October 30, 2011

Hard Sayings XXII: Did God Allow Polygamy?

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 1 Samuel 1:1-2

In view of the original law for humanity-one husband and one wife…could polygamy ever be considered right? A quick glance at the Old Testament would lead many to believe so. Let's look at it closer, shall we?

We may deal first with the case of Elkanah. Monogamy was absolutely the divinely appointed rule. The Bible in Genesis 2:24 said that “man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The word is wife or 'ishshah or woman in singular form. It does not say wives (plural). Where the Bible speaks of quantity and gender in historical narrative it rarely ever does so metaphorically or figuratively unless noted. Historical narrative by its nature is reciting historical event(s) that actually took place therefore it most often speaks literally. Everywhere we see multiple wives or polygamy we see issue and problems arise. Of particular note we see Abraham with Sarah and Hagar and the serious headache that ensues from Abraham’s lack of faith and stupidity.

Of course we see most humans rarely obey God’s statutes and they end up paying the price. Inevitably circumstances arose in which a modification of the rule seemed advisable not due to God but because of the stubbornness of man and the grace of God. The land of Canaan had been allotted to families, and it was regarded as supremely important the land should never be alienated from the family. The keeping of the property depended on a man's having a son born to him as his heir. If a man married, and his wife bare no children, he was placed in a most fretful position, and relief was found for him in permission to take a second wife. Such a custom we find in Sarah's giving Hagar to Abraham, and in the procedure of the Levirate law. The family of Zelophehad was placed in great difficulty because the children were all daughters, and a special law had to be passed for their relief, permitting them to inherit. Hannah was the first wife of Elkanah, and only when it was made plain that she was to have no children did he take the second wife who evidently occupied quite clearly a secondary and subordinate position, and is a kind of Hagar in relation to Sarah.

We need to go back even farther to find polygamy’s origin though. If we go all the way back to Lamech we see a new floodgate of evil is opened as Lamech begins polygamy. One wife had been created for Adam and up to Lamech that had been the rule; but Lamech the "wildman" sees fit takes two, and so doing introduces a practice that more than any other taints society where it prevails.

"Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah" Genesis 4:19

It is not surprising that it would originate in the race of Cain. The Law permitted polygamy because the Israelites were a “stiff-necked” people. God nor the Law approved of it and even kings were forbidden to have many wives. In hindsight we see the horrendous damage polygamy and sexual immorality does to David and Solomon. Mosaic Law aimed at qualifying or lessoning rather than removing evils which in some cases were inseparable from the society they had become imbedded in. To remove some evils essentially meant eradicating the people. To totally eradicate an evil in society often required eradication of society because once sin is in the society it pervades and contaminates everything. Hence we see Joshua and the killing of entire tribes and commands from God to enter Canaan and destroy peoples. IF God would’ve eradicated His own people though His plan for the Messiah to come through the line of Judah through David would’ve ended. The laws therefore are in place to mitigate polygamy and are enacted to discourage polygamy; to avoid the injustice frequently resulting upon the exercise of the rights of a father or a master and to bring divorce under some restriction or to enforce purity of life during the marital bond.

Although a plurality of wives was not totally and completely forbidden by the Law, the possession of more than one was rather rare, except among kings and princes, as is still the case in those Eastern countries where the same permission exists. The popular feeling, even in the presence of such a permissive law is that people generally frowned upon it. We have reason to believe through some of the old Jewish commentators that if one of a man's wives was childless, it was more than likely a punishment on him for having taken more than one wife.

So…although we see it practiced in the Old Testament among God’s people, it is the exception not the rule. It is allowed but it was usually frowned upon by not only God but also the Jewish culture. As we see from history its practice eventually dies out only to resurface as anomalies of practice either by heretical sects or in other pagan cultures.

October 29, 2011

Hard Sayings XXI: Buggery & A 50/50 Linen Cotton Blend

***Warning To Parents: This post contains Biblical sexual content***

I've decided to continue my series Hard Sayings since they were so popular in the summer.

Ahhhh yes, the Law against interminglings and blending. The butt of many jokes and mockeries of the Old Testament and the Bible in general. Mocked because of a blatant ignorance of Biblical facts and failure to study or do even a precursory inspection of Scripture with a critical eye.

I hear it occasionally from folks that know just enough about the Bible to be thoroughly dangerous. “If we believed everything we read in the Bible we would all still be forbidden from wearing 50/50 T-shirts since we are not allowed to mix fabrics…” The cheeky biblical "scholar" that would say these things are referring to the Law as outlined in Leviticus 19.

“You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material. Leviticus 19:19

The correct question should be this. Is there an obligation attached to this law or laws like it for us today?

The answer is…well, its a long one so pay attention. We must realize there were different types of laws: Moral, Ceremonial and Civic. We must understand that ceremonial and civic laws no longer apply but moral laws can still apply because they can continue to make a person holy. These laws (moral) include things like the Ten Commandments. Let me ask you this: If someone does not kill or cheat on his neighbor’s wife…it’s a good thing, right? Leviticus 19 is what the Jews considered the Kedoshim קְדֹשִׁים or Hebrew for "holy ones" and were mainly statements and penalties for transgressions of the Holiness code of Leviticus chapters 17-26. Chapter 19 even starts with the precursory imperative from God:

 "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy." Leviticus 19:2.

God is literally speaking holiness directly to His people through Moses. This portion of Leviticus contained various laws that overlap one another in the civic and ceremonial area and one must be careful how they categorize. The passage above belongs to the ceremonial law and are laws of purity in response to pagan practices of surrounding cultures. I can hear it already, “How does mixing fabrics make one less holy from a ceremonial point of view? Read on…

The animals are not to be interbred with other species, just as humans are not to have intercourse with animals (Leviticus 18:23). Holiness relates to purity, which inter-species breeding or sexual abomination destroys …i.e.: Gen 1:24-25, "of the same kind". If sacrificial animals are in view here this law could have been put in place in order to stop inter-breeding between acceptable sacrificial animals and those that were not...so that the offspring which would’ve been unacceptable for sacrifice wouldn't be inadvertently used for sacrifices. This would've been an unacceptable or polluted sacrifice and would've been considered cheating God (Malachi 1). Plants/seeds were not to be mixed either. Mixture of seeds and the resulting mixture would be hard to separate at harvest, so it was better to keep them separate from the beginning.

Then we come to our 50/50 T-shirts. At a more spiritual or allegorized level, banned mixtures symbolize the holiness of God's covenant people, who are to keep themselves separate from their pagan neighbors, maintaining the demarcation between clean and unclean as regards people. There is something more going on with the mixing of cloth and we need to note it. Clothing made from two different fabrics, most probably wool and linen as mentioned in Leviticus 13:47-48; Deuteronomy 22: 11 were banned. Well…sort of…

Mixtures of cloth like these were banned except, apparently, for a priest of God or the intercessor or intermediary with God, whose ephod in Exodus 28:6; 39:2 and breastplate in Exodus 28:15 and 39:8 were of mixed material. We even see that the curtains of the Tabernacle were of mixed material Exodus 26:1. Therefore the ban was restricted to what? It was restricted to laity, with the fabric mixture only being permissible for the divine realm or holiness realm.

We must understand that these laws belong to the period when God was pleased to teach His people by precise and formal rules; and when it was especially needful to impress that man must in no way interfere with the Divine order and arrangement, either in nature or in revelation. After divine rule has done its work, and made its witness, the free dominion and use of the earth is given to men. Men soon discover that they cannot improve on, or alter, the actual Divine order, but they can, and they may, develop the possibilities that are in the divine creation. The premise is that man must first realize God’s sovereign power and rule. Cloning make anyone cringe besides me?

An interesting sidebar must be noted at this point. The idea of not mixing and not combining in terms of the Ceremonial/Moral Law must be understood in their ancient contexts...and in ours. The things that make person less holy (moral) still apply and must then be seen also in context of modern culture otherwise they appear absurd and are often used as tools to mock the Christian (and Jew). Many will say that if the ceremonial law “of not mixing” no longer applies than we can mix inter-species and sex too right? Wrong. We need to delineate between the items within v.19 itself. Like I said we need to be careful with catagorizing. To generalize all the items in this verse is foolishness and poor exegesis and hermeneutics. Allowing sexual "blending" or "intermingling" across immoral boundries such as species and same-gender would be like entering and entertaining a nebulous no-man’s land of "sexual free-for-all". We must see this in the context of today’s sexual ambiguity and the nature of the sexual act. The sexual act is rooted firmly on the realm of moral and even spiritual according to 1 Corinthians 6 by Paul. The ceremonial law being fulfilled in Jesus Christ is not an excuse to violate other biblical moral mandates.

