Thursday, November 15, 2012
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Friday, November 2, 2012
- You find yourself increasingly bending Scripture to fit you rather than bending yourself to fit Scripture.
- You find yourself excusing sin in one area of your life because you serve God in other areas.
- You find yourself becoming more and more distressed that you don’t look better than someone else when you sin rather than experiencing more and more distress at disappointing God.
- You secretly take pleasure in people’s sin because it makes you feel better about how you’re doing spiritually.
- You secretly hate it when other people do great things for God because that tends to take attention off of you. Or, it highlights what you’re not doing.
- You find yourself so busy serving God that you don’t have time to love your neighbor.
- You major on the minors and minor on the majors when it comes to matters of theology and ethics.
- You are becoming confused about rituals and relationship; rituals for God are thought of more and more as a relationship with God. Hammer is mistaken as house, instrument as what the instrument serves.
- You are becoming an expert in spotting sin in others and a master at rationalizing your own.
- Your acts of “repentance” aren’t meant so much to mourn personal sin as they are to gain approval and notoriety from people around you; this is your way of showing people you have what it takes to confess sin.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
The Charge of Inconsistency
It has been argued that since the commandment to keep the Sabbath is placed in the middle of nine other commandments which are manifestly universal and perpetually binding, it is simply inconsistent for people to obey nine of the commandments and to ignore this one. To be consistent, it is asserted, we would do better to regard the Sabbath as we do the others - as being equally binding to all people.
As it applies to the discussion on the 10 commandments, those who argue for the perpetuity of the 4th commandment seem to be saying something like this. Since the nine other commandments are
(1) divinely authoritative
(2) related to one another (i.e., part of the same family of commands)
(3) absolutely binding (i.e., perpetual, not reducible to spiritualization or culture)
(4) it is most probable that the 4th commandment, which is divinely authoritative and related to the other nine, is also absolute and perpetual.
Now the strength of any argument from analogy is rooted in the genuine commonality of properties in two objects compared. So, if we find out that the liquid on this supposed planet doesn’t freeze at the temperature that water does (though it does change into gas at the same temperature as water), is drinkable but doesn’t hydrate our bodies, then we have good reason to be suspect as to whether it is a molecule of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.
Commandments That Are Situation-Specific
We observe in Scripture that there are some commandments that do not apply to all people at all times.
Take the commandment which says that we should not bear false witness. Now, is this commandment binding to all people in all circumstances? The scriptural answer is no. For instance, Rahab is praised for an action at the core of which was a violation of the 9th commandment (Josh 2:1-7; James 2:25; Hebrews 11:31). A modern day case in which the 9th commandment isn’t absolute was dramatically played out over and over again in places like Poland in World War 2. People were forced to either lie to Nazi soldiers or disclose that they had families of Jews hiding in their homes. It seems clear that the prohibition of bearing false witness gave way to a greater good of preserving peoples lives.
Take also the prohibition of murdering. Does Moses mean that it is always wrong in all occasions to take someone’s life? I think the answer is clear when the Lord commands Israel to slaughter various people groups throughout the Old Testament. God seems to command people to do in one circumstance something that he doesn’t in another. Now, we often make the distinction between murder and killing. Although I think this distinction is true, it’s not one given clearly in the actual commandment. Elsewhere in Scripture, the word is used for both justified and unjustifiable murder.
NAU Numbers 35:27 and the blood avenger finds him outside the border of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger kills the manslayer, he will not be guilty of blood
Here we have an instance where the same Hebrew word is used of both justifiable and unjustifiable murder. This passage refers to a city (cities) of refuge where a person who inadvertently killed someone could flee and find protection from avengers. In other words, if Bob desired to kill Larry for killing his brother, Bob wouldn’t be justified in killing Larry when Larry is within the borders of this city. However, if Larry ventures outside of the city limits and Bob slays him, Bob has committed justified homicide. To sum up, there are some circumstances that permit murder. As such, its not absolute and perpetually binding.
Commandments That Are Absolute
We also observe in Scripture that there are other commands that are binding to all people in all circumstances. For instance,
Exodus 20:3 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.
This first commandment is clearly an edict that should never be violated. It doesn’t matter if lives are at stake, there is no circumstance in which idolatry is permissible.
