Archive for the 'Theology' Category

Erasmus, Tyndale, and Pre-Modernism

I found this quote interesting in John Piper’s biographical speech on William Tyndale, titled, Always Singing One Note. While exploring the contrast between Erasmus and Tyndale, Piper made an astute observation about some ‘emergent’ churches and postmodern writers. Here is the quote (the section in italics is Piper quoting from David Daniell’s book about Tyndale):

“Listen to this remarkable assessment from Daniell, and see if you do not hear a description of certain emergent church writers and New Perspective champions:

Not only is there no fully realized Christ or Devil in Erasmus’s book . . . : there is a touch of irony about it all, with a feeling of the writer cultivating a faintly superior ambiguity: as if to be dogmatic, for example about the full theology of the work of Christ, was to be rather distasteful, below the best, elite, humanist heights. . . . By contrast Tyndale . . . is ferociously single-minded; the matter in hand, the immediate access of the soul to God without intermediary, is far too important for hints of faintly ironic superiority. . . . Tyndale is as four-square as a carpenter’s tool. But in Erasmus’s account of the origins of his book there is a touch of the sort of layering of ironies found in the games with personae.

It is ironic and sad that today supposedly avant-garde Christian writers can strike this cool, evasive, imprecise, artistic, superficially reformist pose [like Erasmus] and call it “post-modern” and capture a generation of unwitting, historically naïve, emergent people who don’t know they are being duped by the same old verbal tactics used by the elitist humanist writers in past generations… It’s not post-modern. It’s pre-modern—because it is perpetual.”

Yah, what he said… 🙂

Blessed are the Paupers

For my own spiritual nourishment, I just opened a study on The Sermon on the Mount and began today with the first beatitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

‘Blessed’ (μακάριος) means ‘exceedingly happy’. My aunt used to tell me that God was not concerned with our happiness, but only with our obedience. That sounds piously deep, but it hardly jives with Scripture.

I probably should have asked her to define what she meant by ‘happy’. If she was thinking of a life free of pain and rich in comfort and good fortune, or being without problems, etc., then yes, she had something going there. Gerhard Kittle, in his giant TDNT, defines the root μακάρ as a transcendent happiness. That means a happiness that is richer than the nice feeling that comes from having an easy life or by being spared hardship and suffering. It is a true, out-of-this-world kind of happiness: the sort that can only come from God – happiness that can endure cares, trials and even death. This is the exceeding happiness of someone ‘poor in spirit’.

In a lecture, Oswald Chambers said that one who is poor in spirit is literally a pauper. According to Webster’s 3rd, a pauper is “a person destitute of means except such as derived from charity”. Ah, thank you Ozzy (what are some nicknames for Oswald?) and you too, Webby! I like where this is going. The Greek word for poor (πτωχός), by the way, supports Chambers on this one (he can sometimes be a little less than hermeneutically exact in his interpretation). The word refers to spiritual destitution.

So, the spiritual pauper is exceedingly happy because ‘his is the kingdom of Heaven’. He is happy because by grace (charity) he has Heaven. As I was pondering this, I remembered something from a sermon that I preached at a conference in Asia last year:

I used to defend Christianity in all the wrong ways. When some intellectual would condescendingly attack my faith by calling Christianity things like: simple and for the simple; or whip out the Freudian, “a crutch for the weak and for those who cannot deal with reality”, I would point to the strong Christian thinkers who greatly contributed to society. I would mention geniuses like Augustine, whose thought influenced the development of Western civilization. I do not do that anymore because now I see that the Christian faith is indeed a crutch… and even more than that. It is for the weak, for the simple and for the destitute. It is for the person who has come to understand that he has neither the intellect nor the moral sense (i.e. meritorious ability) to help him deal with the reality of a holy God. He has nothing, save the precious gift of Jesus! Jesus came to heal the sick, the destitute… and to rescue the spiritual pauper…

…The one who has nothing to offer God, the spiritually poor, comes to Jesus in his helpless state, with empty hands and by faith. And in his spiritual poverty he is indeed blessed.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

(Note on source: My change of attitude towards the Christianity crutch was surely influenced by a sermon that I read a few years ago on the same text [Matthew 5:3] by John Piper [1986]. That excellent sermon can be found here.)

Don’t Waste Your Life

This evening, I listened to part of the sermon by John Piper that evolved into the book, Don’t Waste Your Life. I think that every believer should read that little book. In the sermon, as in the book, Piper pleads with young people not to waste their lives by living and dying for anything other than Christ and his glory.

One great quote from the sermon:

To make a difference in this world you don’t have to know lots of things. One thing! Get one thing clear; and then die for it.

While listening to this powerful message, I pondered again on what I read a few mornings ago: Moses begging Israel (as a nation) not to miss the divine point of life. First, he recounts the awesome and holy deeds of God:

For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. (Deuteronomy 4:32-35 ESV)

And a little later, based on these (and even more) incredible truths, he says:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV).

Christian Hedonism and Global Conjecture

While waiting for biographies of Augustine, Calvin and Tyndale to arrive from Amazon.com (it takes months!), I decided to spend time in John Piper’s best book, Desiring God, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. In the introduction (of the 1996 edition), he published a poem that he wrote to his wife. Here is a sample:

Call it [Christian Hedonism] whatever name you may,
It is the truth. Shall God display
His great all-satisfying grace
In Joyless souls? And shall he trace
The outlines of his majesty
In hearts that neither taste nor see
Enough in him to comprehend
That here their quest is at an end?
No, God has made another way
To put his glory on display.

 

His goodness shines with brightest rays
When we delight in all his ways.
His glory overflows its rim
When we are satisfied in him.
His radiance will fill the earth
When people revel in his worth.
The beauty of God’s holy fire
Burns brightest in the heart’s desire.

Global Conjecture

On to another theme, I was disappointed to learn about the 85 evangelical leaders who decided to sign a global-warming pact. They are engaging on the wrong front, I believe, and this will surely distract those who look to them for guidance and vision.

 

Joe Carter, at the Evangelical Outpost wrote an excellent post about Global Cooling. In the article, he points out that global warming is merely “the scientific consensus”. It seems that the media blurs the lines between scientific method and scientific conjecture. He quotes Michael Crichton from a recent Caltech lecture:

 

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it is not science. If it is science, it is not consensus. Period.

We do not know, with certainty, that GW is a real problem, and yet those 85 guys jumped onto the political bandwagon. I take my cue from Paul. I want to stay with that ‘one thing I do’ mentality (Phil 3:13), and avoid distractions; especially the silly ones.