Friday, March 30, 2012
Also, in the last few years I have received PCs from my parents that they could no longer use because of viruses. They tried to use restore disks but were completely unsuccessful. I have had great success wiping the hard drive and installing Linux based distributions on them. Linux is free and available in a number of different distributions that are tailored to specific types of users. There's a website that keeps track of the latest distributions. Puppy Linux is so small that it can run in your RAM. You can run it without having a hard drive. I was able to use it to get some of the files off of my parents' computer. After extracting the information that my parents wanted using Puppy Linux, I did a full install of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is probably the most user-friendly and well-supported distributions of Linux. In my opinion it is far superior to Windows in speed and in customizability. It comes packaged with Libreoffice. Libreoffice is similar to Microsoft Office but it's free. Linux is virtually free from viruses. It's even more secure than a Mac. Unfortunately, I have a couple of Windows based programs like Bibleworks that I cannot get to run on Ubuntu. There is a WINE program that allows you to run Windows software on Linux but I haven't success with Bibleworks. So I have a computer that I'm still running Windows on.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 2:14 PM
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5-6 ESV)What the Devil says here is just a small portion of Psalm 91 but there's nothing within Psalm 91 that explicitly states that Psalm 91 is about the Son of God. But Devil seemed to realize that Psalm 91 is primarily about the Son of God. According to the Devil if Jesus truly is the Son of God then Psalm 91 is about Jesus. Certainly the Devil takes these words out of context as is shown by Jesus' refusal to throw Himself down, but Jesus doesn't deny the basic premise that Psalm 91 is primarily about the Son of God. Because of our union with Christ we also can take the words of Psalm 91 upon our lips. But Psalm 91 first and foremost is about Christ Himself.
Both the Devil and Jesus knew that the Old Testament Scriptures were all about the Son of God. The Devil made no attempt to convince Jesus that the Old Testament was just about morality or random history lessons. Jesus knew the Scriptures too well to be convinced by such nonsense. Instead, the Devil tries to keep Jesus from the cross by getting Him to put on a spectacular display to prove He is the Son of God. Certainly many would have believed that Jesus was the Messiah if they saw Him jump from the top of the temple and a bunch of angels catching Him.
But both the Devil and Jesus knew that the Scriptures are all about Jesus. After the resurrection, the Apostles all realized that the Scriptures were all about Jesus. Matthew doesn't have any problem taking a statement from Hosea 11:1 about what God had done for Israel and interpreting it as a prophecy about Jesus. The early church fathers understood that the Scriptures were all about Jesus. Despite all the error that had crept into the church over time, you cannot find a pre-Reformation Christian commentary on the Psalms that doesn't interpret them as being all about Jesus. But starting with Calvin, many Protestants were deceived into thinking that some Psalms are Messianic while others are not. In reaction to some of the fanciful allegorical interpretations of the past, many Protestants a method of Biblical interpretation claimed to have greater objectivity. The end result is a method of interpretation which had not existed before and one that actually forbids the very kind of Biblical interpretation that we find the Apostle's engaging in. Matthew 2:15 takes a statement about a past event concerning Israel and interprets it as a prophecy about Jesus. But Matthew would fail a Biblical interpretation class if he tried to do this kind of thing today in a Protestant seminary.
There are reasons to be skeptical about what some would regard as allegorical interpretations of Scripture. Left to our own devices we can make the Bible say just about anything that we want it to. But we have been given the key to the Scriptures by Jesus Himself. Jesus says the Scriptures are all about Jesus. Any system of interpretation that does not find Jesus in every passage must be rejected. As we see in Harold Camping, you can certainly allegorize the Scriptures in such a way that Jesus becomes little more than a footnote. But the same holds true for those who adhere to the Historical-Grammatical method. If the Scriptures are understood to be the icon of Jesus then we interpret them correctly. But if we attempt to stand outside of the Scriptures and interpret them in a completely objective manner we will end up reading the Scriptures in the same way many of the Jews did in Jesus' day.
