Posts Tagged ‘Forsyth’

Friends,

This is the text of a sermon I preached on Resurrection Sunday in 2007. It’s a very personal reflection on suffering. 2007 was a difficult year for me physically as I have never been to as many doctors, taken so many prescriptions, and told my health history so many times as I did last year. When it was all said and done, I still have no answers to what was going on inside of my body or why I felt the way I did. I will say that it totally wrecked whatever confidence I may have had in doctors. Chiropractic, cardiology, ENT, General Practice, Urologist–not one of them could figure out what was ailing me. Waste of time and money is what it was. Anyhow, this is the manuscript from Resurrection Sunday 2007.

Resurrection Sunday, April 8, 2007

Thoughts on the Resurrection Life

Various Scriptures

 Introduction

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”—Romans 6:5, NIV

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I spent the better part of Holy Week lying prostrate on a green, old, cushion-worn couch that sits on the hard, cold wooden floors of my 100 some year old house. For a few hours of the holy week I laid on a cold, plastic hospital gurney in an Emergency Room. For a few minutes I laid on the floor of my study at the Church building. I also spent several hours lying on the not too uninviting bathroom floor in front of the toilet in my house. For some reason, and I don’t know why, but when I am sick, lying on the bathroom floor brings me considerable comfort. I also spent some time in the back of an ambulance, in my bed, in a doctor’s office, hunched over behind a small pulpit, in an emergency room lobby, and in my pajamas.

I did not get a lot of work done this week. I felt rather worthless and guilty. Here it is the most important week on the church calendar, by far, and there I lay: on a couch, on the linoleum, on the carpet, on the bed, on the plastic. I felt ridiculous, absurd, and more than once, like a complete waste of time, a non-benefit to humanity. How can I just lay here? I have to get something done, there are people who are depending on me and the work I do every day.

When I was not writhing in godly pain, I was too tired to read or stay awake. Television lost its distracting benefit after about 5 minutes—and besides, who can sit through more than 2 minutes of Maury? When I did manage to fall asleep the dogs or the phone managed to cut it more than short. When none of this worked, I was twisted and wrenched in a pain that has been described to me in words that range somewhere between equal to and worse than giving birth to a fully gestated human being. I care not to experience either one either again or at all. They say a woman soon forgets childbirth; I wish I could forget what I experienced but for some reason the memories linger on even today. Residual pain from all the work the muscles did over a period of 5 days trying to expel a small stone only slightly larger than a mustard seed.

When the pain came upon me I had a few options at my disposal. First, I could take pain medication. Vicadin is what the ER Doctor prescribed. He may as well have given me M & M’s. Alternately, I could lay there, or stand, or walk, or roll around on the floor like a dog with fleas, or jerk, or shake my limbs as if I had been slain in the spirit. There was also the possibility that I could assuage my pain with a hot water bottle or with the nicely microwave heated bag of field corn that Mrs. S. loaned to me. I could drink water or cranberry juice. There was, surprisingly, the option of going upstairs to the bathroom and taking a long scalding hot shower. The doctor I saw Friday told me this relaxed the muscles and reduced their contractions. This worked well until I drained the hot water tank. It worked 3 or 4 times over the course of a couple of days. I could also spend as much time as I liked saying, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Water, water everywhere…

Well, mine was no crucifixion, but it may as well have been because insofar as pain is concerned, I was being crucified. And I make no apologies for thinking such. Pain is pain and hurt is hurt. In my heart I believed, because the pain was so great, the stress so un-mitigating, and the fear so unnerving, that I was dying.

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What a way to spend this most Holy week on the Christian calendar. Surely, I guess, I should have been ‘out there’ among the masses. I should have been conducting Holy Wednesday services, Maundy Thursday Services, Good Friday Services, Sabbath Services and finally Sunrise & Resurrection Services. And each of those services should have been something original, inventive, unique and entertaining—something causing us deep emotional stirrings. But there I lay, on my couch, barely able to lift my eyes let alone my bible or my pen.

I couldn’t even go to school where I believe I have a very serious, real-life, real-time ministry to the masses. But the one day I tried to go, Wednesday, I walked in, grimacing in pain, and walked out, hunched over like Quasimodo barely able to control the nausea rising up inside my esophagus, shamed because I was hurting so badly, embarrassed because I could not stay and discharge my responsibilities in the lunch room, humiliated because I had to make such a confession to a room full of older ladies. There I was: young, vigorous, strong, healthy young man, as weak as a baby, helpless as a cripple, weaker than an old woman.

