young man over the head further is to be unduly harsh and defeats an opportunity to make a lasting impression. They are called teachable moments in our children's lives. It is in the Father’s forgiveness that we see the blinding light of grace. This goes against our American cultural mindset of revenge and getting even with people. It goes against our nearly pathological need of restitution.

“I was wronged! Someone is going to pay!” 

We are a legal and litigious society that says someone has to pay. Someone has to be at fault. This screams from deep inside most of us. We believe that there has to be a negative consequence for a negative action. This of course flies right in the face forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Retaliation is in our sinful DNA….but…if retribution is necessary the Scripture tells us...

Deuteronomy 32:35 ~ “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’

Our constant sinful refrain, “I will not be walked on!”

Jesus’ response to this mentality?

Matthew 5:38-42 ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

We are much too comfortable with loving those that treat us well and punishing or ripping into those that cross us. I’m no expert but this does not look like unconditional love. It looks a lot like conditional love.

Grace allows us to overlook slights and wrongs that would otherwise dwell in us and fester like a sore. Grace and unconditional love are intrinsically tied together. It is exactly why we are called to love our enemies. It requires grace that common human behavior is not capable of. It is possible through a Spirit indwelt believer. Even then, it is a battle because we wrestle against the flesh.

Yes, we must love our enemies because it shows the Spirit’s work of grace in us. It gives us the grace to be able to love those that are normally unlovable.

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 

We must do this because it may only be the grace we show the unlovable that makes them sit up and pay attention to God. Many people that do not receive love by the world’s retaliatory standards know they are unlovable. They expect to be treated like dirt bags. So when someone shows them kindness it forces them to reassess the one doing the loving. If that person just happens to be Christian, the connection is unavoidable and the impact is profound. They will see that difference and will note the fact that the person is not operating on normal standards but something beyond themselves. This is appealing to a person that is already outside the social norm. I know, I was that unlovable dog.

We see this in the father of the Prodigal Son and we see it in Christians that can rise above their emotions just long enough to do the right thing.

No retaliation. Why no retaliation? Simple.

[Read that in the next post...]

November 17, 2014

In Their Own Words XXI: Without God, Man is An Immoral Beast

Since Sir Francis Bacon was a believer, it is not surprising that he would have said the following.
There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error: first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.-Francis Bacon, Scientific Method
Francis Bacon is roundly considered one of the fathers of modern science. He is certainly considered the father of the scientific method. He was a 16th-17th century philosopher, scientist and writer. He has remained extraordinarily influential even posthumously due to his writings. The most influential were his writing on the scientific revolution and with it the scientific method. The scientific method being the processes or techniques for investigating phenomena to gain new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.

Because of his philosophical theories Bacon is also considered the father of empiricism. Empiricism being the belief that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. Right within the definition of empiricism is a self-limitation for its abilities. It precludes anything outside the senses or a priori knowledge. Yet, Bacon himself did not personally deny the supernatural. If anything he did the opposite in his writing. It was later atheistic/agnostic protégées that would inevitably separate Bacon's method from its theological underpinnings and totally discard or ignore them. 

For knowledge to now be considered scientific knowledge it needs to be based in empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning (interestingly it doesn't always have to be logical). This is more currently referred to as logical empiricism/positivism. Furthermore, since today's scientific method does not deal with non-sensory data, it ignores the supernatural or metaphysical. Sadly, this method is all-pervasive in society. Due to militant atheism in the echelons of science, science tries to dictate that only scientific knowledge gained from empiricism, etc. is valid knowledge and usually discounts the entire metaphysical realm.

In this way, adherents of scientific proofs end up not taking in the full range of reality by precluding anything that falls outside of the realm of empiricism, logical positivism or the ability to be measurable or observable. The problem with these theories isn't just that they limit knowledge, it is that they are logically flawed. Why? Logical positivism essentially says that anything that cannot be proven empirically or through sense experience is meaningless. That means in the end empiricism and logical positivism are self-referentially absurd. Why? The theories themselves cannot be proven sound through empirical means (because they are ideas, issues of consciousness, metaphysical). They therefore negate themselves as meaningless. The philosophy or theory invalidates itself. Yet we are to take them seriously in scientific reasoning or as sound philosophy? Geez Louise, get a grip.

