Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our Unreasonable Faith

There is a book that summarizes the teaching of Herman Bavinck, called Our Reasonable Faith: A Survey of Christian Doctrine. I have read parts of the book but not all of it and I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the book itself. But the title is interesting. I don't know if this title was chosen by Bavinck or by later editors. "Reasonable" is used in variety of different ways. I don't think the the person intended to say that our faith is inexpensive (at least I hope not). Most likely, the idea is that our faith is rational and/or logical. Then there is the question of what is meant by "our faith?" Faith can be belief itself or that which is believed. Since the book is a survey of Christian doctrine "faith" must be referring to doctrines that are believed. So the book could be retitled The Rational Things That We Believe.

Referring to the Christian faith as rational things that we believe is entirely irrational. The sinful believer rejects the Christian faith because it is unreasonable and the sinful believer distorts and twists it to try to make it a little more reasonable but reasonable it is not. Some Christian apologists have written books in defense of the resurrection and some do a good job of showing the probability that Jesus actually rose from the dead. People probably would not have been willing to be tortured and killed for a resurrection that they knew did not really take place. Because of the resurrection we can be certain that what Jesus teaches us is true but that doesn't make the content of the teaching rational or reasonable.

The core teachings of the Christian faith have to be ignored before anyone can call them rational or reasonable. The agnostic is rational and reasonable, the polytheist can be rational and reasonable, the monotheist can be rational and reasonable, the Tritheist can be rational and reasonable, the Arian can be rational and reasonable, but the Trinitarian cannot. If Trinitarianism were reasonable the Athanasian Creed would say "The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, so there are three gods." But it doesn't. It says that there are not three gods but one God. 1+1+1=3. God is three persons but only one being and there's nothing reasonable about that. I don't know of any other entity that is only one being but three persons. Even when well-intentioned and well-trained folks try to give examples to explain the Trinity they usually end up teaching a Trinitarian heresy--usually modalism. When the radio pastor comes on and starts trying to explain the Trinity by saying that he's both a father to a children and a son to his own father we end up with something very reasonable but absolutely not Trinitarian. But the Trintarian position is the only position that takes what all of the Scriptures say seriously.

The same is true when it comes to the doctrine of Christ. It is entirely unreasonable for someone to be completely God and completely man. The Nestorians and Arians and all the other guys have a much more reasonable understanding of who Christ is. Even the idea that God would take on a human nature is entirely irrational. It's insane. No lunatic would ever make it up.

But for some reason, even though God Himself is completely unreasonable, theological systems are constructed to make what God does reasonable. Why should we expect things to start getting more reasonable all of a sudden? The Calvinist and Arminian have both constructed systems to make the doctrines of salvation more reasonable which is the most irrational thing a person could possibly do. Just look at the bare bones of what we are working with:

1. God creates man.
2. Man sins.
3. God becomes man.
4. God dies to pay for man's sin.

There's nothing reasonable about any of that. This kind of makes sense:

1. God creates man.
2. Man sins.
3. God destroys man.


1. God creates man.
2. Man sins.
3. God says, "I'm God, why do I care?"


1. God creates a man incapable of sinning and they live happily ever after.


1. God doesn't create anything and just enjoys His perfect Trinitarian family.

All of these other options are reasonable but the truth is not. If the Scriptures teach that by nature we are dead in our sins shouldn't we just affirm that? If the Scriptures teach that God has elected a people for Himself from all eternity shouldn't we just affirm that (without speculating about an election to damnation)? If the Scriptures teach that Jesus came to take away the sins of the WORLD and to taste death for everyone can't we just affirm that? Since God dying for our sins does not make any sense at all, do we really think that we can figure out what is going on in God's head well enough to say that there were some He didn't die for? Since the Scriptures say that some people fall away from the faith can't we just admit that they do without trying to pretend they were never there to begin with?

I saw an advertisement on the local religious station for a financial guide based on the parables. I have not read the book but anyone who tries to draw financial principles from the parables should be checked into the nearest psychiatric ward. How is God portrayed in the parables? He's a crazy farmer who just starts throwing seeds everywhere. He throws them on the road, in the weed, to the birds. You go start a farm where you just start throwing seeds everywhere and let me know how it turns out.

God is also compared to a rich man who has a steward that is wasting away his money. The reasonable thing to do would be to escort the steward out of the building and perhaps try to sue him. Instead the rich man tells the steward to give Him a final accounting. The steward goes out and decreases everyone's debt by half. Now there is a rather lengthy list of reasonable things you could do to a steward like that. You could punch him in the face, stab him, etc. All of these would be reasonable things. Instead the rich man (God) expresses His admiration for what the steward did. He praises the steward.

What the steward knew is that his Master was not reasonable man. His Master was merciful. His Master was not stingy with His grace. His Master wanted him to trust in His mercy. If there were a guy who kept the books straight all the time (or at least thought he did) such a person would have no need for the grace of the Master.

All of this should humble us. We should be content to let Scripture speak to us and tell us what God wants us to know. Attempts at logical deduction as to what God can or cannot do are futile since He operates outside of the bounds of what is reasonable. The Scriptures are constantly warning against adding to God's Word.

