Dominion

The Ways of God

The ways of God confound the human mind. One would expect a divine finger to snap and create the world instantaneously. But he took his time and artistically prepared his home in six days.

One would expect that God would settle the world’s problems in Genesis four as quickly as those problems arrived in Genesis three. But God took centuries to begin the definitive undoing of the world’s problems.

One would expect that God would take a godly king to rebuke the powers of evil and transform civilization in one generation. But God waited until the true king was born many generations later.

One would expect that God would take his own son and exalt him before death. But God killed his son on a tree; cross before crown.

The ways of God are intentionally perplexing to the ways of man. It is so because his ways are not our ways.

The Ascension of our Lord: A Brief Introduction

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord this Thursday. Since most churches are not able to have Thursday services, traditionally many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday.

The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. We make room for his birth, death, and resurrection, but we tend to put a period where God puts a comma.

If the resurrection was the beginning of Jesus’ enthronement, then the ascension is the establishment of his enthronement. The Ascension activates Christ’s victory in history. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension the call to baptize and disciple would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ enthronement at the right-hand of the Father, that we image-bearers can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power, not of weakness and shame. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory (Col. 3:1) This glory exhorts us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joy…and she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”[1]

But this joy is given to us by a bodily Lord.

We know that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is ruling and reigning from his heavenly throne. He has given the Father the kingdom, and now he is preserving, progressing, and perfecting his kingdom. He is bringing all things under subjection.

We know that when he was raised from the dead, Jesus was raised bodily. But Gnostic thinking would have us assume that since Jesus is in heaven he longer needs a physical body. But the same Father who raised Jesus physically, also has his Son sitting beside him in a physical body.  As one author observed:

Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity.[1]

Our Lord is in his incarnation body at the right hand of the Father. This has all sorts of implications for us in worship. We are worshipping a God/Man; one who descended in human flesh and who ascended in human flesh. He is not a disembodied spirit. He is truly God and truly man.

As we consider and celebrate the Ascension of our blessed Lord, remember that you are worshiping the One who understands your needs, because he has a body just like you; he understands your joy because he has a body just like you.

[1] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased

[2] Gerrit Dawson, see http://apologus.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/ascension-and-jesus-humanity/

Lent, Ligon Duncan, and Legalism

Lent, Ligon Duncan, and Legalism

Collin Hansen wrote an article for the Gospel Coalition entitled Should You Cancel Good Friday? which has brought to the attention of many a conversation they have never had before. What is Lent? Why celebrate it?

As a committed Protestant, I am committed to the Church Calendar, not because I want to be a slave to it, but because I am aware of its inevitability. We all follow some calendar. The question is which calendar? I ask that question because Protestantism is grounded in a Trinitarian view of the world. In its best expression it does not isolate ideas; it brings ideas together to form a coherent system.

I suggest that Lent is highly Trinitarian. As the Trinity is a communion of love, so Lent provides a means to express that love to one another in the community. Where sins are confronted and battled, there you find a vigorous Trinitarian community and vision. Lent is service to the community by giving us a season of determined battle against sin for the sake of our neighbors.

It offers a vision of history that undergirds the biblical history and that reflects the normal routines, liturgies, and rituals of human beings. Lent is a form of restructuring our lives. All Christians need a re-structuring of order in their own lives. All Christians need to re-balance and re-form areas where there is disproportionate indifference. We all undergo a Psalmic journey of lamentation and feasting. Lent draws us into this journey.

In essence, Lent reveals the God who suffers in the Person of Jesus Christ. God’s image-bearers are formed from the dust of a fallen Adam to the glorification of the risen Final Adam. To disconnect Lent from the Church Calendar is to disparage history.

It is true we live in the age of an ascended Lord, but this same Lord guides a Church that is still broken, suffering, and healing from brokenness and suffering again and again. The removal of Lent is to proclaim an over-realized eschatology.

It is true that Lent can be abused, and history teaches us that it has. But it is also true, as Luther so memorably stated, “the abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.” So if Lent can be proven to be profitable, then is there a legitimate way to benefit from it without falling into some its former abuses. Protestant Christians are not bound by Romish structures of food or rituals. We use wisdom in forming healthy habits for a Church and individuals while not binding the Church or the individual to a particular habit.

Lent and Wilderness

Lent teaches us that Satan’s gifts are easy to master. They come with first grade instruction manuals. They are made to be mastered quickly and enjoyed rapidly (fornication, drugs, alcohol; various temptations). God’s gifts are a little harder to master. They require self-control and patience. They anticipate spiritual growth; they demand a kingly attitude to grasp kingly wisdom. God’s instructions mean you have to seek others in the community to understand them properly. You have to exercise and express a theology of patience built into a theology of blessings.

