Monday, November 30, 2015

A Consideration of Theodicy: The Invisible Life of Faith of the Human vs. the Visible Life of Rejection by Lucifer and One Third of the Angels


We Christians turn to God as our ultimate resource, particularly when we believe we are in urgent need, as we should. After all, we belong to God thus, it is reasonable that we make petitions to him. The Bible is clear that God is all-powerful (Matthew 19:26) and that we are to flect to the omnipotent God for our necessities but as well, our desires. God’s Word is explicit in stating, (John 14:14 ESV) “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” (understanding the context of this verse, of course) and that (Psalm 84:11) “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Further, God makes it quite plain that we, in our justification through Christ, are not just permitted such prayer but implored to (Hebrews 4:16) “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

However, we equally know that in coming to God as his children and making our petitions known, with the passages above in mind, the aforementioned texts do not constitute a theological formula that God has delivered to us in which we may assume all of those things we ask will be granted as we delineate in our prayers. We are not always rescued from personal disasters in the manner we request, we are not always healed of sickness and in fact, may suffer more intensely than we imagined. And we do not always see friends and family come to believe the gospel and the list goes on and on.

So, instead of attempting to address the gap between answered and unanswered prayers by addressing the specifics of potential contextual problems which may lead to unanswered prayers (i.e., you have sin in your life, you didn’t pray correctly or according to God’s will, etc.) or stating the obvious (God is sovereign and does not always choose to answer all prayers as we see fit,) I want to address the life of faith in a more broad manner with respect to Satan or Lucifer’s fall in his sinless state and perfect environment verses us, with our sinful nature as humans, which at birth, bends us toward sin and the natural rejection of God along with the human earthly purlieus or habitat which is ruled by The Evil One hence, saturated with sin. Satan had a flawless environment and constitution, we have a flawed/sinful/fallen environment and constitution (Adam’s innocence is addressed later). But both, Satan and we, are required to believe God.

Thus, I will use the life of faith to underscore a greater theological or Biblical emphasis and narrative, which I am certain will not only fill in the gaps mentioned above but may serve to mitigate, if not provide an opulent and regaling foundation in the outworking of the life of faith with regard to the various forms of general or logistical suffering of all humans and specific sufferings of those who have been adopted by God into the divine family through faith in the gospel.

Made a Little Lower than the Angels

Many readers are familiar with the beginning of the apostolic letter to the Hebrews and particularly chapters 1 and 2. I point to these because they contain what I hope you will keep in mind as this essay unfolds and consider its relevance in your theological discipleship.

When we are born again, regenerated, and as we mature, we grow from a spiritual child to a spiritual adult, becoming more and more like our Savior. But more importantly, he is like us and was made like us. And who are we and our Savior in his incarnation, in comparison to the angels? The Bible makes this important comparison. Hebrews 1: 1-4 states (NASB – bold mine):

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Adjacent to this text, really flowing from this text into chapter two, still, is this protracted comparison of the human Christ to that of angels. Hebrews 2:9 reveals (NASB – bold mine):
9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
Why the comparison? Why is this extended reference, with its comparison to the angels, made? The text reveals some reasons but the rest of Scripture suggests this context is supplemented with a more thorough explanation. That is to say, there is more to this issue than the immediate textual comparison between man and angels as we view Satan’s entanglement with humanity and his campaign, from man’s initial creation until this very moment, to destroy his race which God created for eternal purposes.

I will not go into a treatise on what numerous Christians understand to be the conflict between Satan (with his cohort of unsaved angels) and that of God. Suffice it to say at least, most Christians recognize this conflict.

But what many believers do not have is any definitive theological construct as to the connection between humanity’s creation and Satan’s fall and the great trial of Satan which preceded man’s creation and then continued into the era of humanity with both, the end of humanity’s epoch in time and Satan’s being cast into the lake of fire, being co-terminus. In other words, we all share the same timetable for an end and into the final judgment and the beginning of eternity. We start at different points but end, simultaneously. Thus, the relationship between the two exists.

*I encourage my readers to research the good works of men who have studied and articulated on the angelic conflict. One of the earlier, modern works, is that of Dr. Donald Barnhouse (1895-1960), a Presbyterian Minister and Theologian, which is titled, The Invisible War. From this source many Bible teachers have furthered his studies on the correlation between humanity and angels and specifically the relationship between the fall of Satan and his angelic acolytes and the subsequent creation of humanity. Unfortunately, in Reformed circles, this fantastic work and topic has been neglected. Happily, its focus has been taken up by other Evangelicals.

Satan’s Former Life

His Home - Before Satan’s rebellion against God, his environment was the Kingdom of God. This assumes a domain of divine transcendence in all which existed. There was no sin, no corruption in heaven to distract or detract Satan from his devotion to God.

His Position – Satan had a position in the Kingdom of God as part of the created angelic race. Ezekiel 28:14 describes him as “the anointed cherub” who was positioned on “the holy mountain of God”. One of the privileges he had as this anointed cherub was to walk in “the midst of the stones of fire”. The Bible does not reveal what this was and we can only surmise what it may be. Fire consistently represents divine purification in Scripture thus, it may have been a certain privilege that was limited to notable angelic positions in which they were permitted the experience of exhilarating divine purity at some exceptional level. Who knows? Speculation does not provide a real answer but we know it was a special entitlement granted by God to Lucifer.