I could rail, denounce and condemn sexual imorality and unnatural acts as others do but it would be next to pointless. The Bible can and will do it for me. I will solely outline what Scripture says and allow people to make their own choice. We are all big boys and big girls and will be held accountable in the end for our own decisions. In the modern age there are important distinctions that are now being blurred and Christians must not participate in or practice them at the risk of possibly not being Christian. This flys in the face of many liberal theological experts that are in the process of undermining Scripture and have been for a long time. Sexual immorality is a violation of Moral Law not Civic and Ceremonial Law therefore it still applies. Sadly some Christian denominations are already allowing the mixing and ignoring the moral implications of those ignoring Moral Law and engaging or permitting sexual immoralities. The present day blurring of distinctions between genders is unbiblical and unchristian. If Christians are doing this, allowing this or applauding it they had better check their motives as they are in immoral areas and in danger or apostatizing or already are backsliding. The Bible is unequivocal about gender blurring, gender confusion and aberrant or immoral sexual sins. The pattern exists all over Scripture so mentioning them all would be a fool’s errand but I will state Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 18, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 are a good place to start looking.

As a curious side bar I part with this fact. Natural blended fabrics were slower to ignite near fire and considering priests were near flame quite often, I wouldn't be surprised if there were other reasons God had the priest wear blended  or mixed fabrics beyond just purity and holiness. Why slower to ignite? Did you ever burn hair off your arm? Did it actually catch flame or did it melt and shrivel up and fall off? What do you suppose wool is? It's sheep hair and is made of protein which is more prone to melt or cauterize rather than burn. Why do you suppose the ephod was a mixture of linen and wool? Additionally, linen when it is around a lot of heat breathes better than most fabics and is very cool. It also has a natural white luster (image of purity) and it also is less likely to cling to the skin. In the event of fire this is a characteristic I would prefer in my clothes. Can anyone say burnt offering?

Comfort, Philip Wesley, David W. Baker, Dale A. Brueggemann, and Eugene H. Merrill. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008. Print

October 28, 2011

Desire That Incinerates

I was going through the Proverbs one at a time looking for one to drum people over the head with to make sure they are paying attention. Lately, I  have seen people either being willfully deceived or making absolutely no effort to discern whether or not things are biblical or acceptable and proceeding with poor or reprehensible behavior as Christians. This topic seemed appropriate for the time being as it is a constant battle for most and it is a battle often lost or struggled over profusely. This post will be rather short and succinct, not very sweet and direct to the point. Buckle up. 
***Warning To Parents: This post contains Biblical sexual content***

"My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away. For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is." Proverbs 6:20-35

Don't Cheat on your wife with someone else's wife. Pretty straight-forward. It seems like such a simple and wise thing to uphold and people would be well-advised to obey. Yet so many run rouge of this advice and go errant of such a good piece of common sense...and it makes no sense. Destroying a perfectly good relationship that at least two people have worked to make permanent by doing something so transient and temporary. Dumb.

On the flip side of this we see the woman in this passage. She plays the seductress and tempts the man. This is also uncalled for and unbiblical. As they say, it takes two to tango and both would be guilty in the situation outline in this proverb.

If we look closely at the text we see why some go wrong. The passage tells men to run in this situation. If one goes into this situation with self-confidence they are doomed. This is a tinderbox doused in gasoline. Once lit the fire explodes quickly to flame and becomes a raging furnace that is not quenched. The passage even tells us this in a rhetorical question,

"Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?"

Does a man stand next to a raging fire waiting to be consumed or does he run? Does a godly and holy woman purposely fan the flame? In the end we see shameless selfishness on both sides that destroys not just two lives but at least four...or more if children are involved. For what? A fling? How stupid. We must pay careful heed to suspicious borders around pretty pictures that draw us in to stare to deeply and longingly at a picture that captivates our desires. Like being drawn towards a beautiful piece of art in a burning house...there can only be pain if not outright destruction. The proverbial moth to the flame. The hypnotizing attraction of a dancing flame. Once the act this man and woman connived and cheated for is attained it is not like a thief that can returned the stolen object. This is a crime akin to thievery but this thievery is permanent and the things stolen are non-returnable: trust, integrity, and perhaps even love. Sins in this world are many but the misery this one unleashes burns like the flame from a torch and scars the same. The core to this passage and the key to avoiding this is in (v.25) command:

"Do not desire her beauty in your heart". We see this in a command from Jesus also in Matthew 5:28: "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Does this mean that sin starts in the mind? Yes, it does. With lust and adultery there is even something more here. If a man in the area of temptation begins to allow his mind to go there it then is a precipitous fall of desire that will pull him into the sin or act itself especially if he is already in the presence and in view of the one tempting him because once lit the fire is rarely quenched. It is best to run in this situation. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:18: "flee from sexual immorality". If you do not flee the temptation, whatever the fire touches it changes. It incinerates everything in its path.

It ain't brain surgery folks. If you see the fire raging in your direction...you don't run towards it or stand still. If you do it will incinerate relationships to ashes....ashes whose only use...is for mourning.

October 27, 2011

Resurrection: Tests of Authenticity

Multiple Attestations

If a God-man had died and was buried for a sustained period of three (3) days and then rose and appeared to people we should then expect to see and hear from those people that witnessed the death and resurrection, attesting to this fact. In the case of the Bible we see this exact thing. Not only are there multiple attestation where are multiple early attestations (within a decade through oral/aural tradition). For nearly two months after His Resurrection we see many people vouch for the fact they had seen the Risen Lord. In the Gospels we see the woman including Mary Magdalene were first in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16 & Luke 24. The disciples in the road to Emmaus also had an encounter but realized it after the fact. Jesus appeared in a Resurrection body to the ten disciples in the Upper room. We also see individual appearances to Peter and James. We also see Jesus show up as the disciples are fishing and then they subsequently eat the fish Jesus is cooking. We also know from Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:6-7 that Jesus also appeared to more than 500. He even appears to Paul last of all on the Road to Damascus.


The idea of a Suffering Servant King that would die as the Son of God or Messiah to overcome the world was so far outside the Jewish understanding of what their Messiah would be it made the idea dissimilar. The Jewish cultural and religious understanding was so different or opposed to this understanding it appeared contradictory. Therefore Christ and His Resurrection were an unacceptable outcome. Yet this is exactly what we see happen in the New Testament. Except in a few cases like that of the Disciples and early adherents of the Faith, the precursor religion (Judaism) that led up to Jesus and His resurrection and those within it completely failed to recognize Jesus as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

On the flip side we see the resultant belief system of Christianity. A band of tightly knit misfits ostracized by society and persecuted by their beliefs. Beliefs that they held so tightly to that they went to tortuous deaths and their graves refusing to recant their belief of a religious leader that rose from the dead. These tightly held beliefs then become the core doctrine of the belief system that lasts until today that tells us to be distinct from the evil of the world system but to continue to engage it to spread the Gospel even at the risk of persecution.


Nothing about Jesus death, burial or resurrection is immune from awkwardness and humiliation. A proclaimed King scourged and crucified naked on a cross by His own people. King of a Roman backwater called Jerusalem. Jesus goes through a miscarriage of justice that amounts to nothing more than a state sanctioned murder. During His crucifixion He is beaten to within inches of His life and mocked mercilessly and finally dubbed King of the Jews on a placard hung on His cross with Him. Even this placard mocking Him incenses the Jews and they want it removed. This supposed criminal named Jesus is so dirt-poor He has no grave or burial chamber to His name so one is donated by a recent convert named Joseph of Arimathea. After His resurrection His first witnesses are woman. They are women who have no credibility or say in a male dominated society and therefore their witness is useless not to say inhibiting to a newly forming faith. Ironically, his is the known foundation for a faith that will, over a few hundred years pretty much take over the known world. The probability of these events happening are so far outside the bounds of reality as to be impossible…yet it happens and it happens quickly as if according to plan.

