Friday, December 13, 2013

PARADOX


The Bible is no stranger to paradox. Indeed, some base their unbelief in God on what they believe to be contradictions in the Bible! How can anyone believe in God if the Bible (that is supposed to tell you about God) is full of contradictions? Quite! If ‘All Scripture is God breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16a) and is ‘truth’ (John 17:17) then one has a right to expect the Bible to pass the ‘non-contradiction’ test. This is where the word ‘paradox’ comes in. In the following we shall touch on three ‘apparent contradictions’ found in the Bible.

How can God be one and many at the same time? The three Persons, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, are one God and each Person in the Godhead is of one substance, power, and eternity. Saint Patrick asked if a shamrock was one leaf or three. It is both! Therefore, why cannot God be three in one? The one does not lord it over the many or the many the one. Cornelius Van Til called this ‘equal ultimacy.’

It is on account of God’s triuneness that Jesus can be God and Man at the same time. The Son of God is also the Son of Man. He is of the same substance, power, and eternity as God while being of the same substance, frailty, and finitude as man. Contradiction? No! Jesus has a divine and a human nature. He is no alloy. Like oil and water, the two natures do not mix. Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time. As to His divinity He knows all things. As to His humanity His knowledge is limited. As to His divinity He is everywhere at once. As to His humanity He remains local, occupying only the space His body takes up. As to His divinity He is all-powerful. As to His humanity His strength is limited. Jesus is Creator and creature at the same time. Like a hand in a glove so the Creator clothed Himself in His creation when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. As it is with the Godhead so it is with the two natures of Christ. Each Person in the Godhead is distinct but not separate from the Others, so each of Christ’s two natures are distinct but not separate. Jesus is one Divine Person with two distinct natures forever.

How can God punish the innocent and pardon the guilty and still remain just? Or to put it another way, how can sinners gain access to Heaven without their earning it? Or another way yet again, how can God’s justice be reconciled with His grace? The answer is Jesus Christ is the substitute for sinners. ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ 2 Corinthians 5:21. ‘He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ Ephesians 1:4. In eternity past the Son was in agreement with the Father’s proposal that, a) the Son become flesh, b) live a perfect life, and c) lay down His human life to redeem a people innumerable from  God’s justice on them for their sins. The Father chose the people. The Son redeemed them. And, the Holy Spirit with the Word testifies in time to the Good News of their salvation.

Substitutionary atonement is a legal transaction performed by God as Judge, whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners and sinners’ unrighteousness is imputed to Christ. The Father then pours out His wrath on the Son as He hangs on the cross. ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God’ 1 Peter 3:18a. The penalty we owe to God’s justice is thus paid. Therefore, because God’s justice has been satisfied believers are now free to live their lives to God’s glory without fear of not having done enough to earn their own salvation.

Jesus is the perfect Mediator between God and us. As the Middle Person in the Godhead He can identify with God and as a Man He can identify with us and all our frailties. When we look at God through Jesus Christ we see ourselves as sinners. When God looks at us through Jesus Christ He see us as saints! Paradoxically Christians simultaneously are saints and sinners! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

CHRISTMAS


Christmas

It may seem redundant to say that Christmas is about Christ. However, surely in a consumerist society we need to be reminded of this annually. Christians have the Secularists agreeing with them that Christ is the reason for the season, for, after having had some success they now wish completely to remove Christ from Christmas. Why? because they have no room for Jesus in the type of society they envisage. However, this is nothing new. Christ is used to being shunned.

Joseph and Mary, when she was just about to give birth to Jesus, were turned away from an inn because there was no room for them (Luke 2:7). Therefore, Jesus was shunned even on the very first Christmas. Indeed, lots of people had no room for Jesus, ‘He is rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him’ Isaiah 53:3. And, ‘He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him’ John 1:11. Why all this rejection at His birth and at His death? Well, this is where the Gospel comes in.

The Gospel is the good news that God has reconciled mankind to Himself through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God (the Middle Person of the Trinity) in the flesh (John 1:1-2; Matthew 28:19). He is the Mediator between God and men (1Timothy 2:5). Now, if we need to be reconciled to God and if we need a mediator then this must mean that we are having a dispute with God. It must mean that we have no room for Him. Having no room for God began in the Garden with our first ancestors, Adam and Eve. They exercised their free will and decided that they wanted to live in a state exactly as that sought after by today’s Secularists. They, and all mankind after them, wish to live their lives without any interference from God (Romans 3:11-12; 5:12f.). Therefore, is it any wonder that God in the flesh, i.e., Jesus, is rejected? God became a social outcast in the Garden. He became a social outcast when Israel rejected Him over and over throughout the Old Testament years. In the flesh He became a social outcast on the very first Christmas Day. Indeed, He was a social outcast as He hung dying on a cross, ‘But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people’ Psalm 22:6. Yet many, who perhaps would not ordinarily, awaken on Christmas morning in Western societies and take the time to consider the plight of social outcasts and even desire to give them food and clothing. Christmas has that effect on some people!

The Hebrews became a nation under Jacob when Joseph enabled his family to enter Egypt to live there (Genesis 42). In Egypt Israel settled in Goshen (Genesis 46:34). Why Goshen? The Hebrews were shepherds, and, ‘Every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians’ Genesis 46:34b. Why Israel’s fixation with sheep? It was because of the Old Testament sacrificial system. It prefigured the shedding of Christ’s blood as, ‘The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). On the day of His birth Jesus, the Lamb of God, was visited by shepherds (Luke 2:15-17). Afterwards, Joseph took Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod who wished to murder Jesus (Matthew 2:14-15). The baby Jesus, ‘that great Shepherd of the sheep’ (Hebrews 13:20) was rejected by King Herod on the very first Christmas Day. He is rejected by many today. Do you have any room for Jesus in your world this Christmas?

Friday, October 18, 2013

KILLING JESUS - A History


Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard have done it again! Killing Jesus is right on par with their two other bestselling page-turners, viz., Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy.

As a Christian (Presbyterian and Reformed) I was a wee bit apprehensive while reading Killing Jesus. I wondered how O’Reilly and Dugard were going to handle such an emotive subject as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I need not have worried. They did a fine job.

The Baptist will be happy that in Killing Jesus Jesus is dunked under water by John the Baptizer and the Roman Catholic will be pleased that Jesus has retained His long hair as depicted in Roman Catholic iconography! However, unlike these old chestnuts, some other controversial issues were footnoted.   