In Ezekiel 28:16 we learn something else about Satan’s position namely, that he was involved in divine commerce. It states:

By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned.
Commerce in heaven, a perfect and sinless heaven mind you, is not surprising. The Bible presents to us a homogenous view by God of commerce both in heaven and on earth which is that it is to be just. Obviously, human justice will never be perfect but it is measurable and not difficult to demarcate with respect to fairness and equity and when our conscience informs us of our greediness, that is, if we are willing to yield to these things.

But this aside, we clearly see a heavenly economy of trade existing prior to Lucifer’s fall, one which evidently had the intent of God by design. And it is unambiguous that The Evil One was a very productive angel in seeing he is described as becoming abundant in the divine market, thus, he was very wealthy.

His Person - As we observed in Ezekiel, Lucifer was a supremely blessed angel who not only was accorded a pristine and perfect environment but an elevated position with its privileges. As if that is not enough, God also reveals that Lucifer was beautiful. Ezekiel 28:17 says that his heart was “lifted up because of your beauty.” And in addition to his resplendent appearance, Satan was endowed with a superlative intelligence. The same passage states, of Lucifer, “You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.”

There is no dispute as to the elegance and divine magnanimity with which Lucifer was blessed in every facet of life in eternity past. Yet, in all of this, there was but one thing given to him which could lead him to reject it all, as he did in arrogance and sin against God, and that was his volitional capacity, his ability to choose, his will.

The Choice of Satan

Informed believers are well-versed in God’s revelation concerning the decision Satan made in this flawless context. Isaiah 14:13-14 provides a frank account of this: 

But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.
(*Two prominent passages, Isaiah 14: 4-21, a prophecy against the King of Babylon, and Ezekiel 28:1-19, a prophecy for Israel and against the King of Tyre, are constructed in a manner which refer both to the immediate context of these monarchs and their kingdoms but as well, to the larger kingdoms and conflict of God and Satan. Thus, we are able to extrapolate from this this literary technique some insight - along with it providing theological construction with application - into the nature of the arrogant rebellion and fall of Satan. Augmenting these passages is the text in Revelation which tells us that one third of “the stars” – a metaphor for created angels in heaven – rebelled and fell with The Evil One).

Thus, we have a record of Lucifer, The Evil One, or Satan or whatever Biblical designation you wish to reference, and the context of his rebellion. He had full sight, full contact, and full blessing and enabling without the debilitating effects of sin, yet, in this spotless realm he chose apart from God and refused any salvation offered (we know this because the angels who accepted the real but undescribed angelic salvation are called “elect angels” thus, making it clear there was an angelic plan of salvation in eternity past).

Theodicy – Why God, why? 


The human being, though fashioned in innocence and without sin via Adam, fell, as did Lucifer. They, too, chose against God. However, unlike Lucifer, Adam and his wife accepted redemption from God, a redemption which only God could design and accomplish which was revealed to father Adam and mother Eve in the prophecy of the Christ to come (Genesis 3:15).

But just as Lucifer (and the one-third who rebelled with him) rejected the angelic class of salvation offered to angels, there are humans, too, who will reject the salvation offered from God. Which brings us to the crux of my consideration with regard to theodicy.

Theodicy refers to all that is related to the various arguments regarding mankind’s existence in his weak estate as compared to God and even weaker estate after his fall, described as depraved by theologians, along with God’s greatness, perfection, holiness, benevolence and all other attributes and essence and the existence of evil.

Why? Why would God permit such a thing? What is the purpose of the presence of evil in the lives of humanity which brings so much ruin and destruction when we have a God who could stop it all? To answer that I point you to the comparison of what we covered earlier and what we will now discuss.

Your Current Life

What is the one thing God gave Lucifer in all of his perfect blessing that God did not control (and cannot control by its very definition and nature) and would leave its outcome to that of its owner? That one thing is volitional power, the ability to choose and account for that choice which was given to all angels. Man, as well was given that power which is precisely why we will stand to account for our choices one day. So let’s contrast your situation with that of Satan’s in his fall which will lead to my conclusion.

Your Home – Your home is isolated and limited to one planet. It is filled with many ungodly people, endeavors and influences. Your home is not one in which the presence of God is magnified but de-emphasized and at times covered in as much soil as sinner and Satan can muster. There are places of splendor but natural and limited in their glory of God, though glorious indeed. 


Your home, this world, isn’t even your real home, but a temporary dwelling. And among the citizens of this world, the expression of God’s presence is limited to that of his people, generally speaking, and done so through whatever protocols God has prescribed to his people during that era. The surrounding communities often are hostile to granting any homage to God, though in history there have been exceptions. Suffice it to say, this world is not heaven.

Your Position – The text in (Psalm 8:4-5) reads, “You were made a little lower than the angels.” And it is clear that this lower position manifests itself when we see angels able to transform themselves into the appearance of men. They are able to fly. They are able to move through solid objects and so on.

The truth is, while we are made in the image of God in our initial creation we were still made lower than the angels and now we are also fallen. Our beginning place is that of a sinner, not as Satan was in a majestic and elevated role. Even our father, Adam, though created in innocence, was limited in intellect and position, a garden attender and manager of an earthly domain. He was not honored with angelic prestige and a magnified continual existence in the presence of God.

After Adam’s fall and our inherited sin, we are born spiritually blind. Our eyes betray us because our mind is cut off from God. And it is by his grace in which his Spirit illuminates to us the gospel, that we may believe. And even after our regeneration, while we are redeemed and able to be Spirit-filled we are living in bodies of sin which urge as contrary to the Spirit of God.