Context & Expectation

This Jewish criterion for the Messiah and the Resurrection is similar to the idea of dissimilarity. The expectation from the Jews and the Jewish culture is that their Messiah would be a conquering King that would free them from the subjugation and oppression of Roman rule in a literal earthly sense. In a metaphoric way, Jesus did just that. Furthermore, in the context of time and over the long-haul of history, what Jesus did on the Cross inevitably accomplishes exactly what the Jews expected their Messiah would do…although not in their lifetimes. Instead of a conquering king on a war stallion we see a suffering servant on a donkey’s colt. Instead of the ushering in of an earthly Jewish kingdom we see the ushering in at least in part of the Kingdom of God spiritually.With such an uphill struggle to found a faith it is amazing that it would succeed with all these blots and smears against it.

Semitic Traces & Hints 

There are Semitic traces/remnants or Aramaisms which are words, phrases, idioms, or other characteristics of the Aramaic language occurring in the Bible which is written mainly in Hebrew and Greek. These Aramaisms are maintained regardless of the translation language. We see them in many places. Some familiar ones are abba/father, "Eli Eli lema sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 5:41’s, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise.”, Mark 7:34’s, “Ephphatha," which is 'be opened' and John 20:16’s, “Rabboni" which is to say, "Master". All of these Aramaisms point consistently to a Jewish or Semitic tradition even though a majority of the Jews at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion deny Him. Something more is going on here though. The Christian belief that Jesus was raised from the dead could not be account for by Jewish belief systems because Jews saw the Messiah more as an Elijah figure that would be “translated” bodily to Heaven, not resurrected in the way He was. Pagan beliefs comparatively are even more spurious with their pantheon of capricious gods. Nor could these claims of resurrection be a claim of Christian theology or doctrine at this point because “Christianity” as we understand it did exist at the point of the Resurrection. The only thing that exists immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus is the belief of the Disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead based on the fact they were/are eyewitnesses.


We see a profound effect on individuals that were either not on Jesus’ side during His life like James or were actively persecuting the brethren like Paul. As a matter of fact the effect the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ was so profound that when people today have a dramatic unexpected conversion to Christianity that dramatic conversion is oft referred to as a Damascus Road experience. We see hundreds of people willing to risk persecution to spread the Good News. We also see conversions en masse in the book of Acts and since the first days of Christianity we see a continual and often remarkable change of people from the inside which is the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. It is the work of Christ in people’s hearts. All of this based on testimonies of a small handful of original believers

Principles of Embellishment

This is the idea that later embellished accounts arise because of an inability to defend the Resurrection without later embellished. There is also the problem of trying to rationalize and backup and overly complex scenario to justify and tell the story repeatedly with known embellishments or lies layered on top of an already hard to believe story of a man that’s resurrected in a Resurrection body after three days in a tomb. Compound this with the fact that Jesus came as a form of King that His own people rejected and even fewer understood even after His Resurrection (i.e.: Road to Emmaus)


Christians have some pretty substantial and impressive evidences in the form of the historicity of an empty tomb, a resurrected God-man Jesus and many appearances. This is further validated by consistent and coherent accounts of Jesus appearances, further accounts later by Paul. The Scripture backs up the accounts in many places without contradicting itself. The entire story regardless of what angle it is approached from whether it be from Paul back to Christ or from Christ ahead to Paul’s explanations stay consistent and coherent. They do not come off like the ramblings of madmen. As we would say today, the story "gels".

Historical Congruence

We see a consistency between the 1st century’s cultural milieu and the writings of the Gospel and New Testament accounts. Many of the idioms, practices and social mores recorded in the text of Scripture are consistent with what we know about the times Jesus lived in, died in and the time immediately thereafter.

It is within this body of facts that we can examine and then support of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. Based on the information provided in the Gospel accounts we also have multiple fronts in which we can defend the truth of the Resurrection. Of course we can never be absolutely certain of the things we believe in the Faith because it is by faith that we gain the reward of eternal life through the atonement of the Resurrection. If it were a known fact our methodology for our salvation is blown asunder. We must be satisfied to accept these facts in faith as this is God’s requirement for us. The surprising thing is that these pieces of information that we can glean from Scripture are pretty close to fact anyway. Close enough for most believers to be comfortable that is.


The most profound arguments against Jesus’ Resurrection are put forward by people with what? Doubt…the very antithesis of faith. Because of doubt & lack of faith ideas more implausible than the raising of a man from the dead are advocated by those that are enemies and mockers of the Cross. Faith …the very thing we are called by God to use to believe in the Resurrection. At the core of peoples unbelief is a failure of obedience and lack of faith, not a lack of evidence and experiences in the Bible. Ironically, the best defense of the Resurrection is based in the experiences/evidences God allowed first. The most profound evidences of the Resurrection are eyewitnesses, events and their documentation in the Scripture seen through eyes of faith by people of faith.

Spiritual Disciplines XXVII: Shoulders of Giants & The Bones of Martyrs

The Man I Still Wish To Be

In another 8 years at 50 years of age I would like to be well-established in a ministry or home church situation. I am currently switching from a career to a calling in ministry and it is stressful and demanding. I don’t know that I will be able to do this at 50 or older. I can feel it talking its toll on both my family and myself. I sense that I will make a decent pastor/teacher as many have alluded to my ability to do so…even my wife. Any married person realizes how important it is that a spouse would say this about you and be on-board. Without your spouse acting together with you, you’ll either fail or you’ll be divorced…or both.

Giant's Backs and Bones of Martyrs

First and foremost my goal is Christ. To be as Christ-like as humanly possible. To try for anything else is to sell myself short. I also realize that I will never attain that lofty and perfect example so I need to look to others around me to map my path. I loved and admired my father’s faith until his death and it is where and what I strive to in my faith. With that thought in mind there are others that come to mind that are still alive and they are all my senior in terms of age. My neighbor (being a pastor), my own pastor and a few elders from local churches are about as close as I want to be to someone else. I believe God has His own plans for me that will be pieces of many people. I also like the styles of R.C. Sproul being primarily a teacher of theology and John MacArthur being an expositional preacher. Some of my mentor’s I know formally like my own pastor’s others I know informally or at a distance such as Sproul and MacArthur. Good teaching and mentoring does not always need to be in person. The truth is our examples in the Faith are worth noting and emulating. Our Faith is build firmly on Christ the cornerstone but also on the shoulders of giants in the faith and on the bones and bodies of martyrs. So I suppose it is no surprise to find out that some of the earliest stone altars in churches were the actual tombs of martyrs interred in the Roman catacombs or altars were erected directly over the interred remains of martyrs.

Becoming Like Him

I live in God’s word as I believe this is the place I need to be to be a true teacher or the Word and a true pastor in the Faith. I already know from forays into the ministry that the Word and God’s personal relationship with me will often be the only thing that gets me through. I already know that being a teacher/preacher of the Word is sometimes a lonely life and I may often stand alone on the Word. The closer I/we get to the truth the harder it is for those still in the world to stomach. Preaching the Word at times may alienate everyone. Can anybody say Jeremiah or Isaiah? As the opportunities arise though I speak with leadership in many churches because I believe there is something to be learned from all denominations and persuasions with the Body of Christ. Too often we look at the name on the front of a church marque and we allow it to keep us from walking in the front door to speak with others that may be teaching and preaching the same core doctrine we are. We let our hang-ups and petty squabbles prevent unity and the body and that is a crime…and a sin. I realize there are not unpardonable sins but if there was one…this kind of stuff would be one pretty high on the list for selection. Too often we let our little cliques and “good ole boy” networks get in the way of what we are commandant and that is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Instead we refuse to talk to others because we fight over non-essential “-isms” or disassociate ourselves from others because they are “-ites” or “-ists”. Frankly, it annoys the living daylights out of me and makes me want to throw my hands in the air in disgust…but instead I forge ahead and try to talk sense into others with dumb hang-ups. Dying for core doctrines like the early church fathers is one thing but squabbling over non-essentials is asinine. The early church fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew what some folks wer fighting over nowadays. They died for a Faith that too many are willing to rip asunder for pointless reasons. For a long time that included me too.