As the title suggests, Killing Jesus – A History, is just that. Its focus is on the history rather than the theology pertaining to Jesus. However, it is impossible to separate the two because Jesus did everything according to the Scriptures and fulfilled the same. Therefore, readers who know the Scriptures may see the occasional question mark appear before their eyes.

Bottom line: Thank you Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard for taking the time to present your diligent research in such a readably interesting fashion. Your book would not leave me alone until I had devoured it!        

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WHERE DO YOU COME FROM?



A bridesmaid invited me to dance with her at a wedding reception. I declined. I do not understand the concept of dancing. She said I was “over-thinking” it. I suppose I am guilty of “over-thinking” at times.

Little Johnny asked his mum where he came from. She spent an hour explaining the “birds and the bees”. Then she asked why he had asked. “O,” he said, “my friend said that he came from Toowoomba!” Where do you come from? At school they told us something about pond-scum over gazillions of years growing arms and legs, a brain and even learning how to dance! This type of “over-thinking” concerns me. It devalues life by turning us into bags of primordial soup (with strands of alpha-getti, DNA)? This goo-to-you sort of thinking troubles me when someone who comes to me seeking advice views himself as a beaker of chemicals. How am I supposed to help those who dehumanise themselves in this way?

Where are we from? Are we just congealed chemicals sloshing around in a plastic bag like goldfish from the Ekka? Did freak accidents produce the man that comes into my office to tell me his troubles? Maybe he is just from Toowoomba!

William of Ockham (1285-1349) was not one to “over-think” things unnecessarily. “Ockham’s Razor” states that in two competing views the simplest view is often correct. The Christian view is simple. The triune God created us in His own image. Evolutionism is an extremely complex philosophy. At school I was taught that man is an accidental product of time and chance, i.e., millions of years in which millions of accidental (but beneficial!) mutations occurred producing life from non-life. The former view is called “Creationism”, the latter “Evolutionism”. These are mutually exclusive. They are at loggerheads in the ongoing “Culture Wars” in which, for the time being, Evolutionism has gained the upper-hand in popularity. You may disagree but, as I see it, one of the downsides to Evolutionism’s ascendancy is loss of meaning for the individual and loss of dignity for humanity. Human beings used to be viewed as special but now we are simply the same as the animals. Now there is no rhyme or reason to life, no design, grand or otherwise, no meaning and no purpose. We just are! The final scene of the “Perfect Storm” movie springs to mind. The camera withdraws on high to show a “man overboard” drowning in the vast ocean!

Meanwhile back to “Ockham’s Razor.” When little Johnny asks me (the Creationist) where he is from, I say, “God.” However, the (honest) Evolutionist alleges that he does not know. Regardless, in this we see then that the former gives Johnny an anchor and meaning in his life (i.e., God, his Maker), while the latter cruelly leaves him all adrift at sea. Johnny grows up not knowing where he comes from, who he is, where he is going. He has no reference point in life. He is surrounded by many like-minded people who remind him there is no good or evil in the world, that there is no meaning or purpose to his life, and definitely no God of the Bible! Thus Johnny is dehumanised.

In the past during times of war it has been beneficial to dehumanise the enemy. For example, it makes it easier for soldiers to kill an enemy that is no better than an animal. You can shoot a wild pig, can’t you? Well, these people are worse than wild pigs! – that sort of thing. Alas! Whether you are an Evolutionist or a Creationist you must agree that bringing human beings down to the level of animals is going to have an effect on the society in which we live, mostly, if not always, negative. Therefore, in the present “Culture Wars” we can expect many casualties.

Give little Johnny back his dignity. Give him meaning and purpose in life. Tell him about the Triune God who made him, for, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

THE SEA


One of the attractive things about sunny Queensland is the turquoise ocean, palm trees and the golden beaches on its coast. Sun, sand and surf! It was on the third day of formation week that God ‘placed the sand as the bound of the sea’ Jeremiah 5:22. On the fourth day He made the sun, the moon and the stars. Afterwards the earth’s topography would have been altered by the global flood. The volcanic turmoil during that time would have brought on the ice-age, the subsequent melt-water of which would have helped produce the seas as we know them today.

The sea is the lungs of the earth. It is also its kidneys. Its saltiness is a disinfectant of sorts. Micah says that God ‘will cast our iniquities into the depths of the sea’ Micah 7:19. Its evaporative-cycle produces rain that cleanses the earth. Says Elihu, ‘He draws up drops of water, which distil as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man’ Job 36:27-28. Says Solomon, ‘All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again’ Ecclesiastes 1:7. Peter likens the Flood to baptism symbolising the washing away of our sins, ‘In it [i.e., the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.’ 1 Peter 3:20b-21a.

The Gulf Stream, from the Gulf of Mexico, helps keep Scotland temperate. Indeed, a lush, tropical garden can be found at Inverewe in western Scotland. David spoke poetically of sea-channels three thousand years ago, ‘The channels of the sea were seen, the foundations of the world were uncovered, at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of His nostrils’ 2 Samuel 22:16.

Isaiah uses the sea to illustrate, ‘The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt’ Isaiah 57:20 (with Jude 13). Perhaps Jesus calming the sea (and walking on it!) also symbolises His subduing the wicked with His Word. Indeed, the priests were to wash with water from the calm sea depicted in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:23-26; 2 Chronicles 4:2-6 with Exodus 30:18-21). John saw in his vision on the Island of Patmos, ‘Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal’ Revelation 4:6a. Reginald Heber paints the picture, ‘Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore Thee,/ casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;/ cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,/ which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.’

Around 2,000BC God invited Abraham to number the stars, (if he was able!), saying, ‘So shall your descendants be’ Genesis 15:5. With the naked eye Abraham would not have seen much more than 2,500 stars yet he trusted God’s Word that they were without number! For later the Angel of the LORD said, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ Genesis 22:17b-18. ‘If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ Galatians 3:29. As Abraham’s seed Christians will become a multitude without number (Rev. 7:9). Then ‘the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea’ Isaiah 11:9b.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

TRIUMPH OVER EVIL


Reece Harper-Green was a good man – not a perfect man, for who is? but, by general definition, Reece was a good man. His family loved him. He loved his family. His friends and his workmates loved him. And he loved his friends and his workmates. During the Eulogies we heard stories about Reece, about his life. We have laughed together. We have shed tears together as we remember this “good man.”