The tenth commandment is also one that seems difficult to justifiably disobey. For example, we can’t even imagine a circumstance in which it would be permissible for a person to covet another person’s spouse. That is, it is always wrong to covet another’s spouse.
Commandments That Allow For Changing Details
There are certain commandments that were designed specifically for the promotion of people’s well-being such that if there was ever a circumstance when these commandments obstructed human good or didn’t conform to a person’s calling (vocation), the details of these commandments were subject to alteration. As an example, let’s take the activities of the Sabbath without considering the specific day it is to be observed. Jesus states in Mark 2:27,
"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
This statement was made after Jesus gave Old Testament examples of circumstances in which it was permissible to deviate from the normal activities that were commanded in the Law. The first example Jesus gives in this passage is David who takes the bread that was to be eaten only by the priests and feeds both himself and his men. This certainly was a violation of prescribed activities. However, the adherence to these specific activities was not superior to preserving the lives of David and his men. As such, this deviation was permissible. The second example Jesus gives is of the temple workers who were exempt from the Mosaic prescription of relative inactivity. Not only was this exemption permitted, but it was commanded. That is to say, they were considered disobedient to God if they weren’t disobedient to the Law.
Now notice that we can’t make the same kind of declaration that Jesus made concerning the Sabbath about worshipping God. We can’t say,
“Worshipping Jehovah was made for man, and man was not made for worshipping Jehovah.”
It is manifest that all creatures are obligated, from the moment they come into being, to worship the true God. The activity of Jehovah-worship should never be suspended or deviated from.
We’ve observed that the proposition that Saturday worship should be observed because it is found in the midst of nine other commandments that are absolute and perpetually binding is an argument from analogy. But I have argued that this analogy is bad because there are different kinds of commandments. There are
(1) commandments that one must always obey no matter what.
(2) commandments that one shouldn’t obey given certain circumstances
(3) commandments that are specifically designed to promote human well-being such that the observances of these commandments are flexible.
As such, it may be the case that
(1) the Sabbath is a commandment that one doesn’t have to obey.
(2) the Sabbath has been altered to fit new historical circumstances (I.e. resurrection).
(3) just as certain Sabbath-day activities commanded by the law proved to be flexible, it may be the case that the day these activities were to be performed on is also flexible, such that Sunday worship is now appropriate.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
“6 "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. 7 "She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now’” (Hosea 2:6-7)
God loves you enough to hurt you. That sounds odd doesn’t it? Our experience is that those who cause harm to us desire our ruin, and those who cause pleasure desire our good. We don’t have a lot of precedent for concluding that love will cause terrible discomfort and pain. Typically, discipline becomes a mask for abuse; justice is the veneer of malice and hatred. As such, we naturally assume that to inflict or allow pain and suffering is an expression of hate and not love.
In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis argues God loves us so much that he hurts us; if God doesn’t allow and use pain in some way to touch our lives, he would not truly love us. Why does he think this? His thinking is something like this:
The great problem to be remedied isn’t pain, but evil. The worst thing for a person is to be evil. The best thing for a person is to be good. One form of false-love is one that doesn’t really care all that much about whether a person is good or bad, so long as they don’t suffer. A true love, however, has as its ultimate goal the goodness of a person-gone bad. And a true love will use the tool of pain to get that person good. A true love recognizes that pain is inevitable in making bad people good, just as pain is inevitable in re-breaking and re-setting a bone. God breaks bones in salvation, and for good reason...
“We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are…rebels who must lay down our arms…[and] surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death” (88-89).
Since God is love and desires our restoration, and our restoration is bound essentially to the surrender of self bent in on itself (like a tree that grows abnormally), we must expect the untwisting of salvation to be excruciating.
“To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us lovable” (41).
Paradoxically, to ask God for less pain may be to ask him for less love, not more. To be loved is to be hurt. His affection for us is so great as almost to be “intolerable.” He demands the perfection of the beloved. The good news is that he will fulfill his own demands for us, for he doesn't expect clay to make itself into pottery. The "bad news" is that he will not compromise in making us lovely, leaving no tool untouched that will serve his glory and our good.