Our Person – And all of this brings us to our person. Limited in mobility, given to sickness, born dying, born with a sinning nature and as Paul tells us in Romans, there is no one, none of us, who in and of ourselves, seeks after true righteousness.

Our beginning deficit is more than a margin of difference between Satan and the cooperative one third who rejected God’s salvation for them and rebelled. It is tremendous in measure. It is almost as if we are by deliberate design, in a context which is the complete opposite of Satan and the salvation rejecting angels when they fell.

The Choice of Man

Man and the angels share one thing most critical in the story of both races and their redemption, volition, the ability to choose and an accounting for that. It is proposed by those who teach on the angelic conflict, that man was created as a response to the fall of Satan and his legion. Mankind’s creation is evidence introduced by the prosecutor that God’s grace is sufficient and would be so in a lesser creation.

This is a reasonable suggestion because Satan is the Accuser. And he accuses God of both lying and being responsible for all of the problems which have ensured from any divine endeavor. By design, Satan has no doubt, charged God with being responsible for The Evil One’s own fall. “God, you made me this way, it is your fault”, I can hear Lucifer cry.

So here we are. Evidence for the prosecution as Job was evidence. Did Satan not appeal to God to examine the evidence of God, to put it to the test? And Satan did as God allowed. Of course the record reveals that God’s grace was sufficient. In spite of Job’s lowly place and in comparison to Satan’s high position, he was steadfast and relied upon the Holy One while Lucifer, in his pristine position, vaulted himself against God.

Think About Your Life

This is precisely why, when you live a life of faith, that of unseeing eyes and untouched realities which you believe more than what your human senses and intelligence tells you, God is glorified. You are evidence of his sufficient grace. You are evidence in the court of heaven.

And this is why, my dear Christian brother and sister, you will share in the glory of Christ, the one who is most glorified, in eternity. You will have lived by faith, you will have lived as corroborative evidence in the great trial of Lucifer on behalf of the divine prosecutor, that God’s grace, God’s will and God’s plan is sufficient, righteous, true and that there is no other way.

Every time you believe God, as we do with the aid of God’s Spirit, you glorify God and reject the claims of Satan. Every time you obey what you receive as truth from God’s bequeathed Word, though you have not seen him in contrast to Lucifer who was privileged to be in the presence of God and experience his grandeur and blessing on a magnitude no where reachable here on earth, you glorify God.

And one day God will reward that faith. Live, not by what you see as Satan did but by what God has said. This was Satan’s fatal flaw. Even seeing God’s glory is not sufficient. One must believe. One must exercise faith in the person and Word of God. Satan saw and experienced the glory of God and was gifted immensely but did not believe God’s way.

Conclusion

I mentioned prayer, earlier, for a reason. Often we accept the view that answered prayer is glory to God, and it is. But many times the lack of answer is considered less glorious and disappointing. The truth is, what is most glorious is simply trusting and believing God’s Word no matter the condition of life. Yes, pray for God’s intervention but remember, in a very real sense he has already intervened and works all things (syngergizes is the Greek word) for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose.

You, have not seen God, have not touched God, and have not entered glory yet you believe, even in the midst of your sin and a world which is hostile to God. This is, in a great way, why you will be privileged to rule and reign with Christ as the new spiritual species who will fully inherit the Kingdom of God on judgment day.

Your creation, with its lowly estate, is on purpose. Its purpose is to act as evidence in the court of heaven that though weak, though limited, though likely functioning as intellectual midgets to the super-intelligence of angels, you are proof or evidence in the great case against Lucifer that God’s grace is sufficient. You are evidence every time you believe. And you will be given a reward greater than that of the angelic race which will last for eternity. Your faith matters, far more than just the concern of your life.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Wartburg Watch *Fosters a Comparison of CJ Mahaney’s Re-entrance to T4G as Analogous to Serial Murderer, Cannibal and Sexual Assaulter, Jeffery Dahmer being on the Food Network. Hysteria, Mania or Unadulterated Hatred Run Amok?



*(Update - Dee Parsons, one of the blog admins at TWW commented below that Deb's response of "Bravo" which followed the derisive comparison by the commenter, Eagle, was not a reply to his comparison but to an earlier comment about arriving "first". With good will, I have accepted this plausible explanation but really don't believe it has any impact on the greater concerns addressed in this article. However, because of that I have adjusted the article's title to reflect what I believe would then be appropriate which is my use of "foster". This means they, TWW, permitted and did not challenge or correct the offensive comment and further failed to censor such an irresponsible claim in the first place.)


The other day at a blog entitled, The Wartburg Watch, a post was published about a minister named CJ Mahaney being reinstated as a visible leader with T4G. We will get to that very quickly but first a qualifier.

The Wartburg Watch (a blog which I have written about in the past regarding a personal episode I had while commenting there and which you may read here) in my view, is a blog of Christian and non-Christian malcontents who, from time to time, may have a point but it is among mounds of refuse. And the trash piles up quickly in the form of vitriol, self-aggrandizing insults, extreme caricatures of those they appear to despise with gusto and very prejudicial narratives regarding events which they debate and pursue in their articles and comments section.