We live in a world where bad things happen to good people, even people like Reece. Reece’s young life was cut short by that great leveller – death. None of us ultimately escapes death. It’s just that some of us postpone it longer than others. But death comes to us all – sooner or later. I think we are agreed that it was too soon for Reece.

Reece was a tender man, a gentleman, a gentle giant. He wanted to learn how to play “Clair de Lune” on the piano – apparently so that he could impress the girls! Reece lived life to the fullest. He touched so many lives along the way. Has natural friendliness gave him the ability to win the affections of people from all walks of life.

But Reece was also a warrior! It wasn’t just his 6’ 7” height that made Reece stand out in a crowd. It was his belief. Reece believed in something – something profound. Something honourable. In fact Reece believed in an ideal so much so that he had it tattooed onto his body: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” That’s a noble ideal!

One is reminded of that poem written by a Christian minister at the time of Hitler’s rise to power, a version of which is:

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” (Pastor Martin-Niemöller)

It’s all very well having ideals, but how would you put a belief like this into practice? – “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Reece Harper-Green, “H-G,” put his belief into practice. When he joined the army he spoke for us! This “good man” didn’t believe in doing nothing. Reece fought against evil. Not in the halls of academia. Not while leaning on a bar in some pub. No! Risking his own life to protect our freedom Reece fought evil on the battlefield. He fought alongside some of you who are here today – his “brothers-in-arms.”

Reece sought to triumph over evil. He didn’t just think about it. He spoke up. Reece did something about it. In this we see a clear reflection of a greater battle that is going on, an invisible war, a spiritual war for the souls of men and women.

We see what God in Jesus Christ has already done about evil. Jesus is the One God sent into this world to crush the head of evil. Jesus is the One God sent onto the battlefield to fight to protect us from the evil-one and his minions, our enemy.

“Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ laid down His life. He died on the battlefield. For God’s friends? No! For His enemies! As the Scripture says, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son…”

Enemies? That’s what the Bible calls those for whom Christ died. After we believe in Him He calls us His friends. As His enemies we are sinners in need of reconciliation with God. If we are in need of reconciliation we must be out of sorts with God. Jesus spoke for us before God. His cross, His death on the cross speaks loudly and clearly to God and to all who trust Him to be their spokesman. Jay Adams said,

The cross was not merely an act of compassion and mercy directed toward mankind; it was a cosmic event in which God demonstrated who and what He is before all the universe.” Jay Adams “The Biblical View of Self-esteem: Self-love: Self image” p. 89

God demonstrates who He is in His perfect likeness, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ did not let evil flourish. This good Man did not do nothing.

None of us is perfect, not even Reece Harper-Green, but Jesus Christ is perfect. He is the Man of God’s own choosing. He lived a perfect life before God on behalf of all who trust in Him to save them from evil, and ultimately to save them from death. His death is the death of death. For His resurrection has brought us life, everlasting life. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Jesus Christ was dead but is now alive forevermore. Right now He is with His Father in Heaven. Only with Jesus as your Head, as your Champion, as your Representative, your Spokesman before God will you be able to triumph over evil. For evil, like Hitler’s Nazis, has come for you. But be encouraged. Look to Jesus for protection, for life, for everlasting life, for reconciliation with God.

The Bible speaks of your human body as if it were tent. We might chuckle at the picture of Reece trying to sleep with his feet sticking out of the door of a tent because of his height. A tent is a pretty fragile thing in a world surrounded by evil. So is the human body. But don’t despair. For Scripture says, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

On account of His triumph over evil all those who have been reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus “have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

We can triumph over evil because Jesus Christ has already triumphed over evil. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Reece, we thank you for what you did to help to protect us from evil. However, we thank the Lord Jesus Christ for conquering evil by His work on the cross and saving from judgment on the Last Day all who trust and rest in Him!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

DEATH IS NOT THE END!

Death is not the end! We grieve, we sorely grieve when death like a hungry lion drags away someone we know and love. The death of a loved one brings families and friends to their knees. Death is a terrible thing. We hate death because we love life. But death is not the end!

 There is comfort and hope to be found in God’s Word, the Bible, which says, “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4.

 We know of the trials and tribulations Job went through. He lost all of his children, his livestock and his livelihood. But Job knew that death was not the end. He said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

 Job knew that death was not the end because he knew that God would raise him up from the grave after he died. Job believed in the resurrection of the dead. But more than believing that dead human beings can be raised again Job believed in the One who can raise the dead. “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

 We live in an age in which some people try to explain away the idea of a human being returning from the dead. They are quick to say, “It can’t be done!” But Job believed that it could be done and that it would be done – to him. What gave Job the confidence that death is not the end? His Redeemer!

 If you redeem something you buy it back. If you pawn your watch or a gold ring or something of value to you you can redeem it. You can by it back again. Job’s Redeemer has bought him back again. Bought him back from where? From the pawn shop? No! Job’s Redeemer has redeemed him from death.

 Who is Job’s Redeemer? He’s the One whose coming was promised long, long ago in the Old Testament. Job’s Redeemer is the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Job’s Redeemer is the One who was crucified on a cross on Good Friday. He is the One who was dead and buried. He is the One who rose again from the dead on Easter.

 The Redeemer is the One who says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” He is the One who says, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

 We who remain endure pain and sorrow when death our great enemy invades and upsets families, friends and even whole regiments. Those who are closest to the lost loved one suffer most.

 But death is not the end. Death is not the end of Corporal Reece Harper-Green. Yes, we will remember him. Yes, we will honour his memory. But when you know that your Redeemer lives, like a scorpion with a crushed tail, death has lost its sting. The grave has no victory!

Be comforted. Look to the Redeemer, the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

 Let us pray together in the words our Saviour gave us:

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy Kingdom come;

thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Man: Triune in Nature


Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Introduction

In the following we will discuss in broad terms the makeup of the individual human being living in the world today. The Bible reveals God as Triune, i.e., Father and Son and Holy Spirit. When God said, “Let Us make man in Our own image” He really meant it. Being Triune God is the original One and Many, the General and the Particular, Unity in Diversity paradigm. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Father of the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Yet the three are one God. However, keep in mind that God is not made up of three parts. Rather each of the three persons interpenetrates the others. Man, the image and likeness of God, has three interpenetrating aspects: spirit and soul and body.