So all of this information about Bacon then becomes somewhat ironic and bittersweet.

What is ironic about Bacon being the father of modern science through his scientific method is the basis for his technique. Why is it the technique itself ironic? Well firstly, Bacon formulated his scientific methodologies based on his work Instauratio Magna or The Great Insaturation.

The Great Instauration is composed of two parts. The first is essentially a letter to King James (yes, that King James **see note) explaining his work. The second part is a statement of what is often called 'Baconian' philosophy. It is a systematic plan for a complete revolution in learning and intellectual reform. The published work (second part) was an outline divided into six parts: (i) the division of the sciences, (ii) the new organon or directions concerning the interpretation of nature, (iii) the phenomena of the universe, (iv) the ladder of intellect, (v) the forerunners of Bacon's view and (vi) his new philosophy. The first part (i) described the divisions of science in Bacon's time and suggests that there are further branches that should be added. This is important to note because it shows he does not hedge himself in intellectually. He will do the same with religion and a belief in God unlike his protégées in later centuries. The second (ii) developed a new inductive method of scientific inquiry which is, in effect, an early sketch of the scientific method. The work continues and contains ideas on new epistemologies (study of knowledge), new ontologies (study of being/existence), and forms of logic. For the sake of clarity I will not go into detail on them. In the end the logic of this outline was intended to help understand and command nature and not to win arguments against religion. Sadly, that is exactly what the scientific method has become today. In fact, using the scientific methods to discredit belief in God is totally contrary to what its creator devised it for. It is apparent that Satan hijacked another great idea.

So again I ask, why is The Great Insaturation ironic? It is ironic because it is based in Bacon’s religious beliefs that stand in direct contrast to the atheist beliefs of later adherents of his process in the modern realm of science. It stands on Bacon's Biblical beliefs. Many of modern adherents of Bacon’s method being scientists are avowed atheists….yet they don’t have to be. They chose to be. Many of them will not consider anything a valid explanation of phenomena in the universe outside of empiricism, positivism or the laws of naturalism. In other words anything in the Bible is ruled out solely on ideological grounds.

The irony therefore arises out of the structure of The Great Insaturation. As noted above, it was marked or was to be delineated in the six parts noted above. These six parts were to be an imitation of the Divine work…they were to be an imitation of the six days of Creation as defined in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. 

Okay. Stop. 

Read that again and let it sink in. Bacon’s great reformation therefore looked like this:
  1. Partitions of the Sciences (De Augmentis Scientiarum)
  2. New Method (Novum Organum)
  3. Natural History (Historia Naturalis)
  4. Ladder of the Intellect (Scala Intellectus)
  5. Anticipations of the 2nd Philosophy (Anticipationes Philosophiæ Secunda)
  6. Second Philosophy or Active Science (Philosophia Secunda aut Scientia Activæ)
In the second step of his treatise above, the Novum Organum or New Method, Bacon stated his view was that his reformation would allow science to aid in the... "partial returning of mankind to the state it lived before the Fall.” This restoration would restore mankind’s dominion over creation, while faith would restore mankind's original state of innocence, purity or holiness.

I don’t know about you the reader but I’m suspecting that most atheist scientists today are not using Bacon’s scientific method for that purpose. In simpler terms, Bacon’s purposes for the creation of the method were to bring glory to God by reflecting God's work in our work. Ironically, today’s “scientists” use it to deny and mock Him. It is a very sad irony, but irony none-the-less.

Intelligent and introspective as Bacon was, he went on to give a prophetic warnings in The Great Insaturation. One of the warnings regarded the end use of science. It is as if Bacon in his wisdom foresaw the ends to which his ideas would be misused in the wrong hands. He said science should respect things that were Divine but not believe that the very act of scientific inquiry is forbidden by Divine law. Bacon believed science must be a faithful attendant of religion to avoid superstitions. 