That is my opinion, of course, but when you read this entry I hope it has some impact if you consider yourself more temperate in your judgment regarding their efforts which, as I pointed out, aren’t all just rhetorical feces. But as they say, going through the trash to find a morsel when there are far more healthy venues for theological and intellectual dining, belies claims of altruism and benign interest in feeding there.

Enter TWW and Mahaney’s Restoration to T4G

Charles Joseph Mahaney, commonly known as CJ Mahaney, is the Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He once was the head and co-founder of the Sovereign Grace para-denomination. He was and is (I have yet to hear of any recantation on this view) a full-fledged charismatic who holds to the view of the present day offices of Apostle and Prophet along with all of their miraculous spiritual sign gifts.

C.J Mahaney has no formal theological training. However, this did not prevent him from rising as a personality and teacher with great celebrity among Southern Baptist Calvinists as he adopted and mixed with his charismaticism, a Calvinistic theology. This elevation in ministerial exposure and promotion among the Southern Baptist Calvinists conspicuously paralleled his sect’s monetary giving (under his direction) to Southern Seminary and peripheral ministries.

However, at the peak of his notoriety among the Calvinist Southern Baptists and out to many Neo-Calvinist and Neo-Reformed ministries within that theological galaxy, Mahaney and SGM (the ministry which Mahaney was heading) came under serious investigation for allegations of failing to report sexual misconduct and abuse by ordained ministers and volunteers. Court plaintiffs claimed that church leaders, including Mahaney, failed to report charges, by church and SGM members of such abuse, to law enforcement and further, went to great lengths to cover up the matter.

As well, in 2011 CJ Mahaney took a leave of absence in the wake of vehement indictments by former co-minister(s) against Mahaney of pride, dishonesty and forms of sinful adjudication on a number of matters.

T4G – Subsequent to all of this, Mahaney was dropped from visibility with a ministry called T4G (Together for the Gospel) which is, as many describe and I agree, a Neo-Calvinist/Neo-Reformed cooperative that has strong ties to The Gospel Coalition. Essentially, it seems they are a Bible conference alliance who talk about what they consider to be important doctrinal issues facing the church and charge people significant fees to attend such conferences (I suppose part of this charging people for the ministry of the Word is justified by the offering of SBTS credits for attending). However, this year after a few years of absence, Mahaney's name, face and ministry have exploded back on to the scene with T4G hence, the understandable measures of objection by some groups and then, what I can only categorize as hysteria prone outbursts, by others.

The Wartburg Watch and a Guy Named Eagle - So let’s fast forward to The Wartburg Watch, who claim to care for truth, justice and the Biblical way (my summation of what I believe they assert). Recently, in response to CJ Mahaney’s reestablished visibility with T4G, they published a blog entry entitled, Together Again – Mahaney Reinstated at T4G (click on the embedded link). There is a commenter at TWW who uses the tag Eagle and who, the other day, decided to drive-by with an opine, a broad and unrestrained one. We will visit that in a moment.

(Feel free to spend your time researching The Wartburg Watch’s self-admiring sharing of their restoration, or whatever you wish to call it, of what I view as a rather theologically and emotionally impaired individual named Eagle. I don’t recommend using your time for such mining but if you wish to observe the evolution of this individual via The Wartburg Watch who, it seems, believe they took him from being an agnostic of sorts - the best as I can recall - which was the result of some bitter experiences at “fundamentalist” ministries - again, very general here - to a renewal of his faith, such an investment will at least be informative as to where not to take a person if you wish to restore him or her to spiritual health as demonstrated by the product of his eagerness to post the severely immodest analogy he offered in the comments section).

Before getting to the astonishingly repugnant, and in my view - sinful - comparison which not only was permitted but cheered by one of the blog administrators (Deb), I want to say that their basic objection is reasonable but beyond that and to how they conducted themselves here as well as having in view the nature of so many of the discussions which go on in the comment section at TWW, I am led to believe that the blog is tactically, a very hysteria and mania fueled endeavor which attracts, by majority, malcontents and destabilized personalities who have large personal and inter-personal conflicts which are exacerbated by an overwhelming juvenile narcissism of perpetual victim-hood and anger.

This, of course, is my opinion which is why I invite you to form your own conclusions. However, if my assessment is true, this makes such a group mephitic and ultimately detrimental to the well-being of a Christian's spiritual welfare.

The Comment and the Applause

As I provided earlier, you can click on the link embedded in the article title to read it in its entirety with all of the comments but here is the particular comment followed up by Deb saying, “Bravo”:
Eagle on Wed Sep 09, 2015 at 07:55 PM said:

This made me so angry….good thing I saw this before the gym. Having CJ Mahaney speak is like having Jeffrey Dahmer having a cooking show on the Food network.

Deb on Wed Sep 09, 2015 at 07:55 PM said:

@ Eagle: Bravo!
(*Herein lies the justification for my blog title. Deb, one of the administrators of the blog, commends this comment with "Bravo" thus, giving it approval or sanction.)

Personal, Intellectual and Spiritual Integrity

First, I want to make it clear that I am not a fan of CJ Mahaney’s theology nor leadership. I do not believe he belongs in the pulpit, anywhere in an Evangelical church at this time and certainly not in a position of leadership until, in the least, he receives comprehensive theological rehabilitation and demonstrates the integration of this training and until he fully abandons, with utmost clarity, his charismaticism. But in truth, none of that will happen and I do not expect it to occur.

