Friday, September 28, 2007

Jesus of Nazareth

“Jesus of Nazareth took the total risk of speaking and acting as if the answer to the question were this: when the true God comes back to deal with evil, he will look like a young Jewish prophet journeying to Jerusalem at passover-time, celebrating the kingdom, confronting the corrupt authorities, feasting with his friends, succumbing in prayer and agony to a cruel and unjust fate, taking upon himself the weight of Israel’s sin, the world’s sin, Evil with a capital E.

When we look at Jesus in this way we discover that the cross has become for us the new Temple, the place where we go to meet the true God and know him as saviour and redeemer. The cross becomes the place of pilgrimage where we stand and gaze at what was done for each one of us. The cross becomes the sign that pagan empire, symbolized in the might and power of sheer brutal force, has been decisively challenged by a different power, the power of love – and that this decisive challenge shall win the day.

The question is then posed to us in the strongest and clearest possible way. Dare we stand in front of the cross and admit that all that was done for us? Dare we take all the meanings of the word ‘God’ and allow them to be recentred upon, redefined by, this man, this moment, this death? Dare we address the consequences of what Jesus himself said, that the rulers of the world behave in one way, but that we must not do it like that? (...)

Only so, I believe, can we even begin the task, to which the subsequent lectures will return, of working in our own day with mature, Christian and sober intelligence to address the problem of evil which still haunts the world which God loved so much.”

Source : “Evil and the Justice of God”
a series of lectures for 2003 by the Canon Theologian, Dr N. T. Wright
Lecture 3: Evil and the Crucified God
March 17 2003
(written up in retrospect from notes, December 2004)

Quote of the Day

"A true friend is someone who knows you're a good egg even if you're a little cracked."


Friday, September 21, 2007

Verse of the Day

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18


This was my devotional reading recently.

I could not get my head around why or how God's great desire to 'be gracious to' Israel is in any way connected to Him being a God of justice, which is what the verse explicitly says.

I thought, if justice had anything to do with it, God should smite the Israelites since that is what they 'justly' deserved , didn't they ? (read the entire context of the chapter HERE to see what was going on with Israel at the time).

After praying and asking God to give me His wisdom, He did ! He showed me that it must have to do with the fact that God has covenantally bound Himself to Israel so that it would in fact be unjust if He wasn't seeking to show them 'hanan' every day. God is so great and wonderful !!Ah, but are they (or are we) ready to receive it ?

"Blessed are all who wait for him!"

Response : I wait for you, Lord.

God's covenantal binding of Himself to His people is paralleled in Christ and through Christ :

"[25]Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her [26]to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, [27]and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. [28]In this same
way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29]After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— [30] for we are members of his body. [31]"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united
to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[32]This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. [33]However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

Ephesians 5:25-33

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Plantinga on the Sensus Divinitatis

"... Plantinga also speaks of the sensus divinitatis as

“a disposition or set of dispositions to form theistic beliefs in various circumstances or stimuli that trigger the working of this sense of divinity.” [v]

Just as perceptual beliefs like “There is a tree” are not based on arguments from more basic beliefs but arise spontaneously in me when I am in the circumstances of a tree’s appearing to be there, so the belief “God exists” arises spontaneously in me when I am in appropriate circumstances, such as moments of guilt, gratitude, or awe at nature’s grandeur, as a result of working of the sensus divinitatis.

Plantinga emphasizes that God’s existence is not inferred from such circumstances–such an argument would be manifestly inadequate--; rather the circumstances form the context in which the sensus divinitatis operates to produce a basic belief in God.

Thus, belief in God is not arbitrary; it is grounded by the appropriate circumstances and so is properly basic. Hence, if such a model of theistic belief is true, the theist whose belief is produced in the described way violates no epistemic duty in believing and so is justified in believing that God exists. (...) "

[v] Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 173.

(Read More)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Verse of the Day

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.


One could debate whether or how authority can be justified.

However, for the purpose of this post I don't want to go there ; but, simply take it as the brute and inescapable fact that it is.

Whether we like it or not everybody has to answer to somebody or as Bob Dylan musically reminds us in all its sundry and various ways "You gotta serve somebody".

"I didn't ask to be born" goes the taunt of a teenager who has just been told he cannot do something. Whether it is a mother or a father, nobody enters into the world not without someone in authority looking down on them.

What I want to explore is how someone who is the object matter of somebody else's 'authority' ought to view himself and that person.

'Obey' and 'submit' is what we are commanded. It probably makes it easier to remember, when we are irritated and unwilling to 'submit' or 'obey' that these people must give 'an account'. If we acknowledge that state of affairs for the one in authority then we can help him or consider how we can help him as far it is in our power to do so.