The Devil did not dare to try to convince Jesus that all the Scriptures are not about Jesus. In the middle ages the Devil caused a shift in focus from what Jesus did to what we need to do for Jesus but there was no outright denial that the Scriptures were all about Jesus. It really wasn't until the Reformation that the Devil managed to convince some in the church that faithfulness to the Scriptures required a person to believe that some of the Scriptures are not really about Jesus. The Devil would loves it when we diligently study the Scriptures and think they are about something other than Jesus.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 2:03 PM
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Some people are opposed to all images of Jesus. They reason that God forbade the making of images of God, Jesus is God, therefore images of Jesus are forbidden. This is a position I held when I was a Calvinist. But the idea in the commandments is that we are not to make images of God in order to worship those images. If create an image in order to worship it, then it is sinful. God commanded Moses to make a graven image of Jesus--God commanded Moses to make the bronze serpent. But this had to be done away with when people started worshipping the bronze serpent. In Deuteronomy the prohibition against images is tied to the fact that God did not take any form when He spoke to the Israelites. But Paul says that Jesus is the image/icon of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). If we were simply left to our devices we would simply make a god of our own imagination that looked like some super powerful animal that was bigger and stronger than the other gods. But God comes to us in humility. He most fully reveals who He is on the cross. And the cross is offensive. Christ-crucified is the exact opposite of any god that we would create.
Pictures of Jesus are a confession of the incarnation. If you had been there you could have snapped a picture of Jesus. That doesn't mean that all pictures of Jesus are good. It's still very possible to paint a picture of Jesus that is false just as it is very possible to paint a false picture of who Jesus is through a sermon. Some people get hung up on ethnic traits. They get upset if Jesus is not portrayed as a very Jewish looking man. But we are dealing with artwork and the purpose of artistic depictions of Jesus should not be to show us what Jesus looks like but to show us who Jesus is. Throughout history, different ethnic groups have created different pictures of Jesus that make him look like someone from their ethnic background. I think this is actually a good thing. Jesus died for us and in our place. It only becomes a problem if people with a white Jesus hanging on their wall get mad at people with a black Jesus hanging on their wall. German 16th Centurty artists would paint Jesus into a scene that looked very German and very 16th Century. Contextualization can be helpful in communicating the truth that Jesus' death is relevant to our present day just as much as it was when it happened. In Eastern Orthodox iconography there isn't any real attempt to show us in any kind of realistic way what the people looked like. Rather, color and objects are used to tell us something about the person. The people in the pictures don't look like any real human beings and they're not intended to.
It's interesting that the pictures of Jesus that people find the least offensive are also the ones that are most likely to say something truly false about Jesus and lead us into idolatry. The effiminate Jesus staring off into the distance is one of the most popular and least offensive images but doesn't really tell us anything true about Jesus. Jesus isn't doing anything at all. It's only an imaginitve depiction of what someone thought he may have looked like. It portrays Him as gentle but doesn't really tell us how He is gentle. A man at our church, as an act of love, created a beautiful wood carving of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying a lamb in his arms. The carving looks significantly different than any of the other depictions of Jesus we have in our church. It's a little more cartoonish but not in a silly way. But when my little girl who hasn't even turned two yet saw it she stood up, pointed, and yelled excitedly, "JESUS!" The other children knew who this carving was a depiction of right away as well and were very excited to see it. They recognized that this was a depiction of Jesus because the man in the carving was doing what Jesus does--lovingly, caring for His sheep. The crucifix is not a tool to show us what Jesus looked like, but to show us what Jesus does for us. The crucifix simultaneously shows us how great our sin is and how much greater Jesus' love is for us. It's easy to talk about the crucifixion in terms of abstractions but we cannot ignore reality when it is depicted before our eyes.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 2:08 PM
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The fact of the matter is that the Christian is not an abstract list of doctrines. The Christian faith in grounded in history. When I was at Calvin College one of the books I had to read for one of my classes was Risen Indeed by Stephen T. Davis. The book has its problems but it presented me with an apologetic centered on the resurrection of Christ that I had not heard before. The resurrection is really what historic Christianity hinges on. If Christ really did die and rise from the dead we can trust what He said including the imprimatur He places on the rest of the Scriptures. If Christ did not rise from the dead Christianity is a bunch of nonsense.