Those That Help Us To Heed The Call

Without my wife’s help the journey into the ministry to this point would’ve been impossible. She has provided love and encouragement and has held down the hatches during stormy weather. Ministry in this day and age is hard business. In a culture that normally frowns upon the religious we need all the support we can get from our loved-ones. Without the education of both the professors in seminary and the pastors and spiritual leadership or the church I may have gone AWOL also. I cannot begin to imagine how many within the laity or the Church and the leadership itself have prayed vehemently for my family and I. Many seem to see promise in the work God is doing in our lives and I do not take this for granted. These folks have been around and they know when God is doing “a work”. I try to keep this in mind and stay faithful to my task of looking out for the spiritual well-being of my family and then to my extended family in the Church.

Achieving The Impossible

There have been things in my life that people said I couldn’t do. I did them because people said that very thing. I do things are Robert Kennedy said, not because they are easy but because they are hard. God never promised a pleasant life He promised a pleasant destination. I long ago resigned myself to having to grunt through and struggle for things. My parents told and showed me through words and example than something worth having rarely comes easy and there is a certain joy and value we instill in things having needed to struggle for them. The sweat and toil to achieve things in this life is often the reward within itself.

Focusing The Competitive Edge

My competitive nature often gets in my way of properly teaching others or learning from others. When I see others breaking new ground that I have not been able to or achieving things I was not able to achieve I sometimes get jealous and reach out to God asking why it came easier to “that” person rather than me. If I look closely sometimes I realize that it actually didn’t come easy for that person. I find that they do were doing a ton of work behind the scenes will simultaneously putting in the “knee time”. I need to understand that I need to stop gauging expected outcomes in this life on old measuring standards and expectations. I can only twist and skew my perceptions of outcomes. God does things in His own time and in His own way. I may never see a discernible end result from my end.

October 25, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXVI: Hospitality

Being Received By Others

I have been received by my neighbors whom I was basically at war with for a decade before coming to Christ. Neighbors who by all rights could’ve written me off as a lost cause even by Biblical standards but God is full of grace and my neighbors eventually became my friends. Not only that but they are brethren in Christ and this is an invaluable thing that I cannot put a value on. They were willing to reach out when I finally began to turn around. They have been there for encouragement and support when things hit the fan.

Wounded Instead of Welcomed

The greatest betrayals have to have been being released from places of employment that I have poured my life into. This is especially true of my last employer. Towards the end I was clearly spending more time at my place of employment than I was with family. I nearly lost my wife and family in the process. What’s worse is I eventually lost the job because they simply made a business decision and laid me off. After 10 years in their employment I was literally tossed out like yesterday’s garbage. To think I nearly lost the very things I hold dear (my family) because of dedication to a faceless corporation is insulting. In the end though I realize being let go was the best thing for my life. My priorities had gone askew. Things are by no means perfect but they are better spiritually.

Christ Welcomes All

When I came to Christ I knew it was the right thing to do. Wounds from my previous life didn’t instantly heal. Some things got better immediately upon finding a good church and good fellowship but some things from the previous life left deep scars. I realize we are new creations as the Bible says but we are also humans and we are in the worlds system. As such we are still victims to the flesh and these things often take time to heal…especially emotional wounds that ran deep. To some extent I still nurse issues and I might be better served making a concerted effort to pray to God to help release me from them.

Being The MC (Master of Ceremonies)

I used to hate having company because it always meant putting on “airs” but I now look forward to making people feel comfortable. I feel no need to act towards others with pretense. There is nothing better than having a warm conversation over a hot cup of coffee. I especially like speaking about things pertaining to God. Frankly, if I do not get a chance to incorporate God into a conversation even indirectly, I often feel I have incompletely used my time.

A Model of Hospitality

My wife is vastly more hospitable than I will ever be. She clearly has more social graces. I like sitting in my man-cave (library not wreck room) dissecting commentaries and/or writing. If conversation does not move along to something productive or if it drifts off to gossip I quickly become intolerant of it and drift off. First I drift mentally and then I loose social graces and physically drift off. I don’t mean to I just have a real short attention span and in some cases have been accused of having ADHD


As I said before I highly valued my alone time and seclusion but as Christians we are called to be just the opposite. We are to go out into the world. If we cannot do that we should at least be receptive to people coming to us and receiving them into our home with hospitality. To do any less would be un-Christian. Of course I am not saying to invite pedophiles and ax murderers into your home but at least be receptive to those in the Faith. We are called to be open to all but not to the point of tolerating unbiblical. If Uncle Kevin keeps spouting off about how great Satan is and aliens you might be well served reading him the riot act and giving him the boot.

Opening My Home To Jesus and My Neighbors

I am convicted that my home needs to be a place of worship and study of God. I study within the walls of my home and have done so since being called to the ministry. I will continue to do so. I also try my best to fulfill my responsibilities to teach my wife and children about what the Bible means. As time allows I will inevitably invite others from church to fellowship in my home and learn from them and teach what I know. I try to now but the situation is chaotic as always. I realize that the early church had its beginnings in people’s homes. We see this all over the New Testament. In the 1st century to not invite people to stay in your home was inhospitable and an affront to people’s honor and a violation of social norms. They lived in a society of reciprocal hospitality…something we rarely see nowadays…something we should see more of.

October 24, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXV: Small Groups

How Small Groups Have Affected Me

Small men’s groups had a profound effect on pulling me deeper into the faith. I had been in the faith earlier in my life and drifted away because of the often emotionless ritual of the Roman Catholic Church and the overt emotionalism of the more extreme aspects of the Assemblies of God and Pentecostalism that my parents drifted into as I hit my teen years. When I came back to the faith I encountered a small group of approximately 8 men that gradually increased to 20 or 30 that showed me that Christianity is not the faceless money grubbing machine but rather fellowship (koinonia). These men actually care about me and I them. It was when I began having small gatherings and taking my family to associate and fellowship with their families that I learned what true Christianity was about.

Importance of Small Koinonia

The effects of the aforementioned relationships have had a profound effect on my life. In my previous backslidden condition if someone of the same sex had been this close to me or cared this much not having been a relative, I’d have been convinced they were gay. It then dawns on me that we are indeed relatives in the family and fellowship in Christ. The problem with me having formerly though this way is that I had fallen victim to the culture that said that that men are to essentially be practicing stoics with a coarse outward exterior and are rugged individualist American cowboys. Rugged is fine but there is little room for individualistic attitudes in the Body of Christ. I have news for people, cowboys traveled together in loosely knit groups...but they were still groups with a common goal. Had they not fellowshipped an actually gotten along to some extent…men would've died and steer or other livestock would’ve never made it to market and this country wouldn’t have even been built. We also saw the importance of small groups with the Disciples in Jesus' ministry. From this small band of men and their associates we now have the Christian faith which emcompasses the globe in some shape or form.

What To Look For In Small Groups

The best possible group I can imagine would be a group like the disciples that, although they may not be perfect, they would have a heart for God. They would be obedient to the call of God. They would be honorable and upright people that would bring no ill-repute to themselves or to the corporate body. They would all have their unique gifts from God working together to bring honor to God and they would honorably discharge their duties that God has given them to do. They would pray often and think of God even more. Living by the code God has laid down for us all, not as individuals but as believers in koinonia.

October 23, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXIV: Covenant Groups

Task Oriented Relationships

I am generally a task oriented person but even these types of people need relationships in groups. God created us to be relational first with Him and then with others. Either way we are not called to isolate ourselves. Things do not always need “doing”. Sometimes the tasks that will need to be done to accomplish God’s will cannot always be addressed in a task oriented manner, it often needs to be addressed in a relational manner. We cannot run up to people and think we can just fix them like they are machines or a task to be completed. Sometimes part of the fixing is the relational element itself. Sometimes healing only comes through friendship of love, not wrenches and duct tape.

The Core Group

My family is the obvious first thought when I think of core groups but outside of this are two churches that I attend personally. One I preach to on Saturdays and one I take my family to for fellowship and concern for their growth on Sundays. I also have a local Bible study I try to attend as much as possible on Wednesday nights where I care for the men there and they care for me. Finally I have school where I have good friends that are in my theological and pastoral ministry classes that I am essentially working my way through school with. God has really supplied me in this area with support both for me and my family. I am chock full of places to engage in covenant between both them and God. I pray it stays this way. These are my core group(s).