Military Healthcare

Whether consciously or not the Military cares for each of the three interconnected aspects of man. In general terms the Chaplain ministers to the spirit, the psychologist/psychiatrist attends to the soul (or mind), and the doctor works on the body. Working towards the healing of the individual works best when the Chaplain and the Psychologist/Psychiatrist and the Doctor compare notes on the individual member’s progress. A broken leg can have a diverse effect on the spirit and the soul!

The Chaplain, the Psych and the Doctor

The Doctor perhaps has the easier task of the three in helping to mend a broken soldier. Again, in general terms, unlike the Chaplain and the Psych, the Doctor works with the visible. In an effort to simplify things let us say for argument’s sake that a broken leg, e.g., is attended to more easily than a broken spirit or a troubled soul/mind. The latter two ailments manifest themselves only through the member’s behaviour and his/her verbal communications. It is far easier to mask or hide a mental or a spiritual problem than a damaged or broken limb! In the Military context a member may be afraid to reveal mental health problems on account of a real or perceived fear that it may lead to an early discharge. Thus some member’s mental problems may remain undetected for an extended and unhealthy period without available treatment. This is why it is imperative that the trinity of Chaplain, Psych and Doctor regularly compare with each other (what they can) about an individual’s state of wellbeing.

 Moral Injury

Since “Moral Injury” (MI) is a spiritual problem it comes under the domain of the Chaplain’s area of expertise. MI is a problem of the conscience. The conscience is the moral centre or moral compass of a human being. The Chaplain can work to help the member silence or mitigate an accusing conscience by helping the member be reconciled to God through His Mediator, i.e., Jesus Christ. God’s forgiveness translates into self-forgiveness. Whenever the member is ready to forgive him/herself then the Moral Injury is ready to be healed. Healing comes through trusting in God that He has really forgiven you on account of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. The Holy Spirit (working with God’s Word) does the actual convincing. Thus the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, work together (through the instrument of the Chaplain) to heal the member.

PTSD

Immediately it can be seen that the Chaplain, because he is dealing with a tortured conscience, is encroaching on the area of expertise delegated to the Psych. The conscience is an aspect of the soul or mind. This encroachment is to be expected on account of the makeup of a human being being spirit and soul and body. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been defined as, “A sub-conscious reactive dysfunction where the normal fear suppression processes that get linked and integrated into coherent memory are not in place.” Thus, there is turmoil in the member’s innermost being (the soul or mind). Certain aspects of the soul or mind are out of sync with each other. The member experiences emotions connected with fear and is unable consciously to control them because of a disconnect with the normal process of memory. We do not want to trivialise the emotions experienced by the sufferer of PTSD but, by way of simplistic example, most of us have experienced some panic when we cannot remember the exact spot where parked our car or if we turned off the stove before we left for work. Did we lock the house when we left? We rack our brains trying to remember. We go through the process of remembering step by step while keeping the whole thing in perspective – “It’s only a car…”, “We have house insurance…” However, the PTSD sufferer may have unexpected panic and anxiety attacks with no means controlling them which in turn ratchets-up the episode and totally loses perspective.

Physical Ailment

Moral Injury and PTSD may at times have a detrimental effect on the member’s physical health. Again, this is because the spirit and the soul and the body are one integrated whole. As mental exercises and stimulation are to PTSD’s coping strategies, so diet and exercise are important components of physical wellbeing. A healthy body will more readily cope with and heal a physical ailment. However, at first blush it would seem that a healthy body may not assist in mitigating any of the pain of those suffering from the symptoms of PTSD and/or Moral Injury. However, if we keep in mind that the spirit and the soul and the body interpenetrate each other, we must conclude that there must be some, albeit perhaps small, benefit to maintaining, as far as the member is able, physical fitness. The old adage “Healthy body, healthy mind” does have something going for it.

Summary

Human beings are triune by nature. They are not three parts because God, in whose image they are made, is not three parts. Rather as each aspect of the Godhead (Father and Son and Holy Spirit) interpenetrates the Others, so the human being’s body and soul and spirit interpenetrate each other. Thus total healing is healing of the body and the soul and the spirit.

Conclusion

Moral Injury is to have your own conscience accuse you and blame you for some action you did or failed to do. Notice what the Apostle Paul says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23. God will completely sanctify those who have been reconciled to Him by and through Jesus Christ. This means that God will work in you to repair you – body and soul and spirit! He will wholly transform you. He will preserve you “blameless,” which is to say that God will hold you blameless on Judgment Day on account of what Jesus has done for you and the Holy Spirit has done to you. Our healing comes through faith alone. If we believe that God has forgiven us our sins then we must stop blaming ourselves for them! Moral Injury is cured by trusting that God has forgiven you and it is behaving as if you really believe this good news!

Monday, July 1, 2013

RUNNING FOR HIS PLEASURE!


Ever since being told by a doctor that I was this close to being obese, I have been in the habit of running for three kilometres every morning except (like the good Presbyterian I am), Sundays. Rain or shine I’m out there pounding the pavement. I know that three kilometres is not far when you’re young and fit, but I’ll be fifty seven on my next birthday. Anyway, if you must know, I chose three kilometres because I’m Trinitarian! I’ve shed fourteen kilograms and keep it off by doing fifty sit-ups and thirty push-ups as well as my run. No, six months ago I thought that you’d never catch me doing this every day! But there you go.  

As I run I often think of that line from the Chariots of Fire movie, spoken by the Scottish Eric Liddell (who was born in China) that goes something like, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” I must admit to sometimes feeling my aches and pains far more than His pleasure! However, there is a joy in perseverance. I like it when I get a rhythm going between my breathing and my footfalls. I like it even better when I am conscious of God’s presence!

What did that champion of the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell, mean by feeling God’s pleasure when he runs? I suppose a wee bit of background might help us to understand this. Whether factual or not but in the movie, like any good Christian, Eric Liddell refused to race on Sunday. He had to withdraw from the 100 metres, his speciality event. Instead, he switched to a non-Sabbath event, the 400 metres. He wasn’t expected to do well. At the starting blocks an American slipped a piece of paper into his hand. It had the following a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honour Me I will honour.” Liddell tore round the track with that wee piece of paper in his hand. He won the race and broke the existing world record!

I can see that Liddell kept at least the first five of the Ten Commandments. 1. He put God first. 2. He didn’t form an idol out of his running. 3. He didn’t take the Lord’s name in vain by ignoring Him just for a Sunday run. 4. He remembered the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. 5. He honoured his heavenly Father! I’m sure he kept the rest of the Commandments too but the bottom line is that his running was all about God and not Eric Liddell. I wish I could be like that! But I find myself running for vanity! I ran to lose weight! I continue to run to keep the pounds off! I run because of my job! I run for all the wrong reasons! “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25. Sorry about that but when you ask yourself why you do a thing and then think about it in relation to God and His Law then you realise what a wretch you really are! “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” Anyway, back to feeling God’s pleasure when you run.