In the wilderness, a garden stripped of colors, fruit, and water, Jesus faced the devil again in a re-match. He knew well that temptation had a triumphant history of subtly winning arguments. Jesus wasted no time and rebuked temptation. just like He would do with the demons and the demonic-like religious teachers of the day.

We are not to sit in temptation’s classroom. God already said we are to flee it; to rebuke it with the only source of authority that is permanent and stamped with divine truth.

The Church finds herself in a wilderness scenario. She is stripped of her former glory. But she is destined to journey from glory to glory like her Lord and Master. As in Luke four, we need to sit in Yahweh’s school house. We need to be instructed by the two-edged sword that muzzles the Tempter and tells him to not come back again. He is not welcome and neither are his offers.

Lent offers us a 40 day class on temptations and the glories and rewards of resisting it.

But Why 40 Days?

Lent follows the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. His fasting for 40 days speaks to the evil and the hardness of heart of the Israelites who succumbed to the Serpent’s whispers. So as the Church walks with Jesus from wilderness to Golgotha she re-lives the messianic journey. The 40 days are symbolic for that wilderness testing, and as a result it is chronologically set before the Great Paschal Feast, commonly referred to as Easter.

Should Lent be Observed?

Ligon Duncan and others in the Southern Presbyterian tradition argue that Lent has a history based on merit. Lent was a way to earn something. The Reformation fixed this soteriological error, and therefore Lent is no longer to be observed.

Duncan and others also go on to say that celebrating Easter and Christmas offer no such harm (he also believes that a National Holiday like Thanksgiving is also a uniquely American holiday to be celebrated). There is no doubt Easter and Christmas, and even Thanksgiving–to a lesser degree–offer wonderful benefits. But the question and the opening presupposition is that Lent is not biblical therefore it should not be practiced in the Church. If that is the case, then the question is not whether one day (or Season) is more beneficial than the other, but rather is it explicitly stated in the Bible or not? If the “explicit reference” argument is used, then Duncan will have to conclude that this is faulty reasoning.

I concur with Vance Freeman that “each of his (Duncan’s) reasons for not observing Lent are undercut by the observance of Christmas and Easter.” Mr. Freeman also concludes:

The biggest threat to Christianity today is not the church in Rome, or that Americans are prone to elevate traditional Christian rituals, like Lent, over discipleship. The biggest threat to the church is that our rituals are increasingly only secular ones. We are Americans before we are Christians. Super Bowl Sunday not only competes with the Lord’s Day, it dominants it. And when we relegate the Christian life to a mere facet of our American lives we fall into Moral Therapeutic Deism.

The formation of godly habits is the issue at hand. In other words, is there an adequate time of the year where the Church should have an explicit focus on the cross of Jesus and how that cross must shape our understanding of sin? Is there room for setting aside a season for a cruciform hermeneutic? I believe there is.

As Peter Leithart so ably summarizes:

Lent is a season for taking stock and cleaning house, a time of self-examination, confession and repentance.  But we need to remind ourselves constantly what true repentance looks like.  “Giving up” something for Lent is fine, but you keep Lent best by making war on all the evil habits and sinful desires that prevent you from running the race with patience.

If this is true, then Lent serves an enormously important role in the life of the Christian. Naturally, to quote Luther’s first thesis, “the Christian life is a life of daily repentance.” A faithful understanding of the Lord’s Service provides that for us weekly. However, an extended period where our sins are deeply brought to our attention by the preaching of the Word and prayer (and fasting) are regularly considered, practiced and meditated upon can provide great benefits for all Christians on each Lord’s Day and throughout the week.

The legalism concern is legitimate. We are all tempted to fall into this trap, but it does not have to be so. If we view Lent as a time to additionally focus our attention on mortifying our sins and killing those habits that so easily entangle us, we can then consider the cross in light of the resurrection, not apart from it. If we do so, Lent will become legalism’s greatest enemy and repentance’s best friend.

Saturday Night Live (SNL), DJesus Uncrossed, the Romans, the Jews and the God of the Bible

DJesus UnCrossed is SNL’s latest attempt to de-christ Christ. Of course, in our day, Jesus is easy to disrespect. One wonders if SNL would attempt a comedy journey through the life of Muhammad. No further comments needed.

David Flowers believes that the skit has something to teach us, and that we should begin to listen to our critics. He argues that the skit has hermeneutical problems, but that it shows our hypocrisy and inconsistency in our faith. Flowers argues that this is the result of an American-shaped Jesus. He is correct to assert that humor has a way of offending Christians and revealing weaknesses and hypocrisy. We should be aware of them.