When disputing with the Jews, the Apostles would argue based on the Old Testament Scriptures because they shared this common source of authority with them. But when arguing with others, they would often appeal other sources. On Mars Hill, Paul even appealed to pagan poets to prove his point. The Apostles would often appeal to the eyewitness accounts. The historical evidence for the empty tomb is very strong. Apologetics does not work faith. Only the Gospel works faith. But apologetics is helpful in removing obstacles to belief. Most people are led to believe that Christian belief is simply the result of some sort of emotional experience and the presuppositional position seems to reinforce this idea. Mormons and Muslims both believe that their religious experiences make their beliefs true. But Christiainity is grounded in actual history, not an emotional experience. Christianity is all about a real Jesus who really died and really rose from the dead. There is no point in any apologetics that isn't centered on the crucified and risen Christ.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 1:49 PM
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John Kleinig apart is its commitment to Christian orthodoxy. Using the Psalms, the Lord's Prayer, and historic Christian practice, Kleinig gives very helpful and practical advice. He draws us away from individualistic prayers and calls us to join in the prayer of the church. Many books on Christian spirituality focus on individual practices that can actually distance ourselves from the church. Kleinig calls us into the liturgical life of the church and to pray for our brothers and sisters in the church. He refers to his general approach as "receptive spirituality." We are not ascending a ladder to God but receiving the gifts of Christ as He condescends to us. Some of the material in the book is covered in a series of lectures that are available on the internet. However, the book contains additional information and is well worth the purchase.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 12:45 PM
Monday, March 12, 2012
The Probelm of Suffering: A Father's Hope by Gregory Schulz. You would expect a book like this to give us a theodicy--some type of intellectually satisfying answer to how God can be good and allow us to suffer. Instead, this book is an anti-theodicy. Schulz shows how all theodicies fail and kick the sufferer when he's down. Dr. Schulz is a professor of philosophy and knows philosophy well enough to know that philosophy cannot provide us with the comfort that we desparately need as we suffer. The book is written at the lay level but incredibly deep and useful to those at any level. The author tells the heart-wrenching story of his own suffering through the death of two of his children. He shows from the Psalms and from Job that Christian life is a life of suffering. Dr. Schulz makes no excuses for God. He expresses his anger toward God for His failure to act just as the Psalmist does. He also shows us God's grace that is given to us in suffering. Dr. Schulz serves the truth about suffering up straight and this makes the book very hard to read but it's definitely worth it and will change the way you think about God and suffering. So much of what passes for "Christian" today gives us a completely different picture of the Christian life. The Christian movie industry would have us believe that when someone becomes a Christian they either stop suffering or suffer less. The Scriptures and the stories of the martyrs tell us the exact opposite.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 12:58 PM
Friday, March 9, 2012
The Scriptures use very anti-Nestorian language. 1 Corinthians 2:8 says that the rulers of this age crucified the Lord of glory. The rulers of this age crucified God. Acts 20:28 says that the church has been purchased by God's blood. In his debate with Luther, Zwingli believed that passages like these and John 6:55 where Jesus says "My flesh is real food"were mere figures of speech. Zwingli said that Jesus really meant His divine nature is real food.
Although the average Christian would have no idea what you are talking about if you called him a Nestorian, it's still a pretty widespread error. The general tendency within Christianity is to What difference does it make? It makes all the difference in the world. If God did not die for us, we would all be damned. Luther writes (LW 22:21f):
If Christ is not true and natural God, born of the Father in eternity and Creator of all creatures, we are doomed. For what would Christ’s suffering and death avail me if Christ were merely a human being like you and me? As such He could not have overcome devil, death, and sin; He would have proved far too weak for them and could never have helped us. No, we must have a Savior who is true God and Lord over sin, death, devil, and hell. If we permit the devil to topple this stronghold for us, so that we disbelieve His divinity, then His suffering, death, and resurrection profit us nothing. Then we are bereft of all hope of eternal life and salvation; in short, we are not able to comfort ourselves with any of the consoling promises of Scripture.In another place (LW 41:103) Luther says:
Christians should know that if God is not in the scale to give it weight, we, on our side, sink to the ground. I mean it this way: if it cannot be said that God died for us, but only a man, we are lost; but if God’s death and a dead God lie in the balance, his side goes down and ours goes up like a light and empty scale. Yet he can also readily go up again, or leap out of the scale! But he could not sit on the scale unless he had become a man like us, so that it might be called God’s dying, God’s martyrdom, God’s blood, and God’s death. For God in his nature cannot die; but now that God and man are united in one person, it is called God’s death when a man dies who is one substance or one person with God.This was not Luther's private opinion but was the orthodox position taken by the church fathers. Both the church fathers and the Lutheran theologians compared the union between the two natures of Christ to the union of fire and iron when iron is placed in fire. The divine and human natures of Christ do not intermingle, each retains its essence and properties. But just as iron glows read and becomes hot when placed in fire, so the human nature takes on characteristics of the divine nature because of the union. Jesus was able to perform miracles and pass through walls because His human nature took on characteristics of His Divine nature.
