Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

All In!: A Seven Day Study

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Theology

All In or All Out

                                                                                                                                                                                                      


                                                                                                                                                          Joe Robinson

 

What does it mean to be “All In”?

How can we practice the love of Christ more perfectly?

 

Day 1 

Experiencing the lovingkindness of God and the good news of the Gospel all at once in life.

  Read Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, 12-14; 2:18-23; 3:9-11; 4:1,4,7-8; 7:14; 12:13, and Titus 3:3-8

 

Day 2

The Lordship of Christ

Read Philippians 2:9; Colossians 1:15-18, 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-3

 

Day 3 

What did Jesus teach?

Read Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-22; Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8-11

 

Day 4

Becoming “Like” Christ

Matthew 10:38-39,16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35, 10:23-24; 9:23-24, 14:27; Philippians 2:1-15

 

Day 5

Godly Characteristics (part 1)

Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12-14; Numbers 14:11-21, 12:3

 Meekness is an essential character trait for effectiveness in rulership, service, evangelism, teaching or reflecting our faith effectively in any manner whatsoever. Meekness is the opposite of pride and to quote W.E. Vine, “is that temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting those dealings”.

 

Day 6

Godly Characteristics (part 2)

Matthew 21:12-13; Romans 2:4, 11:22, 15:14; Galations 5:22; Ephesians 5:9

 Chrestotes means “goodness”. It is God’s goodness towards sinners and is what Jesus meant when He said ” be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”. When we have goodness as a dominant characteristic we exemplify and reflect the nature and image of Christ. The whole of scripture and God’s purpose throughout “salvation history” is about bringing us to this level of spiritual maturity which is then called “agathosune”. That kind of goodness means we are kind and gentle even though we are also bold to stand for righteousness.

 

Day 7

Rest

 

Day 8

Answering God’s Call

Answering God’s call is faith in action

Matthew 25:31-46; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:3-14; James 2:17; 1 John 3:16-18

 

 

 

 

 


March 28, 2010 

  

God’s Theonomy: Led by the Spirit, Ruled from Within 

  

Joe Robinson 

  

As long as it is day and God would have us preach the Gospel of reconciliation to all men everywhere.  

When that day ends God will establish His Theonomic Rule.  

While I am not antinomian (see “Is Salvation Conditional?“) I do believe that we cannot force Salvation or enforce righteousness on men, especially those outside the Church (see 1 Cor. 5:9-13). God did not create man as robots and does not want man to obey laws because they must, or to live a facade of holiness. Presently God’s intent is to restore His image in believers, through the regenerating and renewing power of His Spirit through Christ’s atoning work.  

This is not to say until He comes that we do not call things as they are, otherwise there could be no word of reconciliation. What God calls a thing is what we call it. What God is against we are against. When we take action we do what Jesus would, how Jesus would. We have the mind of Christ, what we need more of is His compassion, His servants heart.  

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” Romans 8:3  

When that Gospel of Peace is preached, God will act and lives will change. When all the earth is filled with the Glory of the Lord there will be no need for laws. We will by our regenerate nature be holy.  

When a man is born “from above ” (born again) as stated in John 3:3, he then begins to be changed from within and has a new nature which is not only able but even desires to obey God. It is the declared will of God that all men be saved but whether they are is not up to us. Our responsibility as Ambassadors of Christ in this world is to preach the Cross as the Word of reconciliation. The way is narrow it is true but not hard when we are yoked to Jesus, the Christ of God who bore our sorrows. In my article “Is Salvation Conditional” I listed the “Conditional” statements pertaining to salvation. Rather than saying salvation is conditional perhaps it would be more appropriate to re emphasize the “IF” statements as the fruit of salvation. “IF” we are “born from above” then these statements will either be true of us or not. True if they are positive affirmations of the fruits of God’s Spirit evidencing His regenerating work, not true of us if they are negative revealing that which has no place in the life of those “Born from above”. .  

There are other factors too, injunctions of Christ which are also the result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Things like being perfect, as our Father in heaven, is perfect especially as that nature is merciful and compassionate.  

According to Jesus there will be some surprises when He separates the ” sheep from the goats” The “when did we ever” statements paint for us a picture of many who did not expect His approval but got it and many who expected it but were rejected! Couple that with ALL His teachings and statements and I think we can make a pretty good guess as to who will be, if I may use so mild a term here, “disappointed”.  

Does legalistic, judgmental, unloving, proud, unforgiving, self righteous, Pharisee sound right?  

Yes; even though the Pharisees were a Jewish sect I think the appellation translates well in Christianity. See the analysis on the Article  The Publican and the Pharisee 

  

  

  

  


 The thing is “Xystus”.

What is it?

Do not look it up -that would be “Revelation” 
Ask 1 or 2 others if they know it-if not discuss it with them and try to concieve it’s “beingness.” 

Contemplate and meditate on “IT”, describe “IT”, 

Tell me about “IT.” 

The Incomprehensibility of the Unknown 
 

  • 1. Experienced in some manner directly through the 5 senses; or 
  • 2. Indirectly, by “IT’s” effects on him. Having directly sensed some phenomena or indirectly percieved it by it’s effect on him or his environment, man will hypothesize or draw conclusions based on his observations and experience and through experimentation will develop his understanding of a “thing” or phenomena. 