What a way to spend the Holiest Week on the Christian calendar. Unable to do anything but lay on the couch, in pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, succored by a hot water bottle, crippled with an unquenchable pain that incapacitated me. I could do nothing. The medication didn’t work. I could barely smile. If I received five minutes of relief I suffered for 5 hours for it.

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Friends,

Here I am again, overwhelmed at how freely flows the pen of the masters. I lament that we no longer live in a day and age when people are moved by such profundity–preferring instead to be captivated by smooth, earthly philosophies; guilt trips that impose on the grace of God. Here is Spurgeon, with whom I have not spent a great deal of my leisure time, but one who certainly understood well exactly what our culture continues to miss: The triumph over all the ills of our culture and world has already been declared in the Cross!

To the eye of reason the cross is the centre of sorrow and the lowest depth of shame. Jesus dies a malefactor’s death. He hangs upon the gibbet of a felon and pours out his blood upon the common mount of doom with thieves for his companions. In the midst of mockery, and jest, and scorn, and ribaldry, and blasphemy, he gives up the ghost. Earth rejects him and lifts him from her surface, and heaven affords him no light, but darkens the mid-day sun in the hour of his extremity. Deeper in woe the Saviour dived, imagination cannot descend. A blacker calumny than was cast on him satanic malice could not invent. He hid not his face from shame and spitting; and what shame and spitting it was! To the world the cross must ever be the emblem of shame: to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. How different however is the view which presents itself to the eye of faith. Faith knows no shame in the cross, except the shame of those who nailed the Saviour there; it sees no ground for scorn, but it hurls indignant scorn at sin, the enemy which pierced the Lord. Faith sees woe, indeed, but from this woe it marks a fount of mercy springing. It is true it mourns a dying Saviour, but it beholds him bringing life and immortality to light at the very moment when his soul was eclipsed in the shadow of death. Faith regards the cross, not as the emblem of shame, but as the token of glory. The sons of Belial lay the cross in the dust, but the Christian makes a constellation of it, and sees it glittering in the seventh heaven. Man spits upon it, but believers, having angels for their companions, bow down and worship him who ever liveth though once he was crucified. My brethren, our text presents us with a portion of the view which faith is certain to discover when its eyes are anointed with the eye-salve of the Spirit. It tells us that the cross was Jesus Christ’s field of triumph. There he fought, and there he conquered, too. As a victor on the cross he divided the spoil. Nay, more than this; in our text the cross is spoken of as being Christ’s triumphal chariot in which he rode when he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. Calvin thus admirably expounds the last sentence of our text:—”the expression in the Greek allows, it is true, of our reading–in himself;the connection of the passage, however, requires that we read it otherwise; for what would be meagre as applied to Christ, suits admirably well as applied to the cross. For as he had previously compared the cross to a signal trophy or show of triumph, in which Christ led about his enemies, so he now also compares it to a triumphal car in which he showed himself in great magnificence. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay, more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.”

Oh, thank God for the cross. This is why I love Forsyth, Wells, Bonhoeffer and Spurgeon. These men are and are not afraid of the cross. The understand deeply our utter hopelessness apart from it. They understand well that our triumph is the triumph of Christ alone. I hope that our generation will soon awaken to the Cross we have so frequently neglected.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

John 19:28-42 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 85)

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

What are we to make of all this? Jesus is thirsty. Jesus declares ‘it’ is finished. Legs being broken. Spears being brandished. Water and blood flowing. Garden tombs. It is quite a detailed explanation of someone’s death. Obviously, or perhaps not to some, the person who wrote these words was there and witnessed it. He is not inventing a story to gore us or bore us. He is giving us his testimony of what happened that day to the man Named Jesus.

There are some significant features to this story. I’d like to focus on one in particular. Jesus said, “It is finished.” Then he “bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” To make this short: No one took the life of Jesus. One cannot steal what is given. Jesus gave His life; he determined when ‘it’ was finished. What we see here is the picture of Jesus who was in control even when He was dying; even when the moment of his death arrived it was so by his own determination.