This morning, after a wet weekend, the sun poked his head out from behind a cloud. I saw this as my cue to get out there and do my morning run. It was windy. As I ran I was thinking about the words of that hymn, “Breathe on me Breath of God.” In the Bible the Hebrew and the Greek use words that are, depending on context, translated into the English as spirit/wind/breath. As I breathed in time with my footfalls I could feel the wind blowing on my face. Then I felt it on my back as it/He pushed me along! In the confines of my mind, now focussed upon God, I thought, “I’m listening, Lord. You’re with me. I feel Your pleasure!” Oh there was an extra spring in my step, more so than when I was a younger man running past the lassies! I was running for God!

It started to rain. My head got wet! Like a good Presbyterian I thought of baptism and His promise, (Point to note here. As I picked it up to look up this verse my Bible just fell open at the correct page! Anyway), “So shall He sprinkle many nations…” Isaiah 52:15a. I used to follow the baptismal “immersionist” line. But then I came to see that what John the Baptiser was doing with water was representative of what Jesus would do with the Spirit. John says, “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:33. The Sprit descends from the Father to the Son. The Father and the Son pour out, like rain, like the sprinkling of Christ’s shed blood, the Spirit upon believers. Thus, Jesus baptises by pouring or sprinkling!

With the breath of God breathing on me, with His wind at my back, with the Spirit upon me, lifting me, anointing me with water, baptising me, urging me on I began to really feel His pleasure. What joy! As I round the bend towards my home I usually raise the pace and sprint to the finish line. As I did so the sign of His Everlasting Covenant appeared in the sky at the end of my street – the rainbow in the rainclouds that were baptising the earth and me!

If you haven’t already, try it! Run! Run for Him! Feel His pleasure!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Man: God's Moral Agent


 


When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them. Romans 2:14-15

 
Introduction

At the time of Moses God gave the Hebrews a set of instructions called God’s Law. Ordinarily, God’s Law refers to the Ten Commandments or Decalogue. This is the Moral Law. However, from the time of Moses to the time of Christ the body of God’s Law also included civil or judicial and ceremonial applications.

Ceremonial Law

Ceremonial Law included the sacrificial system which revolved around the Tabernacle and then the Temple. This was fulfilled when that which it typified appeared. Jesus Christ is THE Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Ceremonial Law, therefore, was the Gospel or the Good News in picture form, and as such, was displayed to the Hebrews throughout Old Testament times. It is no longer needed now that that which it depicted has come. The Ceremonial Law’s connection to the Moral Law was that it illustrated what needed to be done to atone for sin, i.e., for the individual’s (and the nation’s) breaking of the Moral Law in thought, word and deed.

Judicial or Civil Law

Judicial or Civil Law was simply the application of the Moral Law on a national level, covering such things as how, when and where God was to be worshiped and how the Hebrews were to interact with each other. The Judicial or Civil Law was no longer needed when the nation of Israel was dissolved after Christ’s death and resurrection, but more particularly when the Temple, as predicted by Jesus, was destroyed. The Hebrews were commanded to take the Gospel into all the world.

Soon Gentiles began to be engrafted into the same vine as believing Hebrews as the Gospel began to spread throughout the world beginning from Jerusalem. Thus Israel was no longer a nation with national borders but became that ever-expanding spiritual entity called the Church. The Church is the outward and albeit imperfect expression on earth of the Kingdom of Heaven. However, whether Jew or Gentile, both are one under the headship of Christ Jesus. That which remains of ancient Israel’s Judicial or Civil Law is its general equity or principles.

The Moral Law

The Moral Law is that which is summarised in the Ten Commandments and is summarised again in the command to love God and your neighbour as yourself. The Moral Law is an outward expression of the character of the triune God. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Each Person in the Godhead loves God. Thus God from all eternity loves God and His neighbour as Himself.

The Image of God

Only Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Thus Man has been designed and engineered by God to love God and his neighbour as himself. It is when the individual fails to do this that the individual experiences pangs of conscience. The Apostle Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves” Romans 2:14. In other words, God’s Law previously had been given only to the Hebrews. However, even though the Gentiles do not have God’s Law they are still able by nature, i.e., naturally, to do things taught in God’s Law – things like looking after the elderly, the sick and the infirm. They may honour parents and condemn adultery, stealing and lying. Thus, they that do not have the (written) Law, as Paul goes on to say, “show the work of the law written in their hearts.” Therefore, God’s Moral Law, (which reveals God’s character), is written on the heart of every human being.

The Conscience

The Apostle goes on to say how the Moral Law operates in the heart of the individual, i.e., “their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” Our conscience judges our thoughts, words, and actions. If we do not meet the moral standard, our conscience accuses us. Thus our conscience is like a little policeman we carry around in our head, who either accuses or excuses us when we involve ourselves in moral decisions and actions.

Summary

In summary, the Moral Law given by God through Moses to the ancient Hebrews on tablets of stone is the same Moral Law that is written on the heart of every human being. Our conscience accuses us, not because there is something wrong with God’s Law, rather because there is something wrong with each one of us. The Apostle says that, “we suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18b. This is to say that because we are fallen we try to keep an internal lid on what may be known of God, (i.e., His character as expressed in His Moral Law as it written in our hearts and witnessed to by the external Ten Commandments).

The Two Ways God Reveals Himself

There are two ways in which God reveals Himself to fallen humanity. The first is twofold: The things He has made and our conscience. And the second is the Scriptures. However, since we are fallen creatures the former cannot properly be understood without the latter. Thus, the Ten Commandments, which are written on stone, confirm that which is written on the heart. In other words, the subjective can be confirmed only by the objective. However, in order to effectively silence an accusing conscience one first has to be reconciled to the Author of the Moral Law!

Military Context

For decades and perhaps centuries those involved in military conflict have encountered people displaying what used to be known as “Shell Shock”, then “Battle Fatigue” and now “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD). PTSD has been defined as, “A fear – victim reaction to a perceived life threat. It has clinical symptoms of flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, dissociation.” Then, in America in December 2009, a slightly different (but perhaps related) disorder began to be discussed. It was referred to by psychologist as “Moral Injury.” It has been stated that, “Moral Injury is an inner conflict based on moral self assessment of having inflicted or failed to prevent significant harm. Its symptoms are excessive guilt, loss of meaning, anger and shame.”