    However; 

    Without some exterior stimuli man has no basis to imagine from, no reason to investigate and no foundation to develop a thesis from. 

    A color never seen is inconcievable and incomprehensible to us since our idea of color is always based on that which we have percieved by our senses, in this case our sense of sight. 

    Can a blind man know or describe “Red?” “Red” has no feel or smell or sound. “Red” is always known by sight. What does the term “Blood Red” mean to a blind man? Even after telling a blind man what “Red” is and what it looks like (What does red look like?) he can not imagine it accurately because it has not been “revealed” to him. 

    Partial “Revelation”

      

     

    In the same way, the ancient civilizations indirectly percieved the “almightiness” of “God” by the effects of the forces beyond their control on their world, effects percieved by them as both beneficial and harmful i.e. earthquake or rain. Still they could not comprehend “God” as He is. (Eternally; Just, Merciful, Generous, Kind, Moral, Good, etc) though they may have had remnants of the oral traditions of their fathers passed down from the day’s of Noah changed over time since the multiplicity of languages had occured. 
    The gods of the pagan cultures shared in unlimited measure all the worst attributes of men, (unjust, capricious, immoral, greedy, viscious, petty, vengeful, vain, etc) 

    Until God once again revealed Himself to men there was no concept of His “perfection” or His “holiness”. 

    Initially as far as we know, He limited His revelation to the line of Seth until Noah. Through Noah and his sons the “knowledge of the Lord” was known to the “nations” until the nations rejected righteousness with the result that over time all accurate memory of the Creator faded into legendary mists. Then God chose Abraham and revealed Himself to Abraham who believed God who then promised to “bless all the peoples of the earth” through Abraham’s seed, ie Jesus Christ. 

    Until that advent, the person of and nature of God, (and then only partially) was revealed only to Abraham’s descendents through successive revelations-the law giver Moses, who was initially rejected by the Hebrew captives in Egypt, and the prophets. 

    The Greatness of God

    Anselm of Canterbury theorized that ” God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived & therefore no one who understands what God is, can conceive that God does not exist.” 
    To develop that theorem further we can say that not only is God greater than that which can be concieved and greater than all that exists (the enormensity of which is to us factually inconcievable), we can also say that God is greater than that which does not exist since the reason that that which “does not exist” DOES NOT EXIST because God wills it to not exist. From this premise it then becomes even more clear a priori that God, being greater even than That which does not exist, is too great or transcendent to be comprehended by mankind’s limited experience, knowledge or imagination until and unless God reveals Himself. 

    As demonstrated above man is incapable of comprehending or imagining that which doesn’t exist within his frame of reference and which is completely outside of his experience since that which is foreign to his experience has no basis of being percieved within his finiteness. 

    God on the other hand, being outside of all existence, created all that did not exist . When He spoke, that which had never existed became the first of it’s kind. We cannot even fully comprehend the immensity of the material universe, whereas God not only created ex nihilo the non-existant but maintains that which He created by the force of His will through inviolable decree. 

    God and the Empericist

      

     

    The Empericist who stubbornly denies God is not interested in being convinced. In his rebellion he will insist on what only God can provide, reason will not suffice. While he cannot provide proof of evolution he will demand that God show Himself. The Cosmologist Carl Sagan and atheist theologians of the Jesus Seminar are examples of these and all I can say is that we are not required to convert every hard headed moron who refuses to engage with logic and sincerity in the search for truth. “He who hates instruction hates life.” 
    All rational men should love science, it is God’s laboratory. From this side of Eternity science is the discovery of the material universe, From the Eternal side of Time science is the tool of God in the specification and design of the material universe. 

    Quantum sub-atomic unpredictability

      

      

    The quantum theorists have found that predictability based on observation and measurement goes out the window at the sub-atomic level of the universe. To observe is to affect, to measure is to change and to predict is to be embarrassed. Nevertheless we know rationally that there must be a method to the madness or else the atomic level of matter would be so unstable the universe would dissolve into chaos. 
    God has designed the universe to operate according to His design which we call “laws”, i.e. the “law” of gravity, the “laws” of motion etc, and these laws on the atomic level being consistent and predictable are underpinned by the quantum level of sub-atomic existence in spite of “it’s” unpredictability. 

    Therefore it is not only possible, it is probable that the inexpressible number of unpredictable sub-atomic events which have occured in the past 6000 years could have and would have produced unexpected superventions of our predictable physical laws, i.e. what to us would be “super”-natural or miraculous events. 

    This reveals the fallacy of Rationalistic reasoning on “supernatural” events and means that even if the Rationalist refuses to aknowledge God, he must still acknowledge the possibility of “supernatural” events. 

      

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

 


   by B. A. Gerrish 

B.A. Gerrish is John Nuveen Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Distinguished Service Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. This article appeared in The Christian Century, April 9, 1997, pp. 362-367. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This article prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock. 


  

BOOK REVIEW:
Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion. by Van A. Harvey. Cambridge University Press, 319 pp., $59.95. 

Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. —John Calvin 

According to the Hebrew scriptures, humans were made in the image and likeness of God. But the perceived kinship between deity and humanity lends itself only too readily to the possibility of inversion. What if the gods are human creations, fashioned after the image and likeness of humanity? 