Preference For Group Size

If I have a choice...I prefer to ministry with one-to-one or small groups. I will minister to any size group but the dynamics begin to change the larger the group gets. Not everyone can follow along in a larger group setting and/or keep up. When groups are smaller they tend to be easier to manage. Once a group gets about 7-12 people it must be consider a larger group and things become more corporate rather than individual. I cannot dedicate myself as hands-on as I would like.

Fellowship With God in Groups

In the one-to-one setting I experience God through the prayer and communal aspect of working together in a spiritual endeavor to reach together to God, small groups it is more of a study atmosphere that has been productive and for the large group it is usually in joint worship either in music or preaching whether I am listening to the preaching or giving a sermon myself.

Jesus Groups

Jesus appears to have enjoyed one to one contact and smaller groups. He had 12 disciples meeting with them as a group and individually. Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry we see Him mainly focus on the twelve as they worked their way to Jerusalem for the crucifixion. Jesus also often met with His disciples one on one and even met with people like Nicodemus one-on-one. I believe that if Jesus’ optimal size for his discipleship was 12 and later the 70 it is safe to say that Jesus seems to have preferred the former small groups but being the Son of God He could clearly make due with large crowds also whether there be 70 of them or 5000.

A Band of Christians

Jesus gathered a core group around himself. In the case of the disciples there were 12. Judas eventually abdicates his role through betrayal and sin to be replaced by Matthias. Some will say that there was one disciple for each tribe of Israel. What I can say for sure is that 12 is what God wanted and 12 is what God got. Their names will the 12 foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem as stated in Revelation 21. Although Jesus was God, He still allowed Himself to be made of no accord in the form of a man and in so being He was limited to the physical aspects of humanity. In humanity it appears the 12 is the optimal group for teaching. If you have more the group begins to get too large and the dynamic of the becomes unwieldy if the group is small and more could be added without a need for another teacher than effort is lost and not utilized correctly. We also know also that within the twelve there was even a smaller inner circle of intimates who were Peter, James and John that were witness to the Transfiguration among other things. This tells me something more. Although Jesus picked twelve, only three were exceedingly intimate with Him. This tells me that the other 9 were not quite as close as the Peter, James and John...the core group.

October 22, 2011

What Christ's Trial Before the Sanhedrin Tells Us

It is often stated or claimed by modern scholars that Jesus never made claim to the fact of His divinity. In some cases some modern scholars believe that Jesus didn’t even realize who He was nor did He realize nor claim He was divine. We see with the likes of D.F. Strauss cynical claims that the Gospels never even happened, they are myth. Although Strauss doesn’t deny outright the existence of Jesus as a historical character, he does deny just about everything else contained in the Gospel accounts. As such these modernistic claims present the possibility that if Jesus did not fully understand His exact purposes it is possible He may have just been a misguided extremist that tried to usher in an eschatological kingdom. They see Jesus as a regular man, a revolutionary or non-violent zealot that ended up dying a criminal’s death because what He did had been misconstrued as insurrectionist in intent. If He was just a regular man then He was not divine and then couldn’t have possibly have been Resurrected. With this in mind we find in modern times that Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin has become a pivotal study of the Christological title that reveal Jesus’ self-cognizance and self-awareness of his divinity. I intend through the scope of this post to show just that.

If we go back to the Old Testament we see in Daniel the Ancient of Days that had the appearance of a man/human and we know from Scripture that Jesus believed in this eschatological appearance. A being that is given dominion and glory that is God-like. Although it is not Scripture we also see in the Book of Enoch the mention of the, Son of Man (l En. 48:3-6) who ‘shall depose the kings from their thrones and kingdoms’ and shall sit "upon the throne of his glory". Similar blurbs from extra-biblical sources reside in 4 Ezra 13. In these citations we see that the idea that the Son of Man, Jesus as a divine figure would’ve been in no way anti-Jewish. As we can see from history, the Jews obviously missed the boat on this count. The “Son of Man” was Jesus choice of self-reference. It was a title Jesus gave Himself having been conscious of His purposes here on earth coupled with the fact that He had a divine timeline to fulfill. As such it very well may be an acknowledgment of His divine identity albeit a veiled one that allowed for His “time” καιρός / kairos or perfect time to unfold in which He would fulfill His mission on the Cross and not a moment before then.

Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified John 12:23

Some claim that even though Jesus used the title Son of Man, He was actually talking of someone else yet to come, not Himself. Without even reading the source text I (Andy Pierson) can tell you that this is just wishful thinking. Proper exegesis reveals that Jesus had a sense of unsurpassed authority, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” (Sermon on the Mount). Jesus teaching not only claimed unsurpassed authority He put His teaching on par with the Law. He quotes Torah then countermands it and actually claimed the authority to set it aside. He even superimposed Himself in the Law's place...

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17

He put Himself in God's place by his words and actions. Having done this with Himself it makes no sense that Jesus would suppose that someone else would come to judge the world. Jesus Himself would then need to be judged by this enigmatic “Son of Man”. If Jesus were in fact the Guru or the “really good” spiritual leader label that is often attributed to Him by modern liberal theologians/scholars, it still does not account for the self-cognizance Jesus had. The self-sense of unsurpassed authority would’ve been totally incompatible with a view that He was waiting for someone else to come. This would be unreliable eisegesis not reliable exegesis of the intent of the text. One would have to read meaning into the text not extract Jesus’ meaning from the text. Jesus said nothing of the sort, He said just the opposite if He said anything.

In Mark 14:60-64 we see what amounts to a compelling evidence that Jesus did indeed know exactly who He was in the trial before the Sanhedrin. Never mind the fact that Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy that the Suffering Servant would be lead silently to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Never mind that with this claim He has solidified and stiffened His sentence to death.

And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? "And Jesus said, "I am; and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." And the high priest tore his mantle and said, "Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. Mark 14:60-64

The priest asks Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus answers, “I am; and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." In the Jew’s eyes He has blasphemed and they react accordingly. They condemn Him to deserving death. There is not ambiguity here either on Jesus’ behalf or in the reaction by the religious leaders to Jesus’ perceived blasphemy. The Sanhedrin’s reaction tells us all we need to know about Jesus’ statement/answer. Jesus claimed to be equal or on par with God being at the right hand and the leaders wanted Him dead.

So did Jesus really say this? For anyone that believes in the Inerrancy of Scripture a brief perusal would indicate yes. From a more secular or Jewish investigative point of view we see the comment from the Sanhedrin, “Son of the Blessed (One)". It is an interesting term to use in a question considering Jews often avoided the word "God” or performed a circumlocution by using an ambiguous figure of speech to refer to God out of reverential awe. Interestingly, this term is only used in the Gospel of Mark. To further bolster the argument that Jesus knew who He was we see additional indicators such as the fact that nowhere else is the Son of Man associated with the sitting at God's right hand which is a position of favor and preeminence. Again we see a roundabout reference not a direct statement even during Jesus' judicial abortion called a trial. Although Psalm 110 refers to sitting at the right hand of God it says he sits next to the "power" in v.1 not God…another nebulous circumlocution. It is extremely unlikely according to the text that Mark would’ve accredited this type of prediction to an essentially demonic Sanhedrin who would’ve been literally blind to what Jesus was saying and to understanding that Jesus was fulfilling this. There is just no way by any stretch of the imagination.

In Sanhedrin lingo rules for dealing with blasphemy cases in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 7.5) concern cases in which a person is accused of having pronounced the divine name "Yahweh" so as to dishonor God. The alleged blasphemy of Jesus occurs unexpectedly on the spot, so that only the high priest tore his garments. If Jesus actually said God’s divine name a report by a Jewish man who had been trained practically since birth would’ve avoided repeating Jesus’ claim verbatim so to avoid saying God’s name. A record of what transpired in Jesus' trial (Gospel of Mark) would not include the pronunciation of the divine name itself but a periphrase like "the Power" would’ve been used or "Son of the Blessed" perhaps? This is exactly what we see in Mark. Whether Mark witnessed the events, the information we see Mark parley is unique to the circumstance and authentic to the times he lived in. This is not an editorialized event, it is a documentation of an eyewitness event just as we would see in the news today on television. Based on these theological, geographical, socio-cultural and rhetorical contexts we can ascertain that this is a reliably documented event true to the 1st century location that the Scriptures make claim to and to the 1st century Jewish sensibilities. Due to these considerations the conditions and contexts of these events are historically verifiable therefore it at least in part legitimates the claim that Scripture makes about Christ in this passage.