“As ‘moral injury’ is more an existential and spiritual crisis than a psychological dysfunction, psychologists have pointed out the limited therapeutic impact that standard cognitive interventions can offer.  The suggestion that effective assistance for moral injury involves some sort of confession and forgiveness within a moral framework has moved the discussion into territory usually covered by chaplains.  The implicit faith-based and moral set of assumptions which under-gird pastoral transactions in chaplaincy are precisely what appears to be needed in repairing moral injury.”[1]

Conclusion

Like all moral dilemmas “Moral Injury” is a problem of the conscience. Oswald Chambers got it right when he said, “Conscience is the internal perception of God’s Moral Law.” Therefore anyone with a conscience is aware of God’s Law. The Apostle Paul says, “The Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” Galatians 3:24. Thus, the accusing conscience, by revealing God’s Moral Law on our heart, demonstrates to the individual their need for Christ, the Saviour of sinners. Therefore, the inner conflict of conscience can be remedied by Jesus Christ revealed only in the Gospel.
 

Monday, May 27, 2013

BLUE MOON


The contemporary meaning of the term ‘once in a blue moon’ is easier to understand than its origin! Nowadays a blue moon is commonly understood to be an extremely rare occurrence, perhaps never. However, apparently originally it did not refer to a second full moon in a month but to the third full moon in a season with four. The word month comes from moon. The reason the date for Easter varies each year is on account of Easter Sunday needing to be within a week of the first full moon of the spring season. Indeed, the Triune God had seasons in mind when He created the sun, the moon and the stars, ‘Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years’ Genesis 1:14. ‘He appointed the moon for seasons’ Psalm 104:19a.

The Apostle Paul refers to a ‘once in a blue moon’ occurrence where he says, ‘For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:7-8. Grace is the hardest thing for human beings to understand! Jesus did not lay down His life for the righteous or those who work hard at trying to be good. He died for sinners, i.e. wicked people. ‘As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”’ Romans 3:10-12. My old theological professor used to say something like, ‘Grace is not receiving what you do deserve while receiving what you do not deserve.’

To sin is to break the law, God’s Law, in thought or word or deed. To break God’s Law is to incur God’s penalty, ‘The wages of sin is death’ Romans 6:23a. No human being escapes, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ Romans 3:23. However, here is the good news, here is the grace of God, in the second half of a verse just quoted ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ Romans 6:23. Eternal life is a gift!

Once in a blue moon will you meet a Christian today who has understood and can articulate that God saves sinners by His grace alone! Salvation is a gift that has been earned by Christ alone and is received through faith alone, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.’ Ephesians 2:8-9.

What Jesus did on the cross was a ‘blue moon’ occurrence. ‘Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having attained eternal redemption’ Hebrews 9:12. After celebrating the last Passover (which He transformed into the Lord’s Supper) He was arrested and crucified. As He hung on the tree we are told, ‘Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour’ Mark 15:33. We know that this darkness was not a solar eclipse because the Paschal Moon was a full moon. Solar eclipses cannot happen when the moon is full. The darkness symbolised spiritual darkness as the Father turned His face away from His Son on the cross. May He make His face to shine upon you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

HISTORY & FREEDOM


History and Freedom

Christians love the pun: History is His story. History is just another word for providence. If ‘Providence’ were a wooden ship, the Father’s hand is on the tiller, the Son, Jesus, is Captain and the Holy Spirit is the wind in her sails. History has to do with God’s sovereignty in all things. However, if God is sovereign how can there be any freedom?

The first couple of chapters of the Bible provide an historical record of God creating creation, summarised in Exodus 20:11 thus, ‘For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.’ Therefore, history began with seven historical days, days in which God spoke and things that were not became things that are! Those days are about what God did. They are His story. He controlled history for at least those first six days. However, what happened after this? Like the Medes and Persians of old, some attempt to rewrite history. Revisionists try to expunge the name of the Sovereign from all records. They try to deny the historicity of the Bible and come up with theories on how creation came into being. Which is it? If God were in sovereign control then how come human beings have freedom to make up their own ‘histories’ of creation?

The God of history gave human beings freedom, otherwise known as ‘free will’. When God made the first man, Adam, He gave him the freedom either to believe and follow what God says, or not believe it and thereby go his own way. By choosing the latter Adam and his posterity, (which includes you and me), are conceived, born and live in a state of unbelief until and unless God converts us. Christian conversion is believing in God and the works He has done through His Son as He is revealed by the Holy Spirit in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

God’s sovereignty in history and humanity’s freedom is seen in the following, ‘[Jesus], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.’ Acts 2:23-24. In this historical event God sacrificed His only begotten Son. The instrument He used was men exercising their free will. These men are accountable to God for their actions. God did not make them do it. They wanted to. They did it freely. Thus God even works evil for good! (Rom. 8:28).

From supernovas to dying budgies and receding hairlines every historical event is under the sovereign control of God. For, He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.’ Psalm 147:4. And, ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.’ Matthew 10:29-30. ‘I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?’ Benjamin Franklin, 28 June 1787.

What shall we do with God’s sovereignty and humanity’s freedom in history? We ought to keep them in proper tension and ‘Let God be true but every man a liar.’ Romans 3:4a. Let us climb aboard the good ship ‘Providence’ and seek to do His will on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Monday, May 6, 2013

TRANSFORMATION


Christianity is all about transformation (Rom. 12:2). The leaven of Christ’s kingdom is to permeate the whole batch of dough (Matt. 13:33), which means that Christians are to turn the whole world upside down by use of the Gospel (Acts 17:6). The Gospel began to spread from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-5), especially with Philip’s and Peter’s missionary journeys (Acts 8:5-13; 26-40; 9:32-10:48). Then, beginning in earnest with the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, Christianity built the West as its influence grew through the centuries. However, because there is yet to be a “Christian era” it is wrong to speak of a “post-Christian” era.