Around 500 B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Xenophanes noticed that the gods of the Ethiopians were black and had flat noses, whereas the gods of the Thracians were blond and blue-eyed. He suggested that oxen, lions and horses, if they could make gods, would make them like oxen, lions and horses. Not that he found no use for the notion of deity. But his own God resembled mortals, he said, neither in shape nor in thought. He mocked the all-too-human gods around him for the sake of a better, purer concept of God. And so did the Hebrews, though a philosopher like Xenophanes might think that they had less success. 

The God of the Hebrews, in whose likeness humanity was created, insists, “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos. 11:9). The Hebrew scriptures are replete with scorn for the “idolatry” that makes gods in the likeness of humans. Isaiah would certainly not have allowed that the God of Israel, “who sits above the circle of the earth . . . [and] stretches out the heavens like a curtain” (Is. 40:22), might exhibit the same idolatrous principle as the heathen gods he despised, only in the milder form of a mental image. What he proclaimed was a busy, active God rather than “an image that will not move.” And yet he could only represent the divine activity as very like human activity. 

The persuasion that the gods of the heathen are idols (Ps. 96:5), while the true God is God and not human, was carried over into the Christian community to affirm the sovereign uniqueness of the Christian deity. The Protestant Reformers, it is true, discovered the worst idolatries of all within the Catholic Church, much as the prophets of old accused the children of Israel of whoring after other, pagan gods; but they did not doubt that Christianity alone worshiped the true God without taint of idolatry. Throughout the history of the church, risky anthropomorphisms in Christian discourse were excused by appeal to the accommodated, analogical, symbolic or poetic form of the scriptural revelation. 

Modern critical thought about religion arose when the privileged position of Christian discourse was finally challenged. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a distinction familiar in classical antiquity was revived: the dividing line was drawn not between Christianity and other religions, but between popular religion, including Christianity, and a purely rational theism. The rational theists wanted to marvel at the orderly course of nature without worshiping it or supposing it to be the activity of a cosmic Thou, open to the influence of sacrifice and prayer. This left the way clear for such early pioneers of religious psychology as John Trenchard to uncover the supposed pathological origins of religion in the soul while still appearing to be on the side of “God” (properly understood). 

But in the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) the privileging of Christian discourse and the distinction between vulgar religion and rational theism both dissolve, and all talk of God is unmasked as the product of human invention. “Some day,” he predicted, “it will be universally recognized that the objects of Christian religion, like the pagan gods, were mere imagination.” And he had no interest in saving the “utterly superfluous, unnecessary God,” whose activity adds nothing to the law-governed processes of nature. 

Van Harvey’s book is the first volume in a new series: Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought. The series could hardly have been launched with better auspices. Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion is the ripe fruit of long reflection. The timeliness—even the urgency—of its central question is plain from the first chapter to the last: Can religion be plausibly explained without the assumption that “God” denotes a being of a higher ontological rank than the mundane objects of our daily experience? More than 14 years’ labor went into the writing of the book, and the author tells us that his preoccupation with Feuerbach goes back further still—to the time when he first encountered him in a graduate seminar at Yale Divinity School and found himself “strangely disturbed.” 

Feuerbach is well known as the author of The Essence of Christianity, first published in German in 1841. (The second edition was translated into English by the Victorian novelist George Eliot.) Harvey’s thesis is that fascination with this one work, interesting and important though it is, has obscured a shift in Feuerbach’s understanding of religion that is most evident in his later Lectures on the Essence of Religion (1848). We ought to read Feuerbach for two interpretations of religion, not just one, and in Harvey’s judgment the later, neglected interpretation is more interesting and persuasive. Not that an absolute break occurs. Rather, the passage from the earlier to the later writing is largely a shift of dominance: subordinate themes in The Essence of Christianity become dominant in The Essence of Religion

The central thought in The Essence of Christianity is that the supposedly superhuman deities of religion are actually the involuntary projections of the essential attributes of human nature. In Feuerbach’s own words: “Man—this is the mystery of religion—projects his being into objectivity, and then again makes himself an object to this projected image of himself thus converted into a subject.” What the devout mind worships as God is accordingly nothing but the idea of the human species imagined as a perfect individual. Once they are unmasked, shown for what they really are, religious belief and the idea of God can be useful instruments of human self-understanding, revealing to us our essential nature and worth. But taken at face value, they are alienating insofar as they betray us into placing our own possibilities outside of us as attributes of God and not of humanity, viewing ourselves as unworthy objects of a projected image of our own essential nature. Theology, as Feuerbach sees it, only reinforces the state of alienation by taking the objectifications of religion for real objects, and the theologians end up with dogmas that are self-contradictory and absurd. 

Very differently, The Essence of Religion locates the subjective source of religion in human dependence on nature. The forces of nature on which our existence wholly depends are made less mysterious and more pliable by our perceiving them as personal beings like ourselves. And this, we are now told, is the meaning of religion, which is not so much encoded truth as pure illusion. “Nature, in reality, is not a personal being; it has no heart, it is blind and deaf to the desires and complaints of man.” In short, religion is superstition, and science must eventually supplant it. 