The Jesus raised from the dead murdering Romans out of revenge seems bizarre in light of the biblical narrative. Flowers is correct to assert that it reveals the Jesus kick-ass motif portrayed by many in our evangelical culture. It is easy to object to the video’s false portrayals, but in what sense is this skit true, even with its exaggerative and faulty hermeneutics? There is something to be learned here. Flowers is correct that we are to listen to our critics. The point, however, is that our critics don’t go far enough.

Surely the 2nd Amendment Rights’ Jesus is very American and Neo-Conservative like. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of justice-driven Messiah we as Orthodox Christians believe.

For starters, we believe in a Messiah that is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from that place of kingship rules and reigns over us and creation. He is not an unmoved Mover. Further, Jesus did not have the Romans in mind when He judged, He had the corrupt and idolatrous first century Jewish generation in mind. Upon them, He brought a profound tribulation (Mt. 24). The Gospel Lesson this Sunday is Luke 13:31-35 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem. He sought her with love, but she continued to kill and murder the prophets sent with a message of salvation and deliverance. The vengeful Jesus portrayed by SNL has no interest in context, but it should well observe that the Messiah who destroys is first the Messiah who shows mercy.

How Can we Learn from SNL?

First, Saturday Night Live is not a theology show. Its humor is devoid of accuracy, and frankly, that is not their interest. They have been on the air for 37 years because of their exaggerated (especially in the last ten years) view of current events. This is important to keep in mind.

Secondly, use these opportunities to correct false information. Bill Maher, the well-known HBO atheist host, does this better than anyone I know. He takes a portion of Scriptures and twists its meaning in a fashion that would make even the devil jealous. This is a good time for Christians to be hermeneutically savvy. In fact, go ahead and make a t-shirt with that slogan “I am hermeneutically savvy.”

Thirdly, do not allow an exclusively New Covenant narrative to shape your theology. As James Jordan observes: “The division of the Bible into “Old Testament” and “New Testament” is merely for convenience, for the Scriptures are one narrative from beginning to end.” It is important to note also that this one narrative portrays God as a God of justice who says all vengeance belongs to Him. The modern Marcionites have failed us just as much as SNL has.

Finally, remember that the life of Jesus–especially as we meditate upon it in this Lenten Season–is a life of cross before glory; suffering before resurrection. The Jesus that came out of the grave was first a Jesus that came riding on a donkey as the Prince of Peace. But that same Jesus has promised to come again riding a horse of judgment upon Jerusalem and upon all those who despise His Name.

Blessing the City! 10 Suggestions for Becoming a Better Localist

Have you sought to bless your city lately? Proverbs 11 says that the upright needs to bless the city, and when he does so the city is exalted (see also Jeremiah 29). Localism is not merely a political philosophy, it is very much a part of the biblical dogma. We are to be concerned about our streets and counties before we are concerned about our nation and the rest of the world. The nationalist is not truly patriotic until he becomes a localist.

With this in mind, here are ten suggestion for becoming a better localist:

A) Pray for your city. Pray for the peace of your city. For justice to be known among her people. Pray for her shalom and its well-being as you drive through it daily.

B) Give to the city by being a part of its affairs. Participate in local activities when possible.

C) Read about the city. Instead of turning to CNN, turn to your local news or newspaper. Be informed about the matters of your city, for the sake of better praying for her.

D) Biblicize your city. Start Bible studies. Equip others to love the city by discipling her. After all, this is the call of the Great Commission.

E) Vote and Elect godly leaders of the city. Before considering national politics, do not forsake your responsibility before your fellow city-dwellers. Seek to be informed about local politics. Comment on local on-line news about those decisions made by politicians that are blatantly against biblical principles and priorities, and always offer alternatives. We need practical solutions, not more theorizing.

F) Unite with other churches. Despise the divisive sentiment that is so prevalent. Know the local pastor’s names and meet with them. Pray for them when possible. Build relationships with others from other traditions who also seek the good of the city.

G) Imprecate against those who do not seek the well-being of the city. The psalms provide a perfect platform for such prayers. There is no neutrality. You either seek the good of the city through the blessings of the Trinitarian God, or you despise it.

H) Minister to the City through giving. Contribute to local charities either through the Church tithe or through personal gifts.

I) Teach others about your city. When I visited the Pacific Northwest once I was surprised how little and misinformed people were about Florida, and in particular the Panhandle. Inform people about the good, the bad, and the ugly while emphasizing the good a lot more.

I) Love the city by loving the Church. Congregate. Worship. Adore the Only-True God by worshipping the One who is King of the City, Jesus Christ.

Study on the Book of Revelation

Welcome once again to our study of David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance. I am Uri Brito and I blog at apologus.wordpress.com.