Jesus says, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ John 18:36a. ‘Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”’ Luke 17:20-21. Thus, the spread of Christ’s kingdom is invisible to the naked eye. It is spiritual, and, as such, is the domain of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit started His work right at the beginning of creation, shaping the world (Gen. 1:2) and working invisibly in the hearts of men even after the Fall (Gen. 6:3). Those who have been chosen by the Father (Eph. 1:3-6) also belong to the Son (John 17:6) and enter His kingdom as the Spirit enables them (John 3:5-8). However, those who do not belong to the kingdom always resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Thus the world consists of people who belong to the kingdom living side by side with people who belong to the evil one. The two kingdoms are described in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matt. 13:24-30). Likewise the Lord’s Church on earth comprises of true believers and unbelievers (some of whom may be deluded). ‘They are not all Israel who are of Israel’ Romans 9:6b, and, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us’ 1 John 2:19.

So we see then that the Spirit is at work in the world transforming individuals who, collectively, make up the kingdom of God on earth. Thus, the kingdom of Heaven grows on earth as the Spirit works effectively with the Word in the hearts of believers.He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ’ Philippians 1:6. ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’ Habakkuk 2:14.

Christ’s transforming kingdom began with the salvation of an individual, i.e., Adam, right after the Fall (Gen. 3:21). Like the mustard seed growing into a great tree it grew into a family in Abraham (Gen. 15:4-6). It continued to grow and became a nation in Jacob (Gen. 49:1-28). It became international, nay, cosmic, when Christ (the Seed of the Woman who was promised in Genesis 3:15 with Galatians 3:16) rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven from whence He and the Father sprinkled His Church, baptising her with the Holy Spirit. Thus, as the Spirit enables, Christ’s kingdom spreads, transforming whole nations.

‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God’ Romans 12:2.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES - Book Review




THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES
Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church
Edited by Gregory C. Jenks, Polebridge Press, 2013, 144 pages.
 



Critique and review by Neil Cullan McKinlay


Introduction

In the Foreword of THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES, Phillip Aspinall, Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, says,



Is it possible for today’s Anglicans to hear God speaking through Scripture? After all, the whole point of listening to the Bible is to hear God speak. Is it possible in this day and age, knowing all that the Enlightenment, science and biblical criticism[1] have discovered, to read and hear the Bible intelligently and to hear through Scripture the voice of God? Resoundingly, yes![2]


Premise & Content
THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES is a blatant attack on the authority of the Bible and therefore is a denial of the Sufficiency of the Scriptures. For following Phillip Aspinall’s Foreword is an Introduction and a series of seven chapters written by different Anglican authors all seeking to undermine and contradict Aspinall’s affirmative statement (see above)!

Lest the reader of this critique and review be misled into thinking that Phillip Aspinall is defending Christianity against the attacks being made against it by the rest of the book’s contributors please consider the following. For here we see that clearly he also rejects the Bible as the very Word of God,


The Enlightenment and the rise of modern science raised a host of questions about the presuppositions behind biblical stories. If the assumptions on which the stories are based no longer hold, can the stories themselves still be regarded as conveying truth? The advent of biblical criticism in the nineteenth century shook the foundations again. Applying the methods of historical and literary criticisms to the Bible and setting aside a priori notions of sacredness and authority, in other words treating the Bible just like any other book, revealed its very human and fallible composition.[3]

Let’s see if we have it right, according to Aspinall’s presuppositions about the Bible Christians are to assume that the Book (that itself claims to be the very Word of God and was treated as such by Jesus, the Son of God!) to be a fallible composition and is to be treated like any other book. This is an astonishingly blatant attack on Christianity! And it is coming from a position inside the Lord’s Church on earth.

If anyone was wondering why unbelievers would bother getting out of bed on a Sunday morning to come and worship “the unknown god” (see Acts 17:23) then this book is a must-read! It quickly will become clear to the discerning reader that it is for the overthrowing of Christianity from within!

Attack On Christianity
When did these attacks on Christianity first begin? One has to look no further than the first book of the Bible where the devil, seeking to cast doubt on God’s Word, said to Eve, “Has God indeed said…” Genesis 3:1. However, Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness by trusting in what God says, “It is written…” Then He would quote chapter and verse to the evil one (Matthew 4:1-11).

The Pharisees were the Bible “spin-doctors” when Jesus walked this earth. He used the Bible to correct their twistings as exampled throughout His Sermon On the Mount. Showing that He believed every word of the Old Testament Scriptures Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:18-19. Arguably, Biblical Criticism teaches people to break God’s Commandments.

Jesus also used the Bible to correct the erroneous beliefs of the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God … But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’” Matthew 22:29; 31-32.

The Apostle Peter also warns Christians to watch out for the Scripture “spin-doctors” where he says, “Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15-16. Notice that Peter is placing Paul’s Epistles on par with the rest of Scripture. And yes, some things in Scripture are hard to understand. However, this doesn’t mean that we are to reject the bits we don’t like.

Like the earth’s north and south poles the Lord’s Church on earth has always had two outer regions that are cold to the God who has revealed Himself in His written Word: Legalists and Liberals. In the Bible the group known as the Pharisees were the Legalists and the Sadducees were the Liberals. THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church is written by those who have much in common with the latter category. “For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both” Acts 23:8 (cf. Mark 12:18).

One only has to engage a Theological Liberal in a discussion about God, angels, spirit and the resurrection to discover that they are simply using theological language to describe something other than the plain teaching of Scripture on these and other subjects! Therefore Theological Liberals are modern-day Sadducees. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’” Matthew 16:6.

If we keep in mind that the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees is the same leaven, i.e., Scripture-twisting, then we won’t be confused if we see commonalities between these two groups who, upon first sight, may seem poles apart. Truth be known, it is the Legalist/Liberal coalition that is against Christianity. It undermines that upon which Christianity is founded: the Word of God.

What do Christian Anglicans believe? For what it’s worth Anglican priests subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Three Creeds. In other words, the Thirty-Nine Articles (and the Three Creeds) express what Anglicans believe about the Bible and what the Bible teaches. This means that Anglican priests hold a high view of God’s Word and its teaching. Articles VI – VIII illustrate this:
 
Article VI Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church … [Article VI goes on to list these Books].
Article VII – Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore there are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
Article VIII – Of the Three Creeds
The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.[4]

Under the suggestive head “The ‘Problem’ with the Bible” contributor Gregory C. Jenks says,


The continuing debates within both Australian Anglicanism and the international Anglican Communion indicate there is no consensus on what we mean when ascribing to God some role in the creation of the Bible. As the Bible itself is ambiguous over the matter, this confusion is not surprising.[5]

Wow! When did Christians ever doubt that the Word of God is the Word of God? Never! But here is someone in the Church blowing his own trumpet and confusing people.