For all the striking differences between Feuerbach’s two theories of religion, there are strands that tie them together. One such strand, obviously, is the theme of anthropomorphism—picturing God or the gods as personal like ourselves. Another, closely connected with the first in Feuerbach’s mind, is the conviction that religion is wishful thinking. Feuerbach’s “felicity principle,” as Harvey calls it, assumes that the point of being religious is to secure one’s well-being both here and hereafter. Hence the emphasis in the later work on the Glückseligkeitstrieb (the “drive after happiness”) that motivates the entire business of religion. The God we imagine is the God we want, who can give us what we want, and this means a personal God who takes notice of us and guarantees us a blessedness that transcends the limits of nature. But that, according to Feuerbach, is “the religious illusion” (the expression is Harvey’s). We are inescapably bounded by the limits of nature, and even what we take for the goodness of God is nothing more than the utility of nature personified. 

Small wonder if budding theologians find good reason in all this to be ”strangely disturbed”! The unreflective believer may dismiss Feuerbach as a charlatan who trivializes religion. But Harvey fully vindicates his opinion that in any critical scrutiny of religion we must grant Feuerbach a place alongside Paul Ricoeur’s “masters of suspicion”—Nietzsche, Marx and Freud—and judge him worthy to be brought into the present-day discussion. The last two chapters of the book set the later Feuerbach’s interpretation of religion in the forum of more recent views of projection (Freud, Sierksma, Berger), anthropomorphism (Stewart Guthrie) and the need for illusion (Ernest Becker). Harvey concludes: “It is extraordinary how well Feuerbach’s later views stand up when compared with those of contemporary theorists; so much so that one can, by adopting his position, mount important criticisms of these theories.” 

The book’s aim, the author tells us, is “constructive,” at least in part. This is why Feuerbach is brought into the company of recent religious theorists. Harvey does not venture a systematic statement of his own views on religion. He writes as if listening in to the conversation and notes the points at which his Feuerbach, if present, might speak up. Historians who insist on keeping past thinkers strictly in their own historical, social and intellectual contexts may raise their eye-brows at such a hazardous method. I, for one, welcome it. Of course, it cannot, and in this book it does not, replace historical description and painstaking analysis of the sources. If a constructive conversation is to be an honest conversation, it has to respect historical understanding and take to heart the historian’s warnings against anachronistic misreading of the sources. But a constructive interest in the past (“rational reconstruction,” as Richard Rorty calls it) adds something to the sober exercise of setting the record straight and may even, on occasion, alert the historian to patterns and pieces in the record that she had overlooked. 

Harvey’s main thesis is in fact both historical and constructive. That a shift occurred in Feuerbach’s thoughts on religion, and what it was—these are factual matters. The book seems to me to have settled them (though I should defer to the Feuerbach specialists). But why does Harvey think the shift marked an improvement over the more familiar projection theory in The Essence of Christianity? Why is the later theory to be preferred? Chiefly for two reasons: first, it is unencumbered by the arcane Hegelian speculation on which the analysis of consciousness rests in The Essence of Christianity; second, it does greater justice to the religious sense of encounter with an other. The second reason will bring less comfort to the believer than the first. It is one thing to be liberated from Hegel, another to be told that the other encountered in religion is nature. But the conversation, remember, is about academic theories of religion. 

At first glance, Feuerbach’s later theory looks like an elaboration of a view that goes back at least to the Roman poet Statius and was revived by Spinoza, Hobbes, Hume and others: that fear of the terrifying forces of nature first created the gods—”in the ignorance of causes,” as Hobbes explains. (Even Feuerbach’s Glückseligkeitstrieb seems to echo Hume’s “anxious concern for happiness.”) In actual fact, Feuerbach made himself the critic of this view. The human encounter with nature is far too ambiguous and complex to be subsumed under the single emotion of fear. It includes joy, gratitude and love, all of which, Feuerbach inferred, must also be makers of divinity. And he believed that if we seek one all-embracing term for the full range of religious emotions, we will find it only in the “feeling of dependence,” of which each religious response to nature is, so to say, a concrete individuation: fear of death, gloom when the weather is bad, joy when it is good and so on. 

The merit of Feuerbach’s theory in his own eyes, and clearly also in Harvey’s, was that it put a determinate concept, nature, in place of the vague, mystical word “God.” But was he right about religion? More modestly: How does his case look from the perspective of the historical and systematic theologian? 

Shortly after publication of The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach followed a venerable German custom and undertook to demonstrate that he was only saying what Martin Luther had said already. (Luther’s name has been invoked in Germany to endorse an astonishing variety of mutually incompatible causes.) In The Essence of Faith According to Luther (1844), it turns out that the felicity principle is nothing other than Luther’s celebrated pro me (“for me”). For a man must believe that God is God only for the sake of his blessedness. It is the trust and faith of the heart that create both God and an idol. And so on. With dozens of Quotations from Luther, Feuerbach demonstrates to his own satisfaction that self-love—egoism, narcissism—motivates Protestant piety, and that the piety itself creates the God it needs and wants. 

To be sure, a serious Luther scholar will wish to say a bit more about the function of the pro me in Luther’s theology and will point out some complicating counter evidence. The young Luther departed from the Augustinian tradition in taking the words “You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” to forbid self-love, which he identified as the root sin. The mature Luther asserted that he knew his theology to be true because it takes us out of ourselves. And so we might go on. But when all is said and done, is it possible that Feuerbach had a point? 