To whom was Jesus talking, or shouting, when he, with wet tongue and throat, shouted, “It is finished!” Was he praying to God? Was he telling those who were witnessing the crucifixion? Was it just the work of justification, or was it all of Scripture that was finished? Whatever it was, and to whomever he said it, isn’t it satisfying to know that it is finished? Isn’t it satisfying, relieving, to know that there is nothing more that we need to do or that we can do? Isn’t it satisfying to hear those words, to read those words, to meditate on those words of Jesus and know that He has done the Work from start to finish? Isn’t it humbling to know that there is nothing we can add to this work? Isn’t it amazing to know that from generation to generation people will read these words, “it is finished,” and know that for all time the work is done?

Another important aspect of these verses is the importance their author gives to the Scripture. I sometimes think that in the Church we don’t consider the Scripture well enough. We like to pay it lip-service and maybe quote it here and there. Maybe we even believe that it has something to say to us about some aspect of our lives. But here we see Jesus controlling himself in such a way, controlling the events in such a way, that what was fulfilled in his life was Scripture and not his own desires or ambitions.

The Scripture said that Jesus would be thirsty, not have any broken bones, and would be pierced. Jesus knew these things and made a conscience decision to proceed. His ambition was to fulfill Scripture which means, in short, that Jesus lived and died his life with a complete sense of doing the will of God. Scripture means the ‘Old Testament,’ spoken by God through the Prophets. It means that Jesus lived his life and died his life with the sole ambition of Proving God’s Word to be true. He deliberately did things ‘so that Scripture would be fulfilled.’ He left nothing out of the equation.

Doesn’t it make you wonder about our own lives? Don’t you wonder sometimes if we are living our lives in accordance with the Scripture? Don’t you wonder if we are conducting ourselves in such a way that God is justified even if we are not? Jesus’ death accomplished our salvation, but Jesus’ death also justified God. The cross means that no one can accuse God of being unfair, unjust, or uninvolved. “So the justification of God is not given us by Christ; it isChrist; who under the judgment from man took His native place as the judge of all the earth, justifying the God of holy love in His justification of all the world.” (PT Forsyth, The Justification of God, 187)

I want to live with that sort of ambition. I can’t justify the world, and I cannot justify God. But what I can do is live my life in such a way that God is, in a sense, justified. In other words, I can live in such a way that doesn’t contradict what God has said: I can live His truth. I want to live my life out of the ambition that the only thing that matters is demonstrating by my words, my conduct, my deeds that God is Right and Just.

Finally, let there be no mistaking this point: Jesus died. He gave up his Spirit. The Blood and Water flowed. The Spear was driven into His side. They took his body down. They wrapped his body. They put His body in a nearby tomb. The people who participated in these activities knew that Jesus was dead. Pilate knew. The soldiers knew. Joseph knew. Nicodemus knew. The disciple testifying knew. No one was in any doubt that Jesus was dead. They wrapped him in cloths, placed him in a tomb with about 75 lbs of spices, and left. There is simply nothing else to say about this scene: Jesus was clearly, without a shadow of doubt, dead.

What Christians believe is there is some connection between ‘It is Finished’ and ‘They placed him in a tomb.’ There is some connection between the work being done and Jesus having died. But what I suspect happened that day is that people saw Jesus placed in a tomb and thought: We are done with that! And so went on the Day of Preparation—preparing for something. But did they know what?

It’s easy to put Jesus in the tomb and forget about Him. It’s easy to seal the tomb with a large rock and think that just another man has been crucified and buried. Even all the cloths and the 75 lbs of spices speak to this thought: They expected a body to rot. They were not expecting Sunday. They had life to get on with: “Break the legs, get them dead, put him in a tomb so we can get on with Preparation Day.” Little did they know that they were totally unprepared for what God had planned. Sometimes I think Christians are the same way. Jesus died and ‘it is finished.’ Then he is prepared for burial, placed in a nearby tomb, and forgotten. Sometimes I think that we are content with the work of Christ being finished in the sense that we get lazy about what he has begun.

Jesus finished something that day when He bowed his head and gave up his spirit, of this there is no doubt in my mind. But Jesus also began something that Day. It is this beginning that we too often fail to bear in mind.

Soli Deo Gloria!

John 16:25-33 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 75)

25″Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” 29Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” 31″You believe at last!” Jesus answered. 32″But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33″I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I’d like to focus on the last verse today; verse 33. I agree: The world is full of trouble. It’s hard to keep up with all the trouble in the world. The irony is, I think, that the world continues to tell us that the answer is to move further and further away from God, ignore the Bible more and more, mock Jesus with increasing vigor. And so the world goes.