So....(time to breathe)

How did Jesus perform blasphemy in the Sanhedrin’s opinion? He put Himself on par with God. Among other things this is a direct violation of the very first two commandments, (1) “Exodus 20:4-You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” By claiming to be an equal to God as a “mere” human, the Jews more than likely believed Jesus had done this. Furthermore, Exodus 20:7, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” would’ve held particular relevance to the Jews because they had added legalism into this command to the extent to even use God’s name at all was forbidden.

To wrap this discussion up concisely we see something unique in Jesus’ trail before the Sanhedrin. It is in Mark’s manner of writing that we see Scripture, through Jesus’ own words instilling a divine self-consciousness into His own words. If Mark did indeed document the things that had actually happened (which I believe he did) as the rhetorical devices like periphrasing/circumlocution suggest, Jesus did indeed make a claim to divinity in these passages. If this is the case then everything Jesus said is true as He is who He said He was…equal to God and divine sitting at the right hand of God as the "Son of Man". Based on this conclusion we can then assume the following when referencing the inherent qualities of Scripture because Jesus said them Himself:

It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. Luke 16:17

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

I quote these verses to drive home this final point: If Jesus is divine (therefore perfect), then what He has claimed about the veracity of the Bible is also true. If the Bible is absolutely true then it is also absolutely inerrant. Inerrant means that Scripture does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. If it is inerrant it can be relied upon to tell the complete truth about what it speaks. That includes the things it says about Jesus Christ being divine even when stated implicitly. Some would say that I have reasoned in a circle but an honest observation shows that I did not make the claim to the veracity of Christ being self-aware of His divinity, the Bible did through its verses. The Bible speaks for itself and Christ not being able to go against His own nature would not lie about Himself or Scripture… therefore He validates both claims due to His divine nature. If any of these deductions are wrong then the entire argument falls apart.

As Christians we realize that all these things are true thereby making this an airtight argument. Jesus validates Scripture and Scripture validates Jesus. If we then add historical/contextual proofs in the from of literary and historical Biblical criticisms we then give a posteriori evidence to prove that these things did indeed happen in time and space, therefore naturalists have no leg to stand on to refute the Christian claims. An airtight case with valid historical evidence. We have so much more than that though don't we...we also have documented eyewitnesses...Matthew, John, James, etc...

October 21, 2011

Wor of Wards

Folks want to know why I am so particular with my words. When I write and when I speak. Yes, I speak nearly the same as I write. I like painting pictures through wordage. It keeps life interesting and I believe it is one of the gifts I was given by Christ to help build up and edify the body/church.

Words written/spoken are symbols/sounds that represent ideas. We as Christians are in a war with the world to define and shape the culture we live in. The Bible doesn't say that "have" to live in a worldly culture it just said that we were not to conform to it. As a matter of fact the Bible didn't say that we weren't allowed to try and shape the culture either. In an effort to try and spread the Kingdom we are encourage to do exactly that: Shape the culture.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Trust me, the other side is doing this same exact thing and they're doing it well. Their ability to do it doesn't come from a Godly origin either. It is from a nefarious source and its intent is not for the long-term good or well-being of society (or you). It is for its eventual destruction.

We need to acknowledge in the church that not only do we want to reach the world with the message or Christ and the Bible, we want to change it with the this message too. How are we to change it and with what tool? Words or more specifically, The Word. Writing and verbalization of it either through speaking or more powerfully, in worship.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12

Our faith and our world is our Word (at least it should be). That to be a Christian is to create our own culture within a culture or to affect the culture with ours. We are never to become the culture, we are only to engage it but by engaging we are hoping in faith that the Lord will use the Word that we speak to change those who hear it to make the world more like Him.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.~Romans 12:2

To be Christian is to be included into a culture or as the Bible puts it citizenship. A culture or citizenship of heaven. One reason there are often distinctions drawn and dividers put up between denominations is that there is an internal struggle within the body to answer a certain question. It is the same struggle that takes place between the Church and the world. The question? Who gets to name the world? How you identify things is how they are seen. Is abortion choice...or is it murder? Is a government handout free or does it enslave? Evolution or Creationism? Alternative lifestyle or perversion? Freedom or choice or sinful?

A word in the worlds culture and The Word in Christian culture helps form beliefs, beliefs form practice, through these actions we demarcate ourselves as Christians from the world (James 2:14-18). I is also how the world sees us. We know that it is the work of the Lord in us.

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." ~Romans 10:17

"...and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain." ~1 Corinthians 15:2

"...and we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." ~1 Thessalonians 2:13

"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." ~John 17:14

So why am I beating up the idea of words and culture? Words become ideas, ideas become actions. These actions if they are ungodly infiltrate culture and culture often begins to infiltrate our churches. They are flooding our courts and changing our laws one word at a time until the laws no longer resemble laws. They are ransacking our lives and are becoming staples in our vernacular & vocabulary. Please not the definitions abortion and murder.

Please note the distinction that murder is unlawful killing of a person. Why do you suppose the pro-abortion advocates are so torqued about getting unborn children considered "not human", "not people" or call them pregnancy tissue or some other ridiculous nonsense. Conversely, please note that nowhere in the definition of an abortion is there any mention of legality. Additionally, the word murder or taking of defenseless life is clinically referred to as "termination". Hmmmm...Arnie was the Terminator in his original 80's movie. What was his characters sole purpose as the Terminator? To kill. Terminate. End lives.

"\\\[Sarah Conner]\\\?"

We need to at least stop the infiltration of the churches...infiltration of the body. Do we stop it at the door of the church on Sunday so other congregants won't see or do we stop it at the point where it tries to enter our minds where only God can see it entering? These words and ideas are a disease that once they infect the mind, they spread. We must stop them from entering and if we can't we must try and take them captive.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The world's words are building up fortresses in our minds like squatters illegally setting up houses on stolen land (no offense to the poor and disenfranchised). These word-ideas-actions must be evicted and sent away before they get too powerful and take over other areas of our mind like our opinions on other things. Before you know it you have an entire village of debased and corrupt squatters setting up shop in your cranium.

Words and terminologies are critical in or culture. Whether or not we get to practice our beliefs or are marginalized and persecuted in this world depends on usage of words. It depends on how well we can state our case. More specifically, how well we allow the Lord to articulate through us by keeping our relationship as close to Him as possible. The further we stand from the creator of truth, knowledge and words the more confused the meanings of words become. From the other side bad ideas are often passed on by purposeful omission of words, failure to tell the entire truth or confusing the truth so badly that no one knows for sure what truth is. That is a major difference between Christians and the world. Christians believe in absolute truth claims because we have The Truth. The world on the other hand doesn't believe in an absolute truth claims because they don't have The Truth. If they did agree to aboslute truth claims they could potentially be told they are wrong also and that's a no-no in their postmodern society.

The world in a temporary materialistic sense (not eternal or in reality) belongs to those who name it. So when people debate or discuss what terms to use for certain events that take place what we are really doing is trying to convince others to view the world through a particular lens. Are we going to view the world through God's lens or through Sin Goggles? How or if we able to convince others of God's point of view dictates whether or not an already fallen world culture gains the upper hand of the discussion or we do. If the world culture controls the terminologies it will inevitably continue to descend into reprobation. If the Christian's right to define the terms succeeds it can possibly bring a semblance of order back to a disobedient world if we continue draw on the Lord.

Words convinced Eve to bite the fruit that crashed man's system. The devil convinced Eve to question God's word. Eve's words convinced Adam to disobey also. The words, "Did God really say...?" threw the entire universe into disarray that has lasted until this day.

If the world culture continues to dominate the terms in-utero murder will still be a "choice", deviance and perverted lifestyles will still be "alternative" and Christians will remain "haters". Because the world's arguments are often not under girded by facts but rather emotions and opinions their arguments often fail right out of the box. The world will then resort to ad hominem attacks, appeals to fear, generalities, straw man arguments, oversimplifications, demonizing Christians as Neanderthals or uneducated idiots or just outright deception. We as Christians need to be ready to deal with this, diffuse it and provide a rational and sane rebuttal in the face of this adversity.