It is, of course, not Luther but Friedrich Schleiermacher who comes to mind when Feuerbach speaks of religion as the feeling of dependence. Feuerbach himself makes the connection. But Schleiermacher actually anticipated the naturalistic reduction of the religious feeling of dependence and rejected it as a misunderstanding. Our awareness of God is a feeling of absolute dependence, whereas our dependence on nature is qualified by our ability to influence the way the world goes. A highly controversial distinction, as the process theologians like to remind us. But the conversation is not yet closed. 

Karl Barth doubted whether Schleiermacher had any defense against a Feuerbachian reduction of theology to anthropology: he believed that Feuerbach merely showed the world what Schleiermacher had already done to the queen of the sciences. In his own way, Barth liked Feuerbach. (Many of us first learned of him from Barth.) But Barth drew Feuerbach’s fangs by treating The Essence of Christianity simply as a critique of bad religion. For Barth the word “bad,” strictly speaking, is redundant: all religion is the fruitless human quest for God. The Christian theologian is concerned not with religion but rather with revelation—the Word of God. From Barth’s viewpoint, then, Feuerbach gave us nothing to worry about. From Feuerbach’s point of view, however, Barth’s countermove was a relapse into premodern privileging of Christian discourse. For why should we presuppose at the outset that the one Word of God is Jesus Christ? 

For myself, I think Christian theology must face Feuerbach’s relentless exposure of the subjective roots of religion—even worry a little about it. To be sure, the unmasking of narcissistic motives for being religious, though it may weaken the structures of plausibility, affords no logical grounds for an inference about the reality of the religious object. The God one would like to exist may actually exist, even if the fact that one wishes it encourages suspicion. Nonetheless, in our consumer society, in which success in the church, as elsewhere, is supposed to require market analysis of what people want, the mechanism of wishful thinking is something the theologian needs to hold constantly before us. So does the preacher, who is under pressure not to prophesy what is right but to speak smooth things, to prophesy illusions (Isa. 30:10). The question remains whether the only alternative for the theologian and the preacher is to offer another illusion. 

Feuerbach was a good listener, and Harvey is a powerful spokesman for him. But Feuerbach’s theories work better with some kinds of religious experience than with others. There are religions of adjustment, as we might call them, that begin not with the felicity principle but with the reality principle and admonish us to adjust our lives to the brute fact that things are not as we would like them to be. Feuerbach was too good an interpreter of religion to overlook the phenomenon of self-abnegation, which he read as a subtle form of self-love. It is no doubt true that in adjustment to reality a person may find peace, but surely the category of self-love here looks suspiciously like a procrustean bed. In his remarks on Ernest Becker, Harvey himself hints that Feuerbach did not do justice to “participatory religions” of self-surrender. 

Feuerbach’s theories also seem to me to work badly with religions of moral demand. (We will have to leave for another day the question whether Émile Durkheim’s theory works any better.) Feuerbach was convinced that religious belief corrupts morality as well as truthfulness, and he could even say: “It lies in the nature of faith that it is indifferent to moral duties.” Well, some faith perhaps! But the function of religion has sometimes been to counter human desires, wishes and self-seeking with a moral demand. It might perhaps be just possible to outdo the ingenuity of the theologians and show how the life of Mother Teresa, say, which has every appearance of being motivated by an astonishing compassion rooted in religious conviction, has actually been driven by a subtle but irresistible Glückseligkeitstrieb. But it strains our credulity less to acknowledge the evidence in her life of a close bond between (some) religion and (some) morality. 

It would be too cheap to conclude that Feuerbach’s religious illusion was to take one kind of Protestant piety for religion itself. Still, unless there is more to be said than Harvey has told us, Feuerbach’s account must strike us as lopsided and incomplete. An “explanation” of religion need not be ruled out just because it does not take religion at face value or keep to the first-order utterances of the believer. That would disqualify not only the masters of suspicion but a lot of theologians as well, myself included. The test is whether the explanation is adequate to the full range of the utterances (or phenomena) it intends to explain. 

Feuerbach claimed with some justice that, unlike the speculative philosophers, he let religion speak for itself. However, it is hardly surprising that he heard best what came closest to home. Stung by the criticism that he offered an interpretation of Christianity as an interpretation of religion, he moved from The Essence of Christianity to The Essence of Religion and, later, to his Theogony According to the Sources of Classical, Hebraic, and Christian Antiquity (1857). And yet, throughout all these major works there seems to linger the influence of a strong dislike for Protestant pietism, which had appeared already in his Thoughts on Death and Immortality (1830). In pietism, he supposed, each person in his individuality became the center of his own attention. 

This is by no means to conclude that I am done with Feuerbach because, like the rest of us, he heard selectively. Rather, as Harvey concludes, he “still has the power to compel us to define our own positions.” Without qualifying as a Feuerbach scholar, I have found myself returning again and again, like Harvey, to this “devout atheist” (as Max Stirner calls him), fascinated by the richness, tenacity and nettling style of his thoughts on religion. 

The options, at any rate, have become clearer to me. To return to our point of departure: Christian anthropomorphism could be wholly fictional, the reification of mere abstractions; or a misconstrual of purely natural phenomena; or an imperfect symbolization of our encounter with a transcendent reality. Feuerbach himself moved from the first to the second option. What I take to be the gap in his later position gives me some leverage on the third option. That the transcendent reality is experienced by the religious imagination as a commanding will may be conceptually problematic. But there is surely more to it than personification of some aspect of physical nature. A more nearly adequate theory of religion, or at any rate of the Christian religion, will have to give a better account of it. 