He also believed that the modern sciences (in his time) were the fulfillment of prophecy made in the Book of Daniel that said: 
Daniel 12:4 ~ "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" 
As for Bacon’s faith which is clearly evident in the formulation of his methodology he wrote the following in the first part of The Great Insaturation called De Augmentis Scientiarum/Partitions of The Sciences.
"…the more discordant, therefore, and incredible, the divine mystery is, the more honor is shown to God in believing it, and the nobler is the victory of faith." ~ Francis Bacon [The Great Insaturation]

Bacon also wrote this in The Essays: Of Atheism concerning religion:
“…a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." ~Francis Bacon [Essay: Of Atheism]

Finally, I leave you below with one other quote from Of Atheism concerning adherents of atheism. With this quote he effectively and efficiently dismisses the arrogance of modern atheistic scientists. What he says here is damning to those that will discount God from an explanation of physical reality in science. Modern atheistic science should therefore be ashamed of itself considering science takes Bacon’s methods while simultaneously dismissing the belief system that they were founded on. We see people that are willing to worship the Creation but not the Creator. We see them limit their knowledge on purpose because they hate God. Because they hate God, their lack of logic and proper reasoning is obvious in their incoherent quotes that I publish on this blog routinely.

I seriously doubt Bacon would’ve ever done this. In this way, modern atheistic scientists are nothing like their predecessor. They are not fit to wear his shoes. In this comment we see that Bacon's view of God is in accordance with Christian theology. What is stated in the last quote is simple enough to understand. The quote speaks of the Imago Dei and how man is made in the image of God. Man might be physical but without the image of God in him, he is nothing more than an ignoble or immoral beast.
"They that deny a God destroy man's nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts in his body; and, if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.” ~Francis Bacon [Essay: Of Atheism]

If we weigh everything Bacon has said in this post together, we stumble upon this last thought that we can deduce from Bacon’s writing. Modern science has borrowed Bacon’s methodologies but dismissed his belief in God. This means that Bacon’s quote from Of Atheism speaks directly to his atheistic protégées in subsequent centuries that utilized his scientific method. These so-called intellectual giants are ignoble or immoral creatures. Bacon specifically tells us why and it is a theological statement. It's because they are not of the Spirit of God. He has literally paraphrased Paul from 1 Corinthians 2.
1 Corinthians 2:14 ~ The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

It therefore stands to reason that anyone that does not accept a belief in God, is nothing more than a beast. This comes directly from the mouth of their scientific predecessor and father of the scientific method. I couldn't have said it any better myself being a theologian.

**Side note: It is believed Bacon was actually one of the editors of the King James Version Bible [1611]. It appears one of Bacon's other talents was as a linguist (1).

(1) Dodd, Alfred. Francis Bacon's Personal Life-story. Kila, Mont.: Kessinger, 1995. Print.

November 15, 2014

Strained Relations III: The Road Less Traveled

[Continued from Previous Post]

So, when it comes strained relations between professing Christians, I guess this short series of posts comes down to one final question: 

Are there places where I should avoid relationships with Christians or people that call themselves Christians altogether? 

Are there places where I should seek to avoid or restrict fellowship or relationship? In this new evangelical age where many within the Church will tell us that we should be accepting of others and inclusive of questionable ideas...are there definitive places where we should forsake relationships? In short, yes. There are times in the church where fellowship must be restricted to one degree or another. Sometimes the separation needs to be complete.

First are the recalcitrant and rebellious.

The Disobediently Immoral

In 1 Corinthians 6, states that unrepentant immoral persons like fornicators, drunkards, etc. will not inherit the Kingdom. They are therefore worthy of Church discipline. Paul informed the Corinthians that Christians were not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all. He was referring to the people of the world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. Christians must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. They are not even supposed to associate with these type of people in non-spiritual situations unless it is to directly lead them to Christ. Do not even eat with such people. Instead they are worthy of rebuke and correction or are to be delivered to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5-7). 