Further, I would demand a full and exhaustive reply to all inquiries by mature and disciplined ecclesiastical investigators to all of the matters surrounding the number of devastating events and issues raised which occurred under his leadership at SGM and even then, simply being willing to respond to them is not a default re-qualification seeing that it may reveal a need for even greater remedial training.

So let's be clear, I am not CJ Mahaney's apologist in any shape or form.

However, this does not mean I do not believe he should not be permitted personal evangelistic efforts or other spiritual ventures allowed regarding involvement in a local assembly under the authority of a senior Pastor until he again, demonstrates fitness for ministry in his theology and disposition. But I know, and most others know, this is not going to happen. Still, for the record, I want my view made clear and if I were to have to provide a summation for CJ Mahaney I would state that though he is sincere and though he has done some good work for the Lord and stated some true things and helped some people advance in some ways, spiritually, he remains a seriously theologically and psychologically challenged individual.

Will God use him in spite of this? Sure, he uses all kinds of errant people but none of that justifies what should not be. God will use whatever tool he may. As Joseph told his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”. Though God may bring good from something, it does not remove the negative property of the thing he uses - at whatever level - in word, thought or deed.

So, that aside let’s consider what has been done here - A serial murderer, cannibal and sexual assaulter whose offenses were so acute, so maximal, that he was ultimately sentenced to sixteen life terms (my understanding is that Dahmer became a brother in the Lord in prison by receiving Christ as his Savior, may God be praised for his mercy and grace extended to all sinners), is given an analogous comparison to CJ Mahaney? Lest someone retort that the individual who calls himself “Eagle” wasn’t comparing them as being the same, that he was using it as an analogy, let me retort back and say so what? It is an a gross distortion of measure, analogically speaking.

Analogous things, while differing in form, are still required to be equal or close to equal in measure with respect to their context. To Eagle, TWW and any sympathizer of this corrupt equation, are you really insisting that Mahaney’s possible ecclesiastical malfeasance is anywhere proportionate to a serial murdering cannibalistic sex assaulter? If so, we have nothing more to discuss and I recommend a long, long time on the couch of a qualified therapist.

What kind of sickness is eating away at people who would not only make such a contrast but commend it with a “Bravo”? Is such a group really where you want to go to have your mind renewed? Are these the kind of people who you wish to have forming your objections - because remember, the minute you fall out of favor with them, you, too, will be subject to such gross departures from reason and equity in judgment?

This is genuinely appalling. I am sure those who associate with TWW blog up to ordained Ministers and take themselves seriously will be re-evaluating their nuptials such as Warren Throckmorton whose silence on this gross distortion by his friends at TWW can be taken as tacit approval based on TWW’s own practice of demanding ministerial associations to speak out against offending friends or else one may assume some form of cooperation or approval of said offenses. You may find Throckmorton here.

The World in which we live

We have all been guilty of overstating things but the reality of human foibles certainly does not exist to justify gross distortions of reality in the pursuit of ecclesiastical protests. However, in a world where there is little self-restraint (the internet – which is now beginning to infect real world behavior in primary ways) this is what we are served, even by Christians, all in the name of whatever crusade on which they are.

I get that there are valid criticisms of ministries such as The Gospel Coalition and T4G. I have a list of them, myself. But at no place and at no time are we permitted by God to allow, encourage and reward unscrupulous distortions of people or ministries in such an obscene manner. We must make true accounts, fair analogies and when using hyperbole, use it as it was intended which is not in an analogous context. We only discredit and damage ourselves and those we influence.

As for TWW, I only continue to observe them that I may be aware of the damage I believe they do and to be prepared to counter such influences and appeal to those who are still able to fairly weigh things. And this occasion is one where I believe my rebuttal is essential.

Whatever anger, whatever injury and whatever disruption you believe may have occurred to you in an ecclesiastical setting, hysterical, maniacal and volatile forms of dialog are not appropriate and only lead to more offenses but in this case you're the person out of control and committing the offense. Personal resolution to internal and external conflicts and wounds you believe you have receive from others are not healed by rage and irrational rhetorical eruptions. Such things only exaggerate your perceived nemesis and prolong your trauma by initiating further disturbances and creating mammoth barbarians who don’t exist at the level your frenzied indulgence has permitted you to craft.

Feed, if you wish, where toxic waste abounds, as you search for that singular morsel of nutrition you imagine awaits your discovery in the depths of disease. However, understand that the virulent waste in which you forage doesn’t simply fall off your person. It seeps into your pours, into your lungs and is upon the very crumb which you claim will give you life and health.

* A note to TWW administrators - you seem to wish to be heard by those to whom or against whom, you raise your protests. The more you amp up your ridiculous and self-serving and self-aggrandizing rhetoric the less likely you will be given a hearing or any serious consideration. Your discussions have degraded into nothing but cult-like group affirmations of strict theological narratives. Maybe that is what you desire and frankly, if you can't see what is going on by now, there isn't much helping you. You are clearly not uneducated but it seems to me that you are seriously lacking in circumspection and the kind of perspicacious wisdom you so loudly demand from your tormentors.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Pursuit of Diversity in the Church: What the Bible vs. Humanism and The Gospel Coalition have to say about taking a Racial Census in your Church


Introduction

Recently, at The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter, an editor for TGC, published an article entitled, Why Increasing Racial Diversity in Denominations Is a Math Problem which you can read, here.