 

The Relative meaning of Life

Posted: March 11, 2010 in religion, Theology

 

To say that the meaning of life is relative is to say that it is relative in a subjective context.

The truth is that life has an objective meaning that is only found when it is seen as relative to the Creators context.

Thus when Einstien stated that “God does not play dice with the world” he was not making a theological assertion so much as he was establishing a logical proposition about God, to wit that God is logical and leaves nothing to chance or illogical outcomes.


  

Hymn of St. Ephrem the Syrian 

Glory to Your coming that restored humankind to life.
Glory to that One Who came to us by His First-born.
Glory to that Silent One Who spoke by means of His Voice.
Glory to that Sublime One Who was seen by means of His Voice.
Glory to that Sublime One Who was seen by means of His Dawn.
Glory to the Spiritual One Who was well-pleased
that His Child should become a body so that through Him His power might be felt
and the bodies of His kindred might live again.
Glory to that Hidden One Whose Child was revealed.
Glory to that Living One Whose Son became a mortal.
Glory to that Great One Whose Son descended and became small.
Glory to that Great One Who fashioned Him,
the Image of His greatness and Form for His hiddenness.
With the eye and the mind–with both of them we saw Him.
Glory to that Hidden One Who even to the mind
is utterly imperceptible to those who investigate Him.
But by His grace through His humanity
a nature never before fathomed is now perceived.
St. Ephrem the Syrian (4th C), “Hymns On the Nativity”
Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns, pages 83-84
Classics of Western Spirituality
 


An Introduction to Who Jesus Christ was 

by 

Joe Robinson 

Daniel 9.25-26 

9:25 So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. 

It (Jerusalem) will again be built, with plaza and moat ,but in distressful times. 

9:26 Now after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will be cut off and have nothing. 

This prophecy is remarkable in that it gives a definite start date, and ends with the advent of the anointed one, the Prince who is cut off (Crucified). This is the clearest messianic prophecy in scripture. When the timeline is traced, it arrives at the moment in history when Jesus Christ arrives on the scene in Jerusalem. 

The command to rebuild was issued in 454BC in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes rule. While Artaxerxes ascended to the throne in 465, his reign officially begins upon his ascension as Co-Regent with Xerxes his father in 474 BC. (474 BC – 20 years = 454 BC) 

In Prophetic language One week of years is 7 years i.e. each “Week” equals 7 years, thus 7 Weeks equals 49 Years. The period of sixty-two weeks of years equals; 62 X 7=434 years. 49 + 434 = 483 years; 454[BC] – 483 = -29 or 29AD 

This is the most unassailable prophecy in the Bible. In every way, from every direction it is without peer. Most evidence bears out Daniel as the author of the Book bearing his name, and we have other testimony to his historical presence in Babylon during this period from Ezekiel 14.14, 20 and 28.3. But no matter, the Prophecy is known to precede the advent of Jesus by several centuries and so could not have been a literary fabrication to support a myth. 


The Image of the Messiah 

Isa.53.3-5 

” He was despised and rejected by people, One who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their face from Him, He was despised, and we considered Him insignificant. But He lifted up Our illnesses, He carried Our pain, even though we thought He was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something He had done. 

He was wounded because of Our rebellious deeds, crushed because of Our sins; He endured punishment that made Us well, and because of His wounds We have been healed.”  

Matt. 27:28-31 

” And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him, and after braiding a crown of thorns they put it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand, and kneeling down before Him, they mocked Him. Hail, King of the Jews! They spat on Him and took the staff and repeatedly struck Him on the head. When they finished they stripped Him and put His own clothes back on and led Him out to be crucified.” 


One Proof of Who Jesus Christ Was is that He changed the world 

The commandment that we “Love our neighbors as we love ourselves” was not common knowledge before the Advent of Jesus. Even in Judea where this was one of the primary commandments as given to Moses and was a lynchpin of the Law it was badly misinterpreted as evidenced by the story Jesus told the Lawyer who was testing Him on the meaning of the law, (see luke 10:25-37). In this parabolic story Jesus illustrates just who our neighbors are and what love really is.  

Is there anyone who does not know the “Golden Rule” , to “do unto others as you want them to do to you” ? The fact that everyone in the Western hemisphere knows that is evidence of just Who Jesus Christ truly was as the transforming power of civilization. In the world where Rome ruled love was considered a weakness, might ruled, the Roman empire enforced it’s will by force of arms. Public spectacles of cruel tortures and executions were the past time entertainment of the day. But the appearing of the Son of God in the world conquered Rome and Rome’s cruelty by the power of transforming truth and transforming love. 


What the Bible say’s about Him 

JOHN 1:1-3 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and 

The Word was God. (“What God was The Word was”. -NEB) 

The same was in the beginning with God.  

All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. 

John 1:14 

And the Word was made flesh(1), and dwelt(2) among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 

1. 4561 sarx = flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts 

2. 4637 skenoo skay-no’-o = to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle 

1 Corinthians 15.45,47 

Here Christ is described as the “Man ‘out of’ Heaven” who brings life in contrast to  

Adam the “man ‘out of’’ earth” who brought death. 