The atheists would have us to believe that they are making progress. The Darwinists would have us believe that we will continue to improve with each technological advancement. The liberal theologians would have us to believe that increased inclusiveness (sort of an ‘all world religion’) will make for greater peace. And so the world goes.

There’s more we must contend with in the world too. Increased violence. Increased hatred. Increased angst. Suicide. Homicide. War. The world continues to run down and people continue to go about their merry way. And so the world goes.

Is it any better in the church? I don’t think so. Important doctrines continue to be watered down in efforts to ‘get more people in.’ More and more sins are continually added to the list of ‘Oh God made me this way so it must be OK.’ More and more Scripture continues to be discredited by people who are more concerned about the ‘things of man’ than the ‘things of God.’ More and more false doctrine is preached from pulpits across America and around the world. And so the world goes.

I won’t end, I don’t think, anytime soon; however, I don’t happen to think that this means we should despair. The world had its chance to win and it did not take advantage of it. The world cannot win; it will not achieve victory; the world will never be triumphant over Righteousness. I know that right now it might look bleak. I suppose there hasn’t been a time in the history of man when times haven’t looked bleak. That does not mean that the world has triumphed. It does not mean the atheist’s denials prove anything. It does not mean that the Darwinist will last stand forth. It does not mean that the forces of evil in this present darkness will have the last say or the last laugh.

They have been crushed already beneath the heal of the Righteous One.

I want this to be an encouragement to those of you who read it. The world had its chance and the world failed. As Forsyth wrote, “The evil world will not win at last, because it failed to win at the only time it ever could. It is a vanquished world where men play their devilries. Christ has overcome it. It can make tribulation, but desolation it can never make” (The Justification of God, 223). This is the Christian’s hope. It is also a hope that world in general hopes to replicate through government oversight, through booming economies, and wars. If the world only knew what Christ has already accomplished! If only the world would submit to the Word of Christ! If only the world knew Jesus!

DA Carson wrote, “Jesus is not opposing the church and the world that there can be no conversions from the latter to the former. Nor does the very rendered ‘overcome’ merely refer to a personal overcoming, the preservation of personal integrity in the face of protracted opposition. Rather, the verb indicates victory; Jesus has conquered the world, in the same way that he has defeated the prince of this world. Jesus’ point is that by his death he has made the world’s opposition pointless and beggarly. The decisive battle has been waged and won. The world continues its wretched attacks, but those who are in Christ share the victory he has won. They cannot be harmed by the world’s evil, and they know who triumphs in the end. From this they take heart, and begin to share his peace” (The Gospel According to John, 550).

It’s not really that difficult to understand. The decisive victory has already been won. The world now is in the death throes of its impending demise. All those who think that their opposition matters are living in a delusion. But there is another issue here, too, that Christians need to bear in mind lest they grow arrogant in this victory: “Christianity is not the sacrifice we make, but the sacrifice we trust; not the victory we win, but the victory we inherit. That is the evangelical principle. We do not see the answer; we trust the Answerer, and measure by Him. We do not gain the victory; we are united with the Victor” (Forsyth, 220-221). So take heart! Be of Good Cheer! Rejoice and Be Glad! Celebrate! Evil and all that evil perpetuates has been crushed, humiliated, destroyed!

This is what makes the world unsafe—not that we win, but that He haswon. Perhaps we should take the time to rest in that victory. Do we really comprehend this God who does whatever it takes to destroy the infestation of evil in this world, and did? I’ll close these thoughts with another quote from Forsyth.

Must we not go on to find and trust in the Cross something more absolute even than universal, something which does not simply promise the final victory, but achieves it, something which is the crucial act of the world’s King, and not simply an act which ought to make Him that King, if right had might? Has He not only value for us but right, not only right but equal might? Is the last enemy already destroyed in the Cross? Is the last victory won? Are all things already put under the feet of God’s love and grace? Have we in the Cross of Christ the crisis of all spiritual existence? The Christian religion stands and falls with the answer Yes to such questions. In His Cross, Resurrection and Pentecost, Christ is the Son of God’s love with power. God’s love is the principle and power of all being. It is established in Christ everywhere and forever. Love so universal is also absolute and final. The world is His, whether in maelstrom or volcano, whether it sink to Beelzebub’s grossness or rise to Lucifer’s pride and culture. The thing is done, it is not to do. ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ ‘This is the victory which hasovercome the world—your faith.’ The only teleology is a theodicy, and the only theodicy is theological and evangelical” (The Justification of God, 167).