The article's postulate is based on the far too common anthropocentric theology which rests on the bereft supposition that a local assembly or a larger denominational group, is obligated to possess human racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in order for it to be a healthy congregation and Biblical model. This concept, unbeknownst to many in the church, is in reality a tenet of Humanism and can be found expressed in various ways in each of the three Humanist Manifestos (a link to all three is provided further down).

As a sample, here is part of what Carter asserts from the article:

Yet therein lies the problem for increasing diversity in the other denominations. There is simply not a large enough number of black Americans to have both census quota diversity and large, predominantly black denominations.

This is not to say that increasing diversity within denominations should not be a goal. It also does not imply that local churches should use this as an excuse for not trying to increase outreach to minorities. Local churches have the ability to increase diversity in ways that may not be achievable at the denominational level.

But what such rudimentary analysis can show is that we need a more sophisticated way of determining just what diversity in denominations would look like. We can’t assume, for instance, that just because 12 percent of the population is black that 12 percent of our denominations should be comprised of black members. We also can’t automatically take pride in the fact that our denomination may be more diverse than another denominations, since the comparisons may obscure relevant factors.

If increasing diversity within our denominations is a goal—and I believe it should be—we need to come up with more advanced metrics that can help us determine exactly what a realistic level of diversity would look like. That will require more number-crunching and analysis of regional demographics than we are used to doing. But it may be the only way to truly determine both whether a denomination’s minority outreach is effective and whether they are becoming more diverse.

Some Observations and the Objectification of Blacks by Carter's Philosophy, in my View

Racial Objectification - In the first paragraph of the quoted material, I am somewhat stunned that the obvious is not noticed by many readers and is so readily accepted by The Gospel Coalition founders and current directors who are allegedly astute theologians (they have accepted worse so maybe I should not be surprised). Black people, it appears, are pawns for the relief of racial census distresses lest we find ourselves in a congregation of a majority of Korean Christians or what have you.

These members of society aren't to be targeted with the gospel for the sake of their souls and their subsequent edification but to be part of a self-aggrandizing pursuit on behalf of congregational census taking through which its overseers may feel good about themselves for gaining more members who are racially, ethnically and culturally unlike the majority membership, whatever it may be. 

Sure, winning people to the Lord is part of the process but it isn't the expressed primary objective in reaching minority groups or non-majority groups, rather it is as an object of congregational or denominational enhancement by way of their racial, ethnic and cultural properties. In other words, as I see it, ultimately these citizens are objects for what Carter (and apparently others) believes to be favorable ecclesiastical census taking. Wow.

This is, in my view, a fundamental flaw in Carter's theological development which finds its expression in this manner and which I understand to be offensive to the theology of the cross. Ultimately, they (anyone fitting the "they" quota objective - just typing this as something a church does is nauseating) are objectified because of their race, ethnicity or culture and not sought simply because of their lost condition.

Quotas, What Quotas? Did I miss this somewhere in Scripture? - Carter calls for "advanced metrics" to help us meet this "census quota diversity". May God have mercy on such theological flamboyancy in attempting to impose onto the body of Christ this fixation when it is completely absent in Scripture. 

Understand, Joe Carter is not ambiguous here. He plainly states, "If increasing diversity within our denominations is a goal—and I believe it should be", all without batting an eye while he offers absolutely no Biblical directive or implication. I suspect his lack of argument to support that this is something he believes should be a goal, is because he is writing within in organization which accepts this portion of poorly vetted theology and for an audience which has swallowed its poison some time ago. 

Thus, it seems his views are simply conclusions which only those not right with God would oppose (reminds me a bit of the silencing of the climate change debate since it has all been concluded, no more debate permitted) and so, let's just all move on with the program. It should be alarming, however, (to those of you who have remaining inside of you the capacity to be alarmed) that Carter is completely devoid of Biblical references in this anthropocentric diversity fetish.
 
General Response - I realize that within modern culture and modern social philosophy, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity has been elevated to a point of Biblical morality (with the help, sadly, of groups like The Gospel Coalition) so that anyone opposing this on any level  may be viewed as not just unethical or unconstitutional but sinning against God in their thoughts and possible deeds
(unless you are supporting the apartheid of Native American tribes which require one to belong to that particular genetic/racial/ethnic family before being allowed to be a member, apparently that kind of national apartheid is okay and not immoral). But human social consensus is not the basis for Biblical theology and certainly not a sound ecclesiology.

Of course, those who grasp Biblical theology without this leaven of humanism understand that no such requirement or value exists in Scripture for the church. This is not to say outside of the church this may not have worth in social institutions but such humanistic appraisals are both relative and wanting with regard to the absolutes of Biblical morality in spite of what people such as The Gospel Coalition, its editor Joe Carter, or anyone else may imply and definitely are not binding precepts for the church.

What Does the Bible Teach about Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in the Church and Census taking for such Matters?

A racial census is non-existent in the Scriptures as a means of gauging the fitness of a ministry. This is humanism 101 (see Humanist Manifestos I, II and III on the fellowship of man). The N.T. does address diversity however, that diversity is one of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4). Hence, if you wish to promote a gauge for ecclesiastical diversity, this is it.

As long as the humanism based theological leaven of esteeming our churches based on an anthropocentric ecclesiastical fellowship philosophy of racial, ethnic and cultural measuring, is given merit, we will forever fail to satisfy an ever changing/morphing humanist model which is being permitted to damage the church.