That insight, I believe, gives us some motivation for our 'obedience' and 'submission' which is also perhaps self-affirming in some fundamental way. It also gives us a framework for discerning the limits and/or the legitimacy of the kind of authority under which we might find ourselves.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

More on Hope (& Love)

This post is a continuation of my thinking on the subject which I started HERE.

In that earlier post, I had been meditating on Romans 5:5 and asking myself the following question :

What is it about having the love of God poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit which somehow guarantees that my hope will "not disappoint" ?

In considering this question, I made the observation of the violent reaction exhibited by Muslims at any threat or criticism of their faith.

I deduced that this severe reaction could have at its root a disappointement of hope as the believer's faith is held up to the possibility of being shown to be false as it comes under threat, criticism or held up to ridicule (sarcasm).

But for the Christian the promise of Romans 5:5 is that the Christian hope does not disappoint.

Now we look more closely at Paul's train of thought in Romans. Paul introduces FAITH in Romans 3. The nature, quality or essence of that faith is revealed in Romans 4 by the example of Abraham and climaxes with the words of 4:18 (click to read) where HOPE is introduced for the first time in Romans. It's a faith with an overwhelming strong hope element (as it seems was also exhibited by Mother Teresa).

We then read only a few verses later in 5:5 (click to read) of LOVE.

This is also the first time love is introduced in the letter of Romans to reappear again alongside 'hope' when we reach chapter 8. In order to understand Paul's argument as to why the hope of the Christian is a hope that does not disappoint we have to understand how Paul defines 'love' as he introduces it here in 5:5 in connection with hope.

Thankfully, Paul does come to the rescue and defines 'love' three verses later as follows :

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Understand the implication of this love in your Christian life and your hope will never disappoint. Understand the implication of this love and you will understand what Christians have which Muslims (and all who do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ) sorely lack.

More later, perhaps.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Hope that is seen is not hope" (Romans 8:24)

This article in TIME has some interesting revelations about the inner life of Mother Teresa - about her doubts, her inability to sense the presence of Jesus, about her "dark night of the soul" which lasted some 60 years.

Does that make her faith sub-standard or even defective in some way ?

Some Protestants would be pretty quick to come to that conclusion simply because she is a Roman Catholic. Well, as a Protestant I was told not to trust in my feelings but to believe God's word. Our faith is therefore not in what we can see or feel or the circumstances around us but beyond that. Isn't that after all how Hebrews 11:1 defines faith ?

According to Hebrews 11:1 "faith is the conviction of things hoped for". Faith rests on and thus function in a very closely linked manner with Hope.

THIS particular YouTube video seems to capture the essence of the dubious attempts at humour which go under the label of "Christian satire" (H/T Sophia Kai Arete ).

You might note that Harry Gretzloff most perceptively puts his finger on why people generally get upset at this kind of so-called satire.

He says :"Most people hope that what they believe is true. And anything that threatens that hope is very scary".

One can see how scared or offended people can get angry, and even violent which reminds me of the Muslims reaction to the Danish cartoons about Mohamed or to the Pope's speech . I'm wondering if such offended Muslims are simply exhibiting a reaction to having their hope somehow threatened in the manner to which Gretzloff alludes. Of course, Muslims also seemed to seek out these cartoons and look for opportunities to be offended which is curious. They would then go way over the top in their reaction.

But why is it that Christians seem to have a higher tolerance level than Muslims in witnessing their faith criticised ? I think perhaps the answer lies in Romans 5:5 which says : "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

There are three things to note in this verse.

First, it says "hope does not disappoint us". The Greek word translated here as "disappoint" is sometimes rendered as "does not put us to shame". In the original biblical language it is defined as follows :

"one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived" (Blue Letter Bible).

Having one's hope disappointed is in effect suffering a repulse which may partially explain explains why the Muslims reactions were often so aggressive.

The reason why Christians are more confident in themselves and Muslims not so in the face of criticisms of their faith is given in the rest of the verse neither of which is true for any Muslim or Jew or any other person who does not have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ :

" because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

It might be observed that Jews more closely resemble Christians in their reaction to criticism of their faith. This is because Jews have Scriptural promises given to the Patriarchs about the Resurrection which they limit to the Israelite nation. So they have a sense of God's love toward them as a community if not as individuals or even in a personal way through the Divine indwelling in the heart.

Nevertheless, it is the same God who has made these promises to the Israelites which have found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ and thus in Christians by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Muslim, however, can enjoy no such confidence or derive no such encouragement from the Koran (which is not the Word of God)or even from God Himself because he has rejected God's testimony about His Son.