Amen. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I haven’t yet figured out this fella named Dinesh D’Souza. He seems to be all the rage nowadays among certain wings of churchianity. However, I came across this little essay he wrote and published at Townhall.com and I thought it was a rather interesting piece: Are Atheists the New Gays? Mr D’Souza spends the majority of the short essay mocking Richard Dawkins (which is fine as far as it goes) because of his campaign to style the atheists of the world as the ‘new gays’ (as if atheists have to go through all the terrible ordeals that homosexuals have to go through, like getting married, and suchlike. Imagine how tough it must be for a homosexual atheist to get married! Just kidding. Sort of.) Anyhow…Mr D’Souza writes:

Dawkins has also suggested that atheists, like gays, should come out of the closet. Well, what if they don’t want to? I doubt that Dawkins would support “outing” atheists. But can an atheist “rights” group be far behind? Hate crimes laws to protect atheists? Affirmative action for unbelievers? An Atheist Annual Parade, complete with dancers and floats? Atheist History Month?

Honestly, I think the whole atheist-gay analogy is quite absurd. It seems strange for Dawkins to urge atheists to come out of the closet in the style of the all-American boy standing up on the dining table of his public high school and confessing that he is a homosexual? Dawkins, being British, doesn’t seem to recognize that this would not win many popularity contests in America.

He also writes about Dawkins’ ongoing attempts to re-tool the whole atheist movement by giving atheists a new name: Brights. (I like the name the Bible gives them in Psalm 14:1.) Whatever. Does it really matter to most atheists what they are called? Does the change of the moniker really change the identity or belief? Will putting a positive spin on un-belief really change the general conception of atheists in this world? (Uh, no?) I suspect that some atheists would be content to be called Happy, Beer Drinkers, Liberals, or Red Sox Fans.

But here’s the part of the essay I like the best because it addresses some of those assumptions that people make that really irritate me. Mr D’Souza wrote:

Basically Dawkins is saying if you are religious, then science is your enemy. Either you choose God or you choose science. No wonder that so many Americans say they are opposed to evolution. They believe that evolution is atheism masquerading as science, and Dawkins confirms their suspicions. Indeed Dawkins takes the same position as the most ignorant fundamentalist: you can have Darwin or you can have the Bible but you can’t have both.

Oh, but here, ironically, I agree with Dawkins far more than D’Souza. Fact is, you cannot have both Darwin and the Bible. This is a serious issue and for as much as D’Souza seems to be bright, he has missed the mark here. I might suggest there is a difference between what he refers to as an ‘ignorant fundamentalist’ and a ‘by faith we believe that God made what is seen out of what is unseen evangelical Christian’ who accepts Genesis as an accurate reflection of history, and the foundational substance for evangelical theology. In this case, I agree with Dawkins and, in my opinion, D’Souza loses big time precisely because he seems willing to exclude faith (I could be reading him incorrectly.) He evidently misunderstands the troubling tension that exists between these two fundamentally discordant world-views. I haven’t read enough of D’Souza’s work to know if this is what he thinks, but if I take that last sentence at face value, he has lost me as an audience already because I reject out of hand that faith and reason stand opposed to one another as Darwin and the Bible do.

One cannot have both. I agree with Dawkins 100% on this because the entire premise of Darwinism is that it does not need God, god, a god, Zeus, Thor, Mars, or gods to work (unless, of course, natural selection or selfish genes are divine.) Why would the Darwinist concede to theistic evolution when it would defeat the entire premise to Darwinian evolution? I’ll go ahead and say it for the record: You can’t have both. To my knowledge, Darwin made no concessions or room for the ‘theistic’ in theistic evolution. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

But I understand. There are certain people in the world of churchianity who are terrified to let Genesis stand on its own. They are horrified at the thought of being labeled unthinking rubes who rely on faith in order to believe in fairy-tales. They are terrified to admit to the unbelieving world that they have a simple faith and trust that ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ Here’s what it is: They are so consumed with the idea of silencing the Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ of the world that they have to resort to arguments that lack faith instead of promote it lest they be accused of being little more than those dunderhead, ignorant fundamentalists who actually believe what Scripture says. In their attempts, in other words, to undo the ‘brightness’ of the Brights, they fall into the same error as the Brights by dismissing faith as compatible with reason and relying soley on reason to accomplish their task. It’s not that we (Christians) need Darwin and the Bible to be compatible, that’s not the error because we know they are not, and trying to make them compatible (through things like theistic evolution) does not advance the cause of Christ. (And this is a matter of the Cause of Christ.)