The great Apostle Paul made clear that (in the context of ecclesiastical fellowship among one another, i.e. spiritual fellowship) such a relationship is based on our being a new spiritual race/species (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus, the fellowship believers have with one another in the body of Christ is based on their common relationship in Christ.


Our fellowship revolves around the person of Christ, first in being regenerated when we believe and then with all of the denominators extended to and in us from Christ which are his Spirit and Word (shared doctrine). Human properties are not part of that equation with respect to our spiritual fellowship. Ours is a shared spiritual DNA, not human DNA (but let me be clear, where our anthropological properties are relevant, such as marriage and family and far beyond, God does intend, by design, that these properties be the basis of relating, but in those contexts).

You are my mother, father, sister or brother in the Lord, not because I am reconciled to or embrace you personally (I am speaking in the human context which is what racial, ethnic and cultural census taking and fellowship measuring is), and not because you or I have been reconciled to one another’s human properties such as the human culture in which we live or the collective expression of our human family whether it be immediate or the larger racial/ethnic whole and its expressions. Such a view is absent in the Scriptures as a protocol for the New Testament church regarding any ecclesiastical/spiritual fellowship and litmus test of health and fitness.

The church is a spiritual body with its members being born into the family of God through faith in Christ and with its value system of fellowship being based on the shared Spirit of God and Bible doctrine. This is how we esteem the church, collectively and individually. Its culture, its race and its ethnicity is that of Christ.

So long as we are not deliberately setting up human based (anthropocentric) favoritism in our churches (I dare say deliberately targeting a racial, ethnic or cultural group with the objective using it as some kind of enhancement for a local or denominational body is a form of favoritism) and are willing to share the gospel and win the lost to all men and arrange ministries based on spiritual gifts, there is no explication or implication in the New Testament that the church is bound by these kinds of anthropocentric measures in evaluating itself.

The race, ethnicity and culture of the church is that of Christ (again, a new spiritual species with a brand new way of thinking which is not of this world, the value systems of this world are not part of that body of understanding which is why we are told “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by having your mind renewed”). Diversity for the body of Christ is rather explicitly presented as something measured by our spiritual gifts. 


However further the concept of an anthropocentric theology of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity is fostered as orthodox doctrine, and as long this tenet of humanism is imposed onto the church as a legitimate gauge for measuring its fitness, the longer it will produce the very fractures those claiming to want remedied, will occur.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Part 4: Must Infidelity be Confessed to a Spouse? A Rebuttal to Questionable Counsel from Russell Moore

Part 1, here
Part 2, here
Part 3, here


My Observations and Considerations

My hope, here, is to more effectively qualify a response to this issue for my readers. I have no doubt that numerous believers face, to some degree, the dilemma of sexual sins of thought, word and/or deed and having read the kind of counsel offered by Dr. Russell Moore, they instinctively come away from his prescription knowing that something isn’t quite right but have not been able to identify and articulate their concerns. 


However, permit me to add that I am certain Russell Moore is both earnest and genuine in his guidance. As well, I believe he demonstrates a seriousness in his desire to orient people toward what he believes is Godly thinking and acting, though I regularly find myself at odds with his theological products and certainly here. Hence, I do not want anyone thinking my objective is a caricaturization of Moore. Nevertheless, his advice on the matter reflects a commonly sloppy and overly pious approach which has inflicted needless collateral damage to the lives of faltering humans and particularly Christians.

Marital infidelity

God is absolute and clear in his Word. Marriage is intended to be that of a man and woman being faithful in every manner possible, to one another. This, especially, includes sexual fidelity. Adultery is shameful and sinful. Proverbs 6:29 states regarding the one that goes to his neighbor's wife and commits adultery:


29 So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.

 
That passage has in view two kinds of suffering from this level of transgressing, both human and divine. Thus, it is clear that not only are there human consequences but divine ones as well. Of course not every single person and every single violation are equal and God deals with each one of us in particular (as do humans). But even so, we will be corrected and reproved by God, even if human disclosure does not occur. Proverbs 3:11-12 states:

11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
Or loathe His reproof,
12 For whom the Lord loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.


Therefore, let me be clear. In no way am I minimizing deleterious effects of this sin and its violation before God. However, how it is resolved with respect to human relationships and to whom we own a confession has an extended Biblical consideration and is not left up to our rationalizations which seem sanctified and spiritual but which may be, in fact, creating further and gratuitous conflict and injury in a marriage.

Prudence

First and foremost, when you commit marital infidelity where the other spouse does not share such knowledge, there is no absolute counsel from the Scriptures or practical Biblical wisdom which demands and treats as the highest order of conduct, the disclosure of such a sin. The book of Proverbs contains a very weighty principle regarding our sins
. Proverbs 12:23 share this wisdom:

23 The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.

Now it is true that revealing an offense is not necessarily equal to blurting it out but the Proverb treats keeping knowledge of something to one’s self as “prudent”. Prudence is the practice of perspicacity regarding what we reveal to others and what we do not. We use forethought and consider how it will affect the person(s) with whom the information is revealed.

When we accept Dr. Moore’s prescription, that we are always obligated to confess infidelity, we do so in the absence of prudence. Prudence considers the damage to the relationship and the spouse, who at the moment may be very contented and who, through this knowledge, may receive an injury from which he or she cannot recover, which brings me to my next point.