Adam was made out of or from earth (ek),  while Christ was out of or from (Ex) Heaven. 

1 Timothy 2:5 

There is one God and one mediator between God and men, “Man” Christ Jesus. 

The article “the” is not in original manuscripts in identifying Christ Jesus as mediator. Instead of identifying Christ as one man among many He is identified as “Man Christ Jesus(Jesus the annointed one or Messiah)” an altogether unique Person. 

Luke 1:35 states; 

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you so that that which is born Holy will be called ‘The Son of God’” 

Gal. 4:4 

But when the fullness (1) of time had come God sent forth His Son (2), born of a woman…” 

1. Fullness of time means “at the end of an appointed period of time”, in this case to complete and end the ‘economy or dispensation of the Law” and begin the Dispensation of Grace.  

2. “…sent forth His Son”, the Greek word is “Exapostello” and means “sent forth on a mission” from God to mankind. 

Phil. 2:6-11 Christ Jesus… 

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God 

but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men: 

And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

Col. 1:15-20 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through Him and for Him. 

He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in the Son and through Him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of His cross – through Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 

Hebrews 1:1-4 

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  

Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and 1the express image1 of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.  

1. Express Image = Charakter and means exact representation. 

Hebrews 2:8-11 

You put all things under his control. ”For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control, but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone. For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  

Hebrews 2:14-17  

For as much then as the children are partakers (1) of flesh (2) and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 

And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 

Wherefore in all things it behoved (3) him to be like (4) unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 

1.Partakers = 2841 “koinoneo” (koy-no-neh’-o ) means to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner  

2. Flesh = Sarx means physical body rather than “anthropineo #442” which means humanity or things pertaining to humanity. See 1st Cor. 10:13 

3. Behooved = 3784 “opheilo” of-i’-lo or AV-ought, owe, be bound, be (one’s) duty, be a debtor, be guilty, be indebted 

4. made like= 3666 “homoioo” (hom-oy-o’-o) means “ Similar to” 

Heb, 4:14-15 

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted (1) like as we, without sin. 

1, 3985 peirazw peirazo pi-rad’-zo 

to try whether a thing can be done, to attempt, endeavour 

Hebrews 5:7-9 

Who in the days of his flesh1, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being2 made perfect, he became the author3 of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 

1. “…days of His Flesh” 

Flesh here is “Sarx” rather than “anthropineo #442” which means humanity or that which pertains to humanity. comp. 1st Cor. 10:13 “There has no temptation befallen you except what is common to anthropeino 

2. “being made perfect…” word is teleioo meaning “having completed” His Mission (See Gal. 4:4 above) 

3. Author means originator of (SEE 1 NEXT VERSE) 

Heb.12:2 

looking unto Jesus the author1 and 2perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

1. 747 archgov archegos ar-khay-gos’ 

The initiator or one that takes the lead in any thing and thus affords an example, a predecessor in a matter, pioneer 

2.5051 teleiwthv teleiotes tel-i-o-tace’ = perfector 

Paul’s Witness 1 Cor. 15:1-8 

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 


The Basic Elements of the Gospel 

1) Jesus, Son of God, Fulfillment of prophecy. 

2) He went about doing good, healing the sick, exorcising demons, other miraculous works. 

3) He was crucified according to His Fathers and our Gods express will, to pay our debt. 

4) He was raised on the third day, to ensure our Life. 

5) He was seen by many witnesses, and instructed His disciples to Proclaim the Good News. 

6) He ascended to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit in order to establish and empower His Church. 

7) He will return 

8) This salvation is for all who Believe. 


Definitions 

1. AV-express image  

charakter  

1) the instrument used for engraving or carving  

2) the mark stamped upon that instrument or wrought out on it  

2a) a mark or figure burned in (#Le 13:28) or stamped on, an impression  

2b) the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect, i.e facsimile 

2. AV- likeness, similitude  

3669 homoiosis hom-oy’-o-sis  

1) Similar to 

005 Who was Jesus Christ

Is there value in suffering?

Posted: February 2, 2010 in Suffering, Theology

 This is an article I wrote 5 years ago during hard times and after I heard the story of Scott Willis’s family tragedy recounted here. I initially named it “The Horror of Knowing God”. While I am sure that Title is an affront to all who have never experienced the trials of Job, at the time horror was exactly what I felt.

God has since caused me to understand that life can indeed be horrible and that the horror is rooted in sin and in following the destroyer and father of lies. In other words Adam’s transgression condemned mankind to sorrow in this life.  Fortunately for us God immediately began the program of man’s redemption and restoration through His Son’s propitious sacrifice for our sins. Still, until the day we see Him and become like Him we will each have our own share of suffering, only now with hope and the grace to bear it.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

God may, for a time, take the hedge of His protection away, in order to try the reins of our heart.

Read Lamentations 3.1-18

AW Tozer said, ” It is doubtful that God can use a man mightily without first bruising him greatly”.

When you suffer and are being afflicted one of two things will eventually happen;

  1. You will find Gods grace to endure, knowing, because you know who He is,that it is ‘ a momentary light affliction, for your good as a son or daughter or else;

2. You will break and give Satan the momentary victory , which will cause you even more sorrow.

There is a third thing that could happen and did happen with someone I know, the complete collapse of faith and utter repudiation of his Christian confession. Pray God that your suffering does not become so important to you that you allow yourself to sell your salvation so cheaply.