Humanist Intrusion
Who are these unbelievers and what are they doing in the Lord’s Church? They are modern-day Humanists. The late Francis Schaeffer many years ago described the infiltration of Humanism into the Lord’s Church,
 
Liberal theology is only Humanism using theological terms, and that’s all it ever was, all the way back into Germany right after the Enlightenment.[6]

The mask of hypocrisy is removed. What we’re seeing in THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES is the infiltration of Humanism into the Lord’s Church. Schaeffer also says,

"The word Humanism should be carefully defined … Humanism means that the man is the measure of all things. Man is the measure of all thingsYou must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God."[7]

In his contribution to the book, under the head Scripture, Science, and the Big Story, Peter Catts espouses his Humanistic hermeneutic. Note that he refers to Christians as “creationists” and “fundamentalists,”


A group sought to use quasi-scientific methods to prove that the myths of the Bible were history and that the faith-based worldview was, in fact, scientific. [This group] saw “facts” being defended against the evidence. Modern-day deists and creationists encapsulate these understandings  ... Also inadequate is the push for the recapturing of the religion of our fore-fathers that sees religious fundamentalists worldwide clinging to a now dead story that leads them to contend that the findings of science are not true.[8]

Catts doesn’t define what he means by “quasi-scientific methods” or what he means by “scientific” or which “findings of science are not true” to Christians. However, it is clear that he rejects Scripture’s historicity and the Creator’s explanation of creation and its origins. In other words Catts is a Humanist.

Likewise Cathy Thomson in her contribution chapter titled Scripture as Normative Source in Theology, betrays that she too is a practicing Humanist when she says,
Scripture–that (sacred) book–has sacred possibility only through its human (yet graced) composition and compilation, and the holy susceptibility of the reader … It is with the blessed constraint of anticipating no possibility (of absolute truth) and every possibility (of God’s grace), and these at one and the same time that I, the theologian, take Holy Scripture into my hands.[9]


God’s grace or no, here Thomson has set herself up as the measure of Scripture! She anticipates no possibility of absolute truth! Wow! The Jesus Christians believe in says He is the Truth and He says that God’s Word is truth (John 14:6 and 17:17). The Bible itself claims to be true (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 22:18-19). Give me Christianity over Humanism any day. At least Christ spoke (as Schaeffer liked to call it) true truth. Thomson continues,



The assertion that the Scriptures are somehow revealed truth, that they are inspired and therefore free from error, does not really circumvent the difficulties faced by biblical scholars and Christian theologians as they attempt to interpret their meaning. A faith community might choose to make truth claims about biblical inerrancy, but this is often done through what are considered to be illogical circularities, such as using the Bible itself to determine principles for interpretation for Scripture.[10]

Rather than begin with Scripture Thomson wants us to begin our “circular reasoning” with ourselves! It matters not where one begins. All reasoning is circular! Thus Thomson rejects what Christians believe as stated in the following 1636 Westminster Confession of Faith in chapter 1 paragraph IX:
 

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

In his chapter, Scripture, God-Talk and Jesus, after saying that the Atheist Richard Dawkins “fixates on those particularly abhorrent depictions of the Deity that rightly deserved to be shelved.” Nigel Leaves immediately goes on to say,
 

It is also a common offence among those who are “agenda-driven” that they “cherry pick” biblical texts to support their preconceived thesis.[11]

He then goes on to define a little his take on “fundamentalism” by which (I think!) he means Christianity. Pardon me but isn’t cherry-picking another name for Liberal Theology? For isn’t their fixation and use of J, E, P, D Theory[12] not an exercise in the picking and choosing engaged in by an agenda-driven group with a preconceived thesis, i.e., that the Bible is not God-breathed?

Steven Ogden, in his chapter, Wisdom as well as Facts, offers us a little help what Humanists (a.k.a. Liberals) mean by “fundamentalism” where he says,
In general fundamentalists can be characterised by a particular view of truth, where truth is universal, absolute, identifiable, and in their possession.[13]

I must admit that this sounds very much like what Christians actually do believe! However, in typical Orwellian “double-speak” he also says,


In Australia, a “conservative evangelical” is not necessarily fundamentalist. The difference hinges largely on epistemology.[!!!?][14]


It was good to see the renowned, sensible and theologically sound Anglican Theologian J.I. Packer quoted from in this book. However, I am unhappy to see how Susan Crothers-Robertson ignores his sage advice in her chapter Scripture and Formation for Ministry,


James Packer is quite sure that biblical criticism has gone too far! He believes that “unbelief of the Bible is at a premium” in theological seminaries and continues: “In the seminaries, alas, there is a habit encouraging the way-out enterprising thinkers who follow this track of leaving the Bible behind, and developing their own theologies in the way that the learned people have been doing all the way through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries … Persons who get sent to theological teaching institutions where this is happening have their minds stuffed with this kind of theologizing and then, just like schoolmasters, they go out and teach what they were taught.” Packer goes so far as to say that teaching critical thinking and encouraging people to pay attention to the diversity within the Scriptures is a serious violation of Article 20[15]: [says Packer] “You do not need to tell me that the violation of this Article is one of the besetting sins of theological leaders today both in the Anglican Church and in the others.”[16]

Conclusion
I would agree with Packer that the authors of THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church seem to be placing their ordination vows into question along with the Anglican Church’s continued observance of the Fundamental Declaration and Ruling Principle of the Anglican Church of Australia.

See a review by Michael Bird): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2013/05/book-review-anglican-bibliology-for-a-progressive-audience/
 



[1] “Biblical Criticism” views Biblical texts as having human rather than supernatural origins.
[2] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, p. xi.
[3] Ibid. pp. ix-x.
[4] All Thirty-Nine Articles may be viewed at: http://acl.asn.au/the-thirty-nine-articles/
[5] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, pp. 22-23.
[6] Francis Schaeffer in a speech made at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Florida. http://www.peopleforlife.org/francis.html
[7] Ibid.
[8] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, pp. 120-21.
[9] Ibid. p. 26.
[10] Ibid. p. 30.
[11] Ibid. p. 64.
[12] The JEDP theory states that the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were not written entirely by Moses, who died in the 1400's B.C., but also by different authors/compilers after Moses. Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/JEDP-theory.html#ixzz2RdP62lVM
[13] Ibid. p. 45.
[14] Ibid. Footnote 2, p. 59.
[15] Article XX – Of the Authority of the Church
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
[16] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, pp. 86-87.