1 Peter 4:11 If someone speaks, let him speak as announcing oracles of God; if someone provides service, let him provide it as deriving from strength that God provides, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ; to whom belong the glory and the power forever and ever, Amen.

Do not introduce your sophisticated logical deductions--Bring God's Word!!! If you're not certain that you are speaking God's Word then shut up!

Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God that I command you.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

The part in verse 5 translated as casting down arguments could literally be translated as "tearing down/demolishing reasoning." To hell with your clever reasoning! Your mind is an idol factory. How could you possibly trust it? Your mind is always tainted with sin and trying to make a god in its own image.

You must not only speak the truth about what is revealed but must remain silent about what is not.

Deuteronomy 12:32 Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

1 Timothy 6:3-6 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a sick craving for controversies and word-battles, from which arise envy, strife, abusive speech, evil suspicions, 5 constant irritations between people of a corrupt mind and deprived of the truth, who think that religion is a means of gain. Withdraw from such people. 6 But religion with contentment is great gain.

If you teaching the same doctrine as Christ you should be able to use the same words as Christ and not explain them away. You should never be trying to tell people what Christ really meant because Christ knows how to say what He wants to say even if it is completely unreasonable. Where reasonableness is king, its even eviler step-sister pragmatism will no doubt rear her ugly head.

So rejoice in your unreasonable God! Only a completely unreasonable God would ever die for you! Only a completely unreasonable God could ever truly be God.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Matthew 10

Here's my translation of Matthew 10. Please critique.

10And after summoning His twelve disciples He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal every disease and every ailment. 2 And the twelve apostles' names are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent after commanding them, saying: "Y o u may not depart into a way that leads to Gentiles, and y o u may not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 But go rather to the sheep who have been lost that are the house of Israel. 7 And as y o u are going, preach, saying, 'The reign of the heavens stands near!' 8 Heal those who are sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons; freely y o u received, freely give. 9 Y o u may neither acquire gold nor silver nor copper in y o ur belts, 10 not a bag for the way nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff; for worthy is the worker of his food. 11 And in whichever city or village y o u should enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there remain until y o u should leave. 12 Now as y o u are going into that house, greet it, saying, 'Peace to this house.' 13 And if the house is worthy, let y o ur peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to y o u. 14 And whoever does not receive y o u or hear y o ur words, as y o u are going out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from y o ur feet. 15 Amen, I say to y o u, it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city!

16 "Look, I am sending y o u as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as the serpents and innocent as the doves. 17 And beware of the people; for they will hand y o u over into sanhedrins and in their synagogues they will scourge y o u; 18 and before rulers and kings y o u will be led on account of me for a witness to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But whenever they hand y o u over, do not worry how or what y o u should speak; for what y o u will speak will be given to y o u in that hour. 20 For y o u are not the ones speaking, but the Spirit of y o ur Father, the One speaking in you. 21 And brother will hand over brother into death and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and will kill them; 22 and y o u will be hated by all because of My name; but the one who finally endures, this one will be saved. 23 And whenever they persecute y o u in this city, flee to another; for amen, I am saying to y o u, y o u will certainly not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. 24 A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 That he be like his teacher is sufficient for the disciple, and the slave like his master. If they called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household? 26 Therefore do not fear them; for nothing has been concealed concealed that will not be uncovered or hidden that will not be known. 27 That which I am saying to y o u in the darkness, speak in the light, and that which y o u are hearing in the ear, preach upon the rooftops. 28 And do not fear those who are killing the body but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear the One who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna! 29 Two sparrows are sold for an assarion, aren't they? And yet one of them will not fall upon the ground without the consent of y o ur Father. 30 But even all the hairs of y o ur head are numbered! 31 Therefore, do not fear; y o u are worth more than many sparrows.

32 "Therefore, everyone who will confess Me before people, I also will confess him before My Father who is in the heavens. 33 But whoever should deny Me before people, I also will deny him before My Father who is in the heavens.

34 "Y o u should not think that I came so as to bring peace upon the earth; I did not come so as to bring peace, rather a sword. 35 For I came so as to divide a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a bride against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's enemies will be members of his household.

37 "The one loving father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one loving son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; 38 and whoever is not taking his cross and following after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life on account of Me will find it.

40 "The one receiving y o u is receiving Me, and the one receiving Me is receiving the One who sent Me. 41 The one receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive the prophet's reward, and the one receiving a righteous man in the name of a righteous man will receive the righteous man's reward. 42 And whoever should give a drink of only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, amen I am saying to y o u, he will certainly not lose his reward."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Matthew 9

Here's my translation of Matthew 9. Please critique.

9And after stepping into a boat He crossed over and came into His own city. 2 And look, they were bringing to Him a paralytic who had been cast upon a bed; after Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Be courageous, child! Your sins have been forgiven you." 3 And look, some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man is blaspheming!" 4 And Jesus saw their thoughts, He said, "Why are y o u thinking evil things in y o ur hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk!'? 6 But in order that y o u may know that the Son of Man has authority to be forgiving sins on the earth"--then He says to the paralytic, "Rise, take up your bed, and go to your house." 7 And after rising he departed into his house. 8 And after the crowds saw, they marveled and they glorified God, who had given authority such as this to the realm of men.