It is a war out there and it starts with words being launched over the wall and embedded into the fertile ground of the human mind like poisonous darts. We must be prepared to either block these words/darts or deflect them by correctly defining them and making them harmless.

October 20, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXIII: Community of Faith

Is Independence All Its Cracked Up To Be?

There is a leeway of freedom involved with operating independently. Most in an independent type society like America would see this as a positive thing. I am not so sure. I imagine it is good in terms of freedom to worship and pray to God but I am having difficulty that being independent to pursue our own ends is a positive. In the absence of God which much of the country and world is now in this leads to moral abasing and drift away from God. I firmly believe that man’s natural state is to not seek God. Romans 3:10-11 state: ““There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.” To allow mankind (including me) autonomous individuality and independent operation is to court disaster. We have been created to be in relationship not only with God but also with one another and to circumvent the divine order gives us a society like the one we now live in. It is godless, disjointed and without direction. It is now a modern society under judgment that is slowly being given over to a collective reprobate mind.


Dependency in a manner prescribed by God is a good thing. A child’s dependency on its parents is a nature and acceptable dependency. A wife and husband dependent on one another for emotional and mental support during the trials of family, parenthood and life in general appear to be a good thing. Dependency in an unbiblical manner or a dependency in a parasitic nature is bad. A lazy person sponging off the State as a crutch is bad. A drug addict dependent on a drug to maintain some type of high is bad. A person that is dependent on money to pay bills so much so that his check is spend months in advance just as the US economy borrows from other countries shows an inability to control spending and an unhealthy dependency on money that has not even been earned yet.


As stated before, independence and a freedom of worship to God can be good as it is an individual and independent relationship with Jesus Christ that gains one salvation and eternal life. Other than this I see little gain. We value independence greatly in this country because of the tyranny we made our independence from but to divorce ourselves from God in the same manner is not like divorcing from a tyrant but rather from a loved one that could've benefit of live.

Symbiosis and Interdependence

I believe interdependence is important to mankind. God does not need mankind but mankind clearly needs God and other people. God is independent of all and needs nothing for His existence but mankind was specifically designed for an intimate relationship with God all other relations in a person’s life are fallout or precipitate from the one in God. The body of Christ or the Church with a Big “C” is interdependent. We must work together to bring the Kingdom. It is the unity in the Christian body that is the sign of the Kingdom having arrived in part. We are a symbiotic entity that thrives when we work together and dies or deteriorates when we are apart our in opposition to one another

The Condition That Your Position Is In

My attitude and actions towards with the Church help build or help destroy it. It does not take a brain surgeon to realize that a person who is building the Kingdom is doing something biblical and therefore acting as a true disciple of Christ. Those that destroy, defame or bring ill-repute to the Body of Christ is destine for either punishment or quite possibly…damnation depending on the condition of their position in Christ. Christ is the head of the Body and the rest of us are under Him answering to Him as we are all equal. Any other heirarchy is unbiblical. Those that have leadership positions in the Church are those that are willing to take on serving the Body.

Reflection of The Body 

Even if my life doesn’t always reflect it I am to be a shining example of what it means to be s disciple of Christ. I am to bring no scorn or bad attention upon either Jesus or my brethren. We are called to live out the Bible. We are to internalize the Bible so that we become the Bible so that we live the Bible and act as a proper representative of our Lord. We are God’s agents to carry out His commands on earth while we are here. When we are done we will be called to our true home to account for our actions here which will dictate what our final station will be in the New Heavens or New Earth.

Members of The Same Body

Right now the Body of Christ is helping sustain my family and I both at an emotional level and in some cases financially to help me through the tough road of changing careers and completing seminary. This my wife and I are finding is no easy feat. It at time seems impossible with all the baggage it entails and the only thing that often helps clear the difficult hurdles is the compassion and love of others. As hard as it was at first I have learned to take provision from my brothers and sisters in Christ as it is provision from Christ Himself. I have needed to learn how to say thank you and move on and stop getting hung up on feeling dependent in a fiscal manner to this person or that organization. If we are truly part of the overall corporate Body of Christ the provisions and tools I receive from the local Body all go to perpetuate the same ends.

Assess Gifts and Why You Were Given Them

Explain one’s gifts for the body and listing them seems like a vainglorious enterprise but each believer should understand what they bring to the table. This is not arrogance it is a deep moral and searching inventory to see and understand how each person can best serve the Body of Christ. To me there are to distinct form of gifts. My spiritual gifts are teaching and pastoring. After 4 years of intensive prayer, searching and meditation it has been narrowed down to these. The things I have either been born with or have had trained into me over my lifetime are ability to strip down complex things and make them easy to understand (engineering). I also have the ability to organize complex things into a coherent organized whole. I can also communicate these concepts and ideas either visually or in written form. My years of design and drafting are a testament to the former and my time as a writer blogger is testament to the latter. I see things in my mind. Words often take on three dimensional manifest form and images and pictures morph easily to words for me. In addition I can also see things in my mind before they are there or exist. Most have considered this a form of being visionary. I wouldn’t be so kind about my ability but is what I have been told. The more charismatic and Pentecostal of the brethren have referred to is as truth telling. These disclosures are about as honest and open as I have ever been about these things. I believe that any one that truly knows me knows that these statements are fairly accurate. All and I mean all these gifts I know realize are for use in the body both local and corporate. I will support any Christian anywhere if they are truly Christian...even if I never see them again. You are all my brothers and sisters and I love you one and all.

October 19, 2011

Elders: What They Do

The first thing that needs to be done to define the role of the elder is to define what an elder is since there are different roles with church government and it appears they overlap quite a lot. Having said this it appears that elder can be used interchangeably with other terms such as bishops/ overseers [ἐπίσκοπος / episkopos] or less commonly pastor [ποιμήν /poimen] as these titles/positions also act as elder/eldership in some capacity. It seems the most literal translation for elder though is presbyter [πρεσβύτερος /presbuteros] (Dusing 550, 554; Grudem 913). As such it would not be uncommon for a pastor in a church to also be considered an elder. It will suffice to say the responsibilities vary as some positions in church leadership require some to lead more while others will need to teach more. Regardless, there seems to be a primary core of responsibilities for elders and they are mentioned below. It is worth noting though that the titles of bishop, deacon and elder appear to also fall into more of an “administrative” or διάκονος role meaning they seemed to lead or deal with more of the day-to-day tasks of the church rather than they teach (Dusing 553).

An elder needs to be recognized as having the right and the responsibility to perform certain functions for the benefit of the whole church. There is also Scriptural evidence for a plurality of elders meaning that there is always more that one. There are no solo artists in the eldership. In particular there are references to multiple elders in Acts 14:23 where we see Paul and Barnabas, “appointed elders” πρεσβυτέρους (accusative plural). Peter also exhorts, “elders among you” (also accusative plural) in 1 Peter 5:1 (Grudem 912).

It is assumed from the context where multiple elders are mentioned that they are to be leading the church. Every church in Acts that had elders (which was most of them) were governed by said elders and they kept watch over their respective churches. Peter tells elders that they are to shepherd [ποιμαίνω /poimaino] the flock meaning God’s people in the Church. Elders also have pastoral and teaching responsibilities but this appears to be the lesser of their responsibilities. They are occasionally referred to as pastor/teachers in the Pastoral Epistles.

When we put the above roles together we begin to piece together a picture of a person that has characteristic traits and patterns of Godly living. The elders need to live, behave and speak as examples to the flock in their daily lives. Depending on a person’s interpretation of the Pastoral Epistles, some will insist these positions need to be filled by men. I am not so sure about this position. Notwithstanding, elders must not do things that would reflect poorly on either God or the Church. They are to be imitators of Jesus Christ. In this way they become role models for those in the Body of the Church (Grudem 916). Elders in the widest understanding (or norms of language) are therefore servants of the Body of Christ.