If you sin in your suffering get up, go to your father and He will restore you for His mercies are renewed daily. He knew anyway what would happen and even the failure was for your benefit in the end.

In his ‘Systematic Theology’ pg. 319 ,Wayne Grudem states;:

” The doctrine of concurrence affirms that God directs and works through, the distictive properties of each created thing, so that these things themselves bring about the results that we see. In this way it is possible to affirm that in one sense events are fully (100 percent) caused by God and fully (100 percent) caused by creature as well. …The divine cause of each event works as an invisible, behind the scenes, directing cause and therefore could be called the “primary cause” that plans and initiates everything that happens.”

Scripture to Affirm this doctrine;

(Job 14.5) ” Man’s days are determined and the number of months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass.” ;

(Ps.139:16) ” In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” ;

(Prov. 16.33 ) ” The lot is cast in the lap but the decision is wholly from the Lord.” ;

Ecclesiasties from the NET Bible translation, (Ecc. 3.11) ” God has made everything fit beautifully in it’s appropiate time; but He has also placed ignorance ( darkness, eternity, the world) in the human heart, so that people cannot discover what God has ordained, from the beginning to the end of their lives.”;

(Jer.1.5) ” Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you, I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ;

( Jer.10.23) “I know Oh Lord that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man to direct his steps.” ;

(Lam. 3.7-38) ” Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?”

Scott Willis , a young man , married his high school sweetheart. Soon afterwards she became a christian with Scott quickly following. Eventually Scott entered the ministry and was greatly blessed with nine children that they truly considered a blessing, as arrows in the quiver and strength from the Lord.

In 1994 Scott Willis and his wife and six of their youngest children were on vacation. While driving on the expressway a commercial truck  lost a metal brace. Scott had no time to avoid the piece of steel and so tried to guide his vehicle over it. The assembly punctured the gas tank and with the sparks caused by being dragged on the road the tank exploded, immediately engulfing the automobile in flames. Before Scott had time to stop to rescue his children, five had burned to death, his thirteen year old son died the next day. In the hospital Scott was able to reach out to his wife and say ” Blessed be the name of the Lord.”.

Scott and his family were ‘made’ by their suffering, and so are many others of His saints who have suffered throughout the history of the world. Our fear is that if these worthy ones suffer so greatly then what hope do we have? For what do we wait, what hope for us doubting ones?

We are not more righteous than God and must not contend with Him ( Isa. 45.9), though perhaps we may be allowed to wrestle with Him as Jacob did, reverentially remembering God’s word to Job about laying hands on ‘Leviathan’, “remember the battle and do so no more!” Remembering that;

“The Lord is Good, a stronghold in the day of trouble and He knows those that trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7)

” Why should any living mortal offer complaint in view of his sins?” ( Lam. 3.39)

” I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my cause and accomplish justice for me, He will bring me forth into the light and I shall see His righteousness.” (Micah 7.9)

” Though the fig tree does not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the olive tree yield no fruit and there be no grain in the fields, though the flock be cut off from the fold and there are no herds in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, the God of my salvation. Jehovah Elohim is my strength and He will make my feet like Hinds feet and He will make me walk on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3.17-19, )

We who believe are called to forsake all, take up our cross and follow Christ, to imitate Him. And what does that mean but the certainty of suffering in this world.

” Our imitation of Christ is especially evident in suffering. Christians are called to endure suffering patiently, ‘ because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.'” (1 Peter 4.13). Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pg.845.

And what does the word say of Christ’s suffering?

” And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him, and after braiding a crown of thorns they put it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand, and kneeling down before Him, they mocked Him. Hail, King of the Jews! They spat on Him and took the staff and repeatedly struck Him on the head. When they finished they stripped Him and put His own clothes back on and led Him out to be crucified.” (Matthew 27.28-31 NET Bible)

We do not know all that He suffered those last hours, but we know that He was “made sin” for our sakes (Rom. 8:3) and that He carried the sins of the whole world upon Himself, and finally we know that He did it for us.

(Isa.53.3-5)

” He was despised and rejected by people, One who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their face from Him, He was despised, and we considered Him insignificant. But He lifted up Our illnesses, He carried Our pain, even though we thought He was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something He had done.

He was wounded because of Our rebellious deeds, crushed because of Our sins; He endured punishment that made Us well, and because of His wounds We have been healed.”

” He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities.”

The world suffers as well, only without hope, so let us who suffer with hope endure with joy knowing that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to God’s purpose”. (Rom8.28) And since we are called for Gods purpose, as vessels to be used as He will, let us be vessels of honor, useful for every good work. After all, we find that not only is He our God, but more than all else, He is our Father.

Read Lamentations 3.19-33

Amen.

Endnotes

 

** Tozer also wrote in “The Pursuit of God”;

“The Bible assumes as a self-evident fact that men can know God with at least the same degree of immediacy as they know any other person or thing that comes within the field of their experience. The same terms are used to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” “All thy garments smell Of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces.” “My sheep hear my voice.” “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” These are but four of countless such passages from the Word of God. And more important than any proof text is the fact that the whole import of the Scripture is toward this belief.”

See More on Scott Willis at http://www.hopeway.org/gospel/ScottWillis.asp