Calvinists and Zwinglians reject the Lutheran understanding of the Lord's Supper and accuse Lutherans of being Eutychians. Eutychiansism was a heresy that taught that the two natures of Christ combine together to form a single nature. Calvinists and Zwinglians teach that because Lutherans believe the body of Christ can be in more than one place at a time, this is a violation of His distinct human nature. Just on the surface, this charge is odd given the fact that the orthodox church fathers at these councils all believed that Christ's body and blood were received in the Lord's Supper. Even the Nestorians believed that Christ's body and blood were present in the Lord's Supper. The Calvinist/Zwinglian charge seems to actually make them hyper-Nestorians. Calvinists claim that the Lutheran understanding of the Lord's Supper cannot be so because the finite is not capable of the infinite. But if the finite is not capable of the infinite then the incarnation never happened.
The limitations imposed by the Calvinist system upon what Jesus can or cannot do with his own body seem rather arbitrary and forced. Calvinists say that when Jesus would pass through walls, the wall ceased to be a wall at that point. When Jesus would disappear they say that He did not really disappear but materialized in another location. Apparently, Calvinists can teleport with their own bodies but cannot make them disappear. When Jesus walks on water according to the Calvinist the water ceases to be water. And so when the Calvinist reads "This is my body" he understands it to mean that in the Lord's Supper the Holy Spirit lifts you up to heaven to partake of body of Christ because apparently Christ's body cannot be in more than one place at a time but your spirit can drift off to heaven for a period of time.
Prior to the crucifixion, Jesus would often tell the Apostles that He was going to die and rise again. They spiritualized this statement of Jesus. God can't possibly die. They were completely surprised when He actually died and had no hope that He would rise again. When He arose they were completely surprised again. It's because of the death and resurrection that the church took Jesus' Words about the Lord's Supper seriously. It wasn't until the ninth Century that theologians began to spritualize the Words of Christ.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 12:46 PM
Thursday, March 1, 2012
But do most people who go by the name "Christian" even care anymore? Is the spirit of Protestantism as it exists today perhaps even antitrinitarian by nature? I heard a pastor a few years ago who had a Bible questiona and answer program on the radio. Someone asked him to explain the Trinity. He said it's like you can be a father but also a son at the same time. That's not Trinitarianism. That's modalism. Trinitarianism teaches that God is one in being and three in person, not one person as the illustration teaches. In fact, every illustration tends to end in modalism.
Much of Christianity has come to believe that the task of the pastor is to teach you life principles from the Scriptures and worship is mostly about what we are going to do for God. In that context, the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't carry much importance. It might be written down somewhere as a statement of belief but is usually ignored.
Even in more doctrinally rigorous churches that find their roots in Calvinism, the doctrine of the Trinity seems to have little place in the teaching or life of the church. Some theologians like Cornelius Van Til even contradict traditional Trinitarian language but remain highly influential. Robert Letham has written an excellent book on the Trinity but most Calvinist theologians seem far more concerned with other matters. The Trinity is usually only brought up when other doctrines of greater concern are spoken of. The Calvinist will argue that the atonement must be limited because the Son would not die for people who the Father did not elect.
But this was not the case in the early church. The early Christian creeds were all Trinitarian and centered upon Christ just like the Scriptures themselves. Early Christian worship was Trinitarian and centered upon Christ. It wasn't until the Reformation that some Christian groups abandoned this Trinitarian form of worship.
The doctrine of the Trinity is central to the Christian. Nobody can claim to be a Christian who denies the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is also paradoxical. The Trinity is far outside of the realm of our experience that no human can explain the doctrine of the Trinity. By ignoring that the central doctrine of the Christian faith is paradoxical, Christians have fallen into the error of Thomas Aquinas who stated that revelation can never contradict reason. Protestants reject the true presence of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament because it contradicts their human reason. Calvinists reject the universal atonement because it does not conform to their own standards of justice. But God is so different from us that His true nature can only be revealed to us, it cannot be reasoned out. Left to its own devices, human reason would never conclude that God is Trinity. Left to its own devices, human reason would never conclude that God should suffer and die for sinners.
There is only one God. But God is three persons or subsistences. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each have real existence, individuality, and self-awareness. There are not three entities or three beings. The Athanasian Creed summarizes what the Scriptures say about God as Trinity without delving into speculation.
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.
This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
Posted by Chuck Wiese at 1:02 PM