The error he makes, rather, is in assuming there is no compatibility between Faith and Reason, as if they stand in opposition to one another! Nothing could be further from the truth. This is D’Souza’s error. He evidently thinks that those who believe in Genesis do so without Reason, that they rely too much on faith (as if!), and that faith and Reason are incompatible (this was also Stephen Jay Gould’s error in Rocks of Ages.) Christians are not unthinking people, nor are we un-Reasonable people. The very fact that we cling to a book (that contains letters (and numbers), words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books of varying style and genre) is evidence that we are thinking, Reasoning people. We do not serve a God who is unreasonable either. He tells us: Count the Cost of being a disciple. He says, “Come let us reason together” (Isaiah 1). Frankly, no reasonable person is going to become a disciple without counting the cost.

PT Forsyth wrote,

“If we have any sense of judgment we have much reason to fear. I cannot understand how any one with a sense of judgment can discard the atonement and live without terror. But, if we have the sense of the holy and the faith of judgment, the faith that Christ took God’s judgment on the world, we must be of good cheer. The world is judged for good and all in Christ. The last judgment is by. All our judgments are in its ascending wake” (The Justification of God, 221.)

Thus we come full circle. It is not the Christian who lives in opposition to reason, and it is not faith that stands opposed to reason, it is the atheist: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Who is opposed to reason but the one who rejects God?

To be sure, I’ll need to read some of D’Souza’s work before I know if this is really how he thinks about us ‘ignorant fundamentalists.’ But for the time being, isn’t it rather ironic that ‘ignorant fundamentalists’ and Richard Dawkins actually agree on something?

jerry

UPDATE: I just came across this: Militant Atheism Gives Rise to Christian Apologetics.

“[I]f people look at science, they will find faith and they will find reason; the two cannot be incompatible and they have one author, namely God,” said Midland theologian Norbert Dickman, who was scheduled to present what the Christian response should be to the rise of the atheist voice at an Illinois church on Tuesday.

A couple of weeks ago, I was preaching my Sunday morning message when I was overcome by an ‘attack’ of kidney stones. It was most unpleasant and I was unable to finish my message that morning. I’m posting the part that I left un-preached here as I believe it was a rather important part of the message.–DG 

The Prayers We Pray & End; Daniel 9:24

Daniel saw the Covenant colors the sun and rain have woven against the blue sky. Prayer informed by Scripture will see just such reality. Because here is what I think this is really about: Daniel was unselfish. Daniel was not praying about his own predicament. Daniel was not praying about his own situation or even that of his fellow people: they were all sinners and could do nothing but pray. Daniel was praying to God about God.

Daniel was praying about God’s final vindication, and I think, perhaps, Daniel got more than he bargained for. Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the final vindication would take place at the end, but the end involved a little more than the return of a few thousand exiles to Jerusalem. The end was a comprehensive plan that involved the complete eradication of sin, unrighteousness, opposition to God’s Kingdom, opposition to God, the final defeat of sin, the final sweeping away of transgression and the final exaltation of Truth, Righteousness and Holiness. I think once Gabriel laid these things out for Daniel in verse 24, once Daniel caught a glimpse of what was really going on in God’s plan—for that is what God showed him, not just the end of 70 years of exile, but in fact, a picture of God’s plan clear through to the end—once Daniel saw this, nothing else really mattered–thus, we hear no complaints from Daniel. God has the final word on the answers He gives to the prayers we pray.You see these things in verse 24, these six imperatives, are all things that are in violation of God and His Will, and thus we learn about the nature of the restoration God revealed to Daniel, in answer to Daniel’s prayer, would take place. God the Righteous will set things right. God’s final answer to Daniel, God’s final answer to the World is the complete crushing and defeat of sin. But how? By returning exiles to Jerusalem? Hardly. Scripture shows there is only one way for these things to be brought about: The Cross. PT Forsyth wrote, “The Cross of Christ is God’s last judgment on all sin, for its destruction by a realm of infinite grace and love. It is the last resource of the Almighty Holiness; and His last resource is the end of all things—which is now always at hand in a kingdom both coming and come.” (183)Ronald Wallace too writes: “We have therefore to ask whether there are any cogent reasons why we should not simply acknowledge that this passage describes much more fittingly what happened through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We must remember above all, that this passage does not belong merely to a single book about whose origins scholars disagree. It belongs to a book incorporated within a whole body of Holy Scripture in which all vision and prophet (verse 24) has its seal set on it, not by the suffering of Onias or by the exploits of the Maccabees, but by Jesus Christ…The ordinary Christian cannot possibly read all these phrases without also seriously asking: Does this not refer to what happened during the life and death of Jesus himself? The church has for centuries take this view, and one notable commentator calls this especially a ‘Christ-saturated passage.’”165-166In other words: “Daniel I’m not just going to fix broken Israel, I’m going to redeem the entire world. I’m not just going to deal with your sin and Israel’s sin, but I’m going to deal with the entire enterprise of sin in the world. I’m not just going to bring you back to your land, I’m going to bring the entire world back to My Land.” History and Scripture have born this out that only in Christ has sin been finally and forever crushed beneath the heal and hand of God. John wrote, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the entire world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV).If Daniel did anything ‘wrong’ it’s that his prayer was too small. God corrects this by expanding Daniel’s vision, by expanding his understanding of what He is doing. When Daniel’s understanding was corrected, his prayers could take on new shape.