We are going to delve briefly into Chilton’s introduction. There are two important elements in understanding Revelation, and they are to know the author and the date of the book. Concerning the author there is virtually unanimous testimony that it was the same John who wrote the Fourth Gospel (1). John, according to Chilton, writes in an “authoritative, “apostolic” style, not to individuals merely, but to the Church” (1).  There is little to no dispute John wrote this letter. In fact, Revelation uses Johannine language like the expression Lamb of God, which is distinctly used by John in his gospel.

The same question is a lot more complicated. When did John write Revelation? This is a highly disputed question, because once you come to a conclusion on the date, you will most likely be led to a particular hermeneutic; and that hermeneutic will drive your view of the entire book. Chilton’s premise is that Revelation was written before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. This position is typically called Preterism. Preterism means past. That is, the events of Revelation are not primarily futuristic–though there are many principles we can apply to our context– but primarily, Revelation has the first century audience in mind. If you have the energy to pursue this topic further, Kenneth Gentry has written a lengthy and scholarly work entitled Before Jerusalem Fell, which makes a strong case for a pre-AD 70 reading of this book.

David Chilton offers a few reasons as to why he believes John, the Apostle, wrote this letter to his first century audience:

First, as we referenced in our first video, Chilton argues that Revelation is a book about worship. Naturally, the book is full of liturgical allusions; and it actually contains minute details. Who could have known of these details unless he were intimately familiar with the actual service in theTempleitself. John fits the bill. John, as Chilton argues, was a priest. If this is the case, John was writing about aTemplestill in existence, which would lead to a pre AD 70 letter.

Second, Chilton argues that there is an a priori teaching from Scripture that all special revelation ended by AD 70. The argument is that Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 9:24-27 of the seventy weeks would end at the destruction ofJerusalem. And what would happen then, according to Daniel? That period would seal up the vision and prophecy. In other words, the sealing up of vision and prophecy referred to the Word of God, which would be completed before the destruction of the temple. Revelation was not a late first century book, but actually written closer to the other books in the New Testament canon.

Finally, there are time references in chapter one that lead us to conclude that the book is an early book. John says these things will happen “soon,” “quickly,” etc. These are time indicators proving that John was intentional about his language. Soon meant within that generation, not two thousand years later. For John, Revelation was the final judgment on apostateIsrael. It would mark the transition from an old world to a new world with a new Lord, Jesus Christ.

We will stop here, but feel free to leave a comment or any question both here on the youtube page or on my blog apologus.wordpress.com. We will continue our look at Chilton’s introduction next time. Peace be with you.

Establishing new kingdoms…

Communities where Trinitarian worship is not stressed nor emphasized have failed fundamentally at the task of dominion; they have taken the tactic of the First Adam who decided to take dominion in his own way. New Kingdoms were and will always continue to be established by memorials as in the Old Covenant; markers of worship where Yahweh is reminded of His promises to us and we are again and again instructed in our sacred duties to heavenify the earth.

The purpose of the quiver full of arrows…

In Psalm 127 we hear that “arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” Rich Lusk exaplains:

Psalm 127 talks about the quiver full of arrows; the man’s children are his quiver full of arrows.  It doesn’t do any good to sharpen and straighten those arrows if you are just going to leave them in the quiver.  They have to get out of the quiver.  They have to be shot, they have to be fired, and they have to be aimed into the heart of the enemy.

Baby Food Anyone?

Bojidar Marinov has some strong words about the Ligonier Conference this year:

It’s about time for Ligonier Ministries to come out of the nursery. R.C. Sproul helped so many of us to make steps forward toward developing a solid Biblical worldview. This conference is a step back, a return to our days as infants. We don’t need that, and the Church doesn’t need that.

The Church needs a clear, relevant, victorious call for battle (1 Cor. 14:8). These are times when people and ministries either lead or follow. If they neither lead nor follow, they better get out of the way. I know Ligonier has all the resources to lead. It’s about time they use them. Read the entire article.

I find myself agreeing with his overall critique. Still, I see a distinctively political agenda in Bojidar’s words. As someone committed to the Reconstruction of the culture under the authority of Jesus the Lord, but I am also fully committed to the Reconstruction of worship under the authority of Jesus the Lord. In fact, the political agenda is useless without it being under-girded by  worship. Worship is warfare (see also For all the Saints).

Perhaps ministries like Ligonier and American Vision should use conferences (or at the very least include in these conferences) to teach pastors how to lead their congregations in jubilant Psalm-Singing, as an example. The Church, as God’s primary institution, sets the agenda for all political endeavors. If we fail to produce worshipers in our education, politics will go to hell in a handbasket. Whether emphasizing basic apologetic questions or emphasizing political take-over, in one sense, both suffer the same fate of nursery-like ideologies.

Fish and Dominion

An interesting point is that the fishermen do not seem to have dominion over the fish in John 21. The new gardener, Jesus does. In Him, the dominion mandate will be fulfilled, because He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28).