9 And Jesus moving along on from there, saw a person sitting at the tax office, called Matthew, and He says to him, "Follow Me." And after standing up he followed Him. 10 Now it happened, as He was reclining for a meal in the house, also look, many tax collectors and sinners after coming were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 And after seeing this the Pharisees said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" 12 But Jesus after hearing this said to them, "Those who are healthy do not have need of a physician, rather those who are sick. 13 But after going learn what this is: 'Mercy I desire and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, rather sinners, for repentance."

14 Then the disciples of John are approaching Him, saying, "Why are we and the Pharisees fasting often, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15 And Jesus said to them, "The sons of the bridal chamber are not able to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, are they? But days will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and then they will fast. 16 Now no one patches a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for its fullness pulls away from the garment and a worse tear happens. 17 Neither do they put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins are torn and the wine is poured out and the wineskins will be ruined; rather they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

18 While speaking these things to them, look, a certain ruler after approaching Him was showing reverence to Him, saying, "My daughter just now died! But after coming put Your hand on her and she will live!" 19 After rising Jesus followed him, and so did His disciples. 20 And look, a woman hemorrhaging for twelve years after approaching from behind touched the tassel on His garment. 21 For she was saying in herself, "If I only may touch His garment, I will be saved." 22 But Jesus after turning around and seeing her said, "Be courageous, daughter! Your faith has saved you!" And from that hour the woman was saved. 23 And Jesus, after coming into the ruler's house, and after seeing the flute players and the distressed crowd wailing, says to them, 24 "Depart, for the little girl did not die, rather she is sleeping." And they were laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd was cast out, after entering He took hold of her hand, and the little girl rose. 26 And the report of this went out into that whole land.

27 And as Jesus was passing by from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 28 And after He came into the house, the blind men approached Him, and Jesus says to them, "Do y o u believe that I am able to do this?" They say to Him, "Yes, Lord." 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to y o ur faith let it happen for y o u." 30 And their eyes were opened; And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "Look! Let no one know!" 31 But after going out, they spread the news about Him in that whole land.

32 And as they were going out, look, they brought to Him a mute man being demon-possessed; 33 and after the demon was cast out, the mute spoke, and the crowds marveled, saying, "Never did it appear this way in Israel!" 34 But the Pharisees were saying, "In connection with the ruler of the demons He is casting out the demons."

35 And Jesus was going around all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Good News of the reign and healing every disease and every ailment among the people.

36 And after seeing the crowds, He had compassion concerning them, because they were being exhausted and being thrown away, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He says to His disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cracks in the Crescent

I recently finished reading a book written by a friend of mine named Hussein Wario called Cracks in the Crescent. Hussein was born and raised in Kenya as a Sunni Muslim. He converted to Christianity and suffered great persecution--his only family tried to poison him! This book is an autobiography and I highly recommend it. He points out many contradictions in the Qur'an and helps provide an understanding of Muslim culture. The beginning and the end of the book were a little difficult--Hussein writes tends to write in Kenyan English rather than American English. But it's not that difficult and it is well worth the effort. Hussein's story provides encouragement to all who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ. It is also a helpful tool, our own culture seems to be wrestling more and more with how to deal with and respond to Islam.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Matthew 8:14-34

Here's my translation of Matthew 8:14-34. Please critique.

14 And after Jesus came into the house of Peter, He saw his mother-in-law cast on a bed and suffering with a fever; 15 and He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and was serving Him. 16 And even though it had become evening, they brought to Him many who were being demon-possessed, and He cast out the spirits with a word, and He healed all who were sick, 17 in order that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying:

"He Himself took our sicknesses

and He carried our diseases."

18 And after Jesus saw many crowds around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side. 19 And after a certain scribe approached he said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You depart." 20 And Jesus says to him, "The foxes have dens and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man does not have anywhere he may lay His head." 21 And another of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, first permit me to depart go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."

23 And after He stepped into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And look, a great storm occurred on the sea, so that the boat was being covered by the waves; but He Himself kept on sleeping. 25 And His disciples after approaching woke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" 26 And He says to them, "Why are y o u cowardly, y o u little-faiths?" Then after getting up He rebuked the winds and the sea, and a great calm occurred. 27 So the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea are obeying Him?"

28 And after He had come to the other side, in the region of the Gergesenes, two men who were being demon possessed met Him who were coming out of the tombs, very violent, so that no one was strong enough to pass by through that road. 29 And look, they cried out, saying, "What do we and You have in common, Jesus, Son of God? Did You come here to torment us before the time?" 30 Now there was, far off from them, a grazing herd of many swine. 31 And the demons were beseeching Him, saying, "If You throw us out, permit us to depart into the herd of swine." 32 And He said to them, "Go." And after coming out, they departed into the herd of swine; and look, the whole herd of swine rushed headlong down the steep slope into the sea, and they died in the waters. 33 And the ones tending them fled, and after departing into the city they reported everything and the things about the men who were being demon-possessed. 34 And look, the whole city went out to meet Jesus, and after seeing Him, they besought Him to pass over from their district.