Exacerbating the damage through confessing to a spouse

When someone is unfaithful they have damaged themselves. As well, their marriage will experience some by-products of unfaithfulness such as the offending spouse having created an appetite for intimacy with foreign parties. However, the faithful spouse has not received a personal offense. The integrity has failed on one end and needs resolved on that end.

So when a spouse has been unfaithful but repented and returned as a faithful party, while there may be by-product(s), the re-invested spouse will, as time increases, regain matrimonial momentum in their repentance and renewed faithfulness. Thus, the inatitutional effects may be minor, if noticeable at all to the innocent party.

Why, then, would there be a compelling interest in revealing the episode of infidelity to the innocent spouse, particularly if one has confessed their offense to God and returned to fidelity with the marriage developing positively as it should? 


The truth is, we often are only furthering the damage of our offense when we confess it to the unknowing party. We are, in effect, generating a greater problem where one need not be. There is no default Biblical mandate to confess our sins of thought, word and/or deed to our spouses, even infidelity, only to God.

This is not to say disclosure is never necessary but it unquestionably should not be assumed as essential any time a Christian is unfaithful. What benefit comes from pulling a spouse into such a matter, particularly when there is no real threat of disclosure by other parties? You actually rend the marriage further and enlarge the bruise which I dare say may be a sin, in and of itself.

The Purpose of Confession and using your Spouse as your Personal Priest

While I may be pressing this point with multiple references, I believe it warrants emphasis. What is the ultimate purpose for confessing marital infidelity to a spouse who does not know about it and likely will not know about it? It surely cannot be for their sake, particularly if they are happily invested in the marriage. As Russell Moore suggests, it is to somehow restore integrity to the relationship (my paraphrase) and to complete one’s repentance. However, the truth is, the irreconciliation only failed one way and only needs corrected on the end where it failed. I believe that frequently, such a confession is a selfish act to relieve a person of guilt by using their spouse as a personal priest instead of turning to God for absolution. 


Moore refers to the removal of the guilt which is present when one is unfaithful. His view is that this guilt cannot be relieved unless the innocent spouse is informed and offers forgiveness. Your spouse cannot forgive you unless they know about your infidelity and unless they know about it, they are not injured. In other words, until you disclose your infidelity your spouse is not offended, they are innocent. Only you are the injured party, injured by your own sin. Your remedy is repentance before God and a re-commitment to your marriage.

Bearing your own Burdens

As Christians we ought to learn to bear our own burdens. We should not draw others into our internal and private failures and demand absolution and unconditional love as if they are God. In my view, the selfishness of this kind of approach is understated.

It is the child who uses other people to assuage their guilt when disclosure of personal failures and a guilty conscience are not needed. It is the adult who accepts the conscience which comes when they commit offenses and it is the adult Christian who believes God’s promise of forgiveness (when they name their sins) and moves on in life.

Are you saying there never is a time to confess to others, particularly marital infidelity, to your spouse?

I am not suggesting that we never have to confess our sins to others; this would violate what I pointed to in James. However, context and its variables are part of the consideration and as we see in James, Matthew and in the passage in 1 Corinthians, these have to do with people denying sins of which they are being confronted by others. For a few specific cases, but not limited to these, I offer two concrete occasions where I believe it would be unprincipled to fail to disclose infidelity to your spouse.

First, in the case that the innocent party is very likely to have this information shared to them by a party outside of the marriage. This is when we should use wisdom and control the event of the disclosure to the innocent party and offer whatever information is necessary. This is a prudent confession and cares for the innocent party so that they are not blindsided by the information from transient parties and humiliated.

Secondly, we must confess our offenses if our actions produce consequences of which our spouse needs to know because it will directly affect the marriage such as getting another person pregnant, getting an STD or an affair which will cost the offender his or her employment and so on. Again, this keeps the innocent spouse from being blindsided, humiliated and even further injured.

Concluding Comments

In most cases of marital infidelity I believe there to be few absolutes which can be broadly prescribed when it comes to admitting unfaithfulness to a spouse. Some spouses can handle such admissions, forgive in a timely manner and move on to a renewed and healthy marriage. Others, however, would be crushed and permanently debilitated by such a discovery, even though it may have been a single and isolated event and many years ago.

Treating your spouse with the assumption that he or she can deal with this information, will be willing to forgive you and that your marriage will become stronger and healthier than before is an assumption no one, particularly a Christian, can afford to make. Every case has its own set of variables and everyone is different. This may seem like obvious advice but it appears to me that the obvious escaped Dr. Russell Moore in his broad and indiscriminate prescription of confessing infidelity to an unknowing spouse.  


Qualifier - I do wish to be emphatic here. I have no desire to prescribe to anyone's conscience before God the idea that it is foolish and weak to offer such a disclosure to your spouse. It can be, in some of the instances I have pointed out, but if your conscience is inconsolably torn and you find yourself with no sufficient remedy to your betrayal other than confessing this to your spouse, forbid me from being the dictate of your conscience. 

However, this is precisely why I have written this four-part response, because sometimes a person's conscience is fraught with guilt based on false concepts. My encouragement and instruction is a Biblically perspicacious handling of such failures and a conscience which is strengthened by truth, not weakened by errant absolutes.

Maybe you believe it is noble to make such confessions but you may do more damage than good and there is nothing noble about that. It may end up being a greater act of love to keep such indiscretions to yourself and bearing this privately, before God, as a failure but one in which God has forgiven you instead of dumping this onto your spouse to deal with. Keeping them innocent may be the greater virtue.