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Daniel was praying that God remember His own Word, Daniel was praying unselfishly that God would do what God is going to do regardless of how we feel or think. Daniel, in short, is concerned here that God’s will be done, that His Kingdom come. This is the nature of prayer that is informed by Scripture. I suppose it is true that we get what we pray for.

What are you praying for? Perhaps right now your prayers are too small because you have not fully understood or appreciated what God is doing, because you have not had your vision expanded by God’s Revelation. What consumes the most of your time in your prayer closet? Are you still praying for some vague expression of ‘peace’ in this world? Because peace will not come without violence and judgment in the cross and the wrath of a Holy God who hates the sin that causes un-peace.

Are you still praying for health for yourself or your family or friends? Put that health in the context of God’s plan for this world: Maybe that sickness is designed to bring about Glory for God. Maybe sickness or illness is not really the problem.

Are you still praying for shiny new things? End that prayer. Don’t pray for wealth and happiness and good luck on the lottery. Instead hunker down in the prayer closet and pray the violent prayers of the Psalms or of the Revelation or the Prophets. Don’t allow your prayers to be self-centered, egotistical and anthropocentric. Pray out of the depth of emotion for the Will and Kingdom of God to come upon this earth. Pray for God’s final vindication of Christ to be revealed!

I think we spend too much time in church praying for simple things like: God help America to be a better place to live. God help our leaders. God help. How about we start praying some things strange to our sensibilities like: God overthrow Your Enemies, Not America’s Enemies, but God’s. Or: God, Send Your Messiah to the Earth and usher in Your Kingdom and all Your glory! Or: God, Turn the Church upside down and shake out all of the filth, all the lukewarm (th), all the false prophets and false doctrine. Lord, purify your church because Judgment begins with the House of God. Lord, may your Word spread rapidly in our community! Lord, prepare in us a clean heart. Lord, search us and know if there is any anxious way in us and purge us of our uncleanliness. Lord, Forgive us our Sin for you are merciful and Forgiving. Lord, shake us.

I think it is time in the church for prayers that are properly informed by Scripture to be prayed. It’s time for real prayers to be offered. It’s time for Holy Hands to be uplifted by Men who understand What responsibility God has given them to lead by example, and that He has called Men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer (1 Tim 2:9) and to lead by prayer. It is time for the Church to stop fooling around worrying about the American Stock Exchange and to start worrying about whether or not we are in keeping with God’s will and to start praying that Where He is We May also Be. It’s Time to confess and repent and fast and posture ourselves properly before a righteous and holy God. It’s time for the men of the Church, like Daniel, to search the Scripture and know and understand what God wants us to pray. Enough simple prayers. Enough nonsense prayers. Enough prayers for better days and sunshine. Enough prayers that are meaningless and mundane. Let’s pray prayers that shake heaven so that heaven will shake us. Let’s get serious about prayer that announces to the Lord of Hosts: We Welcome Your Intervention.

And let us prepare ourselves now for the answers God gives so that we will not be shaken with fear, but moved to seek God even more earnestly. Let us not tarry. God have mercy! Let us not tarry any longer! Let us pray prayers that the world can interpret in only one way: Here is a group of people who are praying for the soon return of Christ, for the Exaltation of Christ, for the Vindication of Christ. What are they doing? What do they know?