October 18, 2011

The Arrogance of Academia: David Hume

I will summarize David Hume’s (4) four reasons why miracles should be overlooked in a numbered syllogism and then answer his reasoning in the same numbered format point-for-point in this essay in the latter paragraphs. I will state that whenever I see that someone approaches a topic within the Christian realm as a confrontation or refutation my teeth are immediately set on edge. A person that approaches anything related to the Christian faith with this type of antagonistic presupposition means that the end result is usually anti-biblical. This is the case with David Hume. Being a product of the Enlightenment and Newtonian World Machine he believed and posited that miracles simple become unbelievable for those of the intelligentsia (so-called smart people: academics, cognoscenti, etc). The Newtonian worldview believed (based on Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principa mathematica) and saw the world ruled by three laws of motion in terms of masses, motions and forces operating according to preordained laws or Newton’s Principa. Based on these laws there appeared to be no need for the incursion or need for God’s providence. Hence the Newton World Machine and the theory that God, like a watchmaker, makes the universe, winds it up and then let it go to function under its own influence no longer to intervene. Such a presupposition or world system also made it incredible that God would bother to interfere with its functioning and operation via miracles. Therefore any type of miracle would be considered a violation of the laws of nature and were therefore impossible by this line of thinking.

Enter David Hume…

Hume being the quintessential humanistic philosopher based in empiricism and skepticism then posits reasoning on top of the Newtonian World Machine that further reasons for the improbability of miracles within the world without ruling out the possibility of God thereby not offending either the intelligentsia or the theologians. At the time, and to some extent today his rational is used as the reasoning or evidence for the improbability or impossibility of miracles. Hume’s reasoning of course cannot be considered a proof since the “evidence” and reasoning he performed is so poor. This is in light of the fact that so many have fallen back to him and quoted him in his flawed argument(s).

The syllogism from Hume’s erroneous thinking is from “An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding” are as follows:

(1) No miracle in history is attested by a sufficient number of educated and honest men, who are of such social standing that they would have a great deal to lose by lying.

(2) People crave the miraculous and will believe the most absurd stories, as the abundance of false tales of miracles proves.

(3) Miracles occur only among barbarous peoples.

(4) Miracles occur in all religions and thereby cancel each other out, since they support contradictory doctrines.

Hume concludes that miracles can never be the foundation for any system of religion. I, Andy Pierson could not disagree more wholeheartedly with these flawed assessments. From the very beginning we see the disingenuous nature of Hume’s argument for the refutation of miracles from an a priori source (God) and he subsequently demands a posteriori “experience based or evidence based” proof. He is asking for naturalistic evidences or experiences (things of this world) to prove or disprove the actions of a spiritual source in a supernatural manner. In Hume’s case he wants a posteriori experience or posits a need to have people or witnesses of the miracle and they had to have been “educated" and "honest" men by Hume’s definition. By educated and honest it must be assumed that they met his criteria of being “educated” meaning they were naturalistic and “honest” meaning that they had no proclivity or bias towards the supernatural. The miracles themselves being correctly understood are to have originated from otherworldly or supernatural origins (a priori) but being manifested in this world. As such they can and potentially do violate the “laws of nature” in their incursion into the a posteriori realm (Earth or Creation). We see right out of the gate that Hume demands a contradictory proof that is unreasonable and frankly unattainable. It also assumes mankind knew/knows all the rules of nature at the time of Hume writing this. Even today we know that this was not the case. Even today we are not exactly sure how things function at the subatomic realm because we cannot directly observe them without disturbing them (Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle). As William Lane Craig states in his book Reasonable Faith in the later pages, Hume commits a fallacy of begging-the-question with this line of reasoning. To say that miracles are contrary to universal experience is to assume miracles in question never really happened. By then saying that they could not have been universal implies that there could not have been substantial enough witnesses to meet his stated requirement for acceptable proof. Therefore Hume’s postulation is absurd and acting with duplicity of purpose. For all intensive purposes Hume is a functioning atheist that claims miracles are possible but certainly doesn't believe that statement.

If we move to his first claim Hume essentially states (paraphrased): (1) People lie, they have good reasons to lie (about miracles) because they believe they are doing so for the benefit of their religion or because of the fame that results. This is patently absurd because this does not explain why people would go to their deaths believing a lie. Having witnessed Jesus’ miracles including His Resurrection we see Disciples, one-by-one killed and martyred refusing to recant what they believed because not only were they convicted and convinced by what they had seen, they also had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. The truth of who He said He was transcended not only Jesus Himself but it was within His own followers who followed Him to a martyr’s death (imagine being the last guy to die knowing a load of others died before you). If the things Christ taught were lies, if the events surrounding Jesus death and resurrection were fabricated…who the heck in their right mind would go to their deaths defending this position if it were a lie? Not just a few went to their deaths this way, hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands went…some willingly. Stephen having been the first is the Scriptural proof of this in Acts 6-8. I could understand lying for power and prestige but not to go to a martyr’s death. Something more is going on here and it lies in the spiritual realm.

Hume’s second point is (paraphrased): (2) People by nature enjoy relating miracles (or stories of miracles) they have heard without validating them and thus miracles are easily transmitted even where false….as if they were retelling harmless fairytales. Again I cite the experiences of the early church and the persecution of said church starting with Stephen. Hume implies that people can and would spread the stories of miracles of a newly founded religion that not only is no longer protected in the Roman empire as a sect of Judaism but it also assumes they would willingly spread unsubstantiated lies or miracle stories upon risk of death in an empire that specifically targeted, tortured and executed Christians for spreading their faith. The early Christians were not just telling their children folktales or fairytales…and if they were, then they were doing so upon penalty of death if caught. The very core of the Christian faith is the miracle of the Resurrection. To believe in this miracle and spread it as the Good News was to put one’s head on a chopping block or in a noose. Therefore the circumstance surrounding the Gospel and those that perpetuated the story of the Gospel and associated miracles is unprecedented and unparalleled in history.

Hume’s third point is as follows: (3) Only an "ignorant" and "barbarous" group of backwoods dopes in backwards times believe in miracles because intelligent, educated and "civilized" people don’t believe in something as ridiculous as a miracle especially if a miracle is easily explained away with scientific or “enlightened” explanations. William Lane Craig then goes on to state clearly and firmly on page 256 of Reasonable Faith that the miracles of the Gospels were in fact abundant and witnesses were qualified (although I will note he does not back this statement up or validate through a citation). He goes on to state that the miracles did not originate among barbarous peoples but in Jerusalem a rather large booming agrarian outpost of the Roman Empire.

Hume’s final statement (paraphrased): (4) Miracles of each religion argue against all other religions and their miracles, and so even if a proportion of all reported miracles across the world fit Hume's requirement for belief, the miracles of each religion make the other less likely or impossible. Sadly this is Hume’s worst and most laughable argument. Hume assumes each religion is equally valid in producing a miracle which is to say all religions are valid. This is like saying all truth statements of each religion are also equally valid and therefore they are all true. We can use the Law of Non-contradiction to shoot this logic down in flames. If there can only be one absolute truth statement about one God being real and entering Creation to perform supernatural miracles, all other truth claims about a different God’s and claims to miracles are negated. Christianity is in fact that only religion that cites miracles as a vehicle to prove its teachings. Furthermore, Gottfried Less stated that the preponderance of miracle(s) in the Gospels used in teaching in Christianity is overwhelming in scope.

I will end this painful digression into pretentious and erroneous reasoning by returning to where I started in my introduction. Hume entered his arguments with disingenuous intent. Through his line of statements and presuppositions he claims to come to the discussion of miracles on unbiased grounds or at least from the angle that miracles might actually be possible. It quickly becomes evident through his reasoning that this probably is duplicitousness or a façade that his own line of reasoning and words refutes. His latent hostility towards miracles is thinly veiled. It is clear that he argues with the end in mind and the end he has in mind is that miracles are either not possible or impossible as he is clearly of an atheistic or at least agnostic bend. This is obvious when Hume “begs the question” about universality of experience being anti-miraculous. Tsk-tsk…this is such an elementary flaw in logic for such an “educated" and "honest" man (sarcasm intended).

As we had then, so we have now. The pretentuousness of self-proclaimed intellectuals and academics knows no bounds. Times may change but sinful people's opinions of themselves never do. Once arrogant without God, always arrogant without God. 'Tis a shame...some things never change.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...