The reason this separation must occur is because of the really bad influence it has on the obedient Christian. Even the obedient Christian is prone to sin. When in the presence of the immoral the obedient Christian is likely to wander and may stumble in their Christian walk. Even if the Christian does not engage in the sin of the immoral Christian there is a risk of guilt by association. Just being around these people will have people flapping their mouths in gossip and we owe it to Christ not to allow this. It is best to just get away from these types of people. This is one of those old adages that is actually in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 15:33 ~ Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

The Apostates

The second category of people which we should have restricted relationships with are the apostates. We must be leery of those who “fall away” (Luke 8:13) or those who “depart from the faith”. No I will not be discussing the possibility of people losing their salvation and that is why I have put "falling away" and "departing from the Faith" in parenthesis as a generalized euphemism. What I will state is that, if these people are in the church they must be dealt with in accordance with Scripture. Whomever they are they need to be handled with some form of discipline.

1 Timothy 4:1 ~ “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

This discipline should not be unduly harsh for the new-believer because they may not even know the gravity of their wrong. This punishment is geared more towards those “in the know”. The “mature Christians” who know better having learned the Scripture and chose to walk way form it intellectually in the Church itself. The new believer might not even understand the significance of the disciple but the older member should. Those that have “matured” somewhat know the implications of their apostasy and why discipline is involved. In these cases discipline has to be exercised or the entire body could be in jeopardy of false teaching or false doctrine which is the next restriction.

2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15 ~ “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”

If apostates remain unchecked in the church they will always lead people astray through false teaching and demonic doctrines. They are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is the act of apostasy where these one-time sheep don the apparel of the wolf. More accurately, it is at the point of apostasy where the true wolves divests themselves of the sheep’s disguise and manifest their true character which is the character of a rapacious predator.

The Fomenter of False Doctrine

The final and most dangerous group that demands restriction concerns teachers of false doctrine right within the church. These people are poison in the well. We are to ἐκκλίνετε or turn away from these people completely. Just as they have turned away from the True God, we must turn away from them back in the direction of God. This turning away is to fully avoid by deliberate, decisive rejection. Contrary to common belief, we are to shun them and deviate from the same path that false teachers are on. To say another way, even if the whole church is on the wrong path, we need to avoid that path. We must take the road less traveled that leads to God. Not because the path lacks wear but because we are called to be different from the world. We are called on a path of holiness and this path will often see us walking alone to avoid the falsity of the world and its deceitful thinking and deceptive teaching.

Romans 16:17 ~ “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them”

After a firm and public rejection of their doctrine which includes explaining why the false doctrine is wrong, the false teacher needs to be rejected and ejected. The correction must be made public and harshly because no one knows to whom or what depth the false teaching has burrowed into the body. A public rebuttal and public form of proper teaching arrests the infection or corruption of false teaching. False teaching is like a diseased parasite entering a host. It must be completely excised and removed to avoid risk of another infection. Paul speaks heartily to Titus about this very thing…

Titus 1:10-16 ~ For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

This passage of course goes back to the last post’s idea that things might be well-communicated but poorly backed or acted on. Paul says it explicitly here, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works…” Actions speak louder than words! This is the perfect Scriptural example.

Paul dealt with two people like this in the exact manner prescribed above when writing to Timothy. Paul severed relationship with what appeared to other “believers” and delivered them to Satan just as he had with those in 1 Corinthians 5.

1 Timothy 1:19-20 ~ “….holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

1 Corinthians 5:5 ~ “…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”

How does one determine which teachings are significantly erroneous to warrant disciplinary action? When two brethren (or two groups) hold opposite viewpoints on various points it is quite obviously someone is usually in error. How to tell what to do? Knowing what is false teaching and what is not leads us to two things stipulated by Scriptures. One: Scripture itself. Two: Prayer after Scripture. These are the avenue demanded of us as Christian. When we rely on any other measure, we subject ourselves and the Body of Christ to error.

As I have heard it said many times and it still holds true. In essentials, unity in Scripture and Christ, in non-essentials we need to have liberty. We cannot be dogmatic in non-essentials. What should be considered essentials? We need to see salvational issue as essential. Anything that would jeopardize someone’s salvation should be rigidly gripped and held on to. We need to loosen our grip on things that do not pertain to salvation and allow breathing room. When it comes to issues of conscience or foibles we need caution.
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