29 July 2015

How to Avoid Spiritual Suicide

by F. X. Turk

This is going to be the last post of my summer vacation from hiatus, and it was originally going to be on the topic of how the family has been redefined, given the state of current events.  However, let me say that the most enjoyable part of taking a summer vacation from hiatus is the feedback from the readers, on and off line.

The down-side of that is that many of the wrong sort of readers also feel like they need to let me know they are still at it.  However, that down-side helps me remember why I am on permanent hiatus in the first place: Jesus never called us to be virtual slaves to people who are more interested in arguments than truth, but he did call us to be members of the body of Christ, which involves being in real relationships with real people and finding out that our theology is only as good as the love it can create in all situations from the worst of sins to the hardest of life's trials to the joyful moments when God's blessings are evident.

To that end, I have a few words until we meet again. If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, do me a favor and find common ground in Christ by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had: when he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be held onto, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross!

If that's not the foundation of your theology, reconsider it immediately as this is the Jesus who rose from the dead, and we are to be imitators of him.  Imitating another Jesus is spiritual suicide.

How do we know?  Because as a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my dear friends, just as this has always been about you personally whether I have been blogging or on hiatus, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish even though you live in a crooked and perverse society.  Shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ we will all have a reason to boast -- that none of us ran in vain, and none blogged in vain, and we are found faithful in that final day.

26 July 2015

Believing what we cannot comprehend

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 48, sermon number 2,787, "Christ's triple character."
"The Romanist has his infallibility in the Pope; where have I mine? In Christ; for, whatever he said is infallibly true; and I also have infallibility in this Book." 

If anything be but in the Bible, I never for a single moment think of questioning it. Miracles? Strong historical statements? I believe them all; I can almost go as far as the old woman who said that she not only believed that the whale swallowed Jonah, but that, if the Bible had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, she would have believed it. It says nothing of the kind, but I would go even to that length if it were a clear, positive statement of the Scriptures.

This is my Master’s Book, and I accept it all. I say, sometimes, that there are things in it that I do not understand, but then I do not want to understand everything. I do not see what good it does to have such a wonderful understanding. I would sooner not understand some things, because it gives me the more reason to show reverence to my God by believing what I cannot comprehend.

If I could comprehend God, he would not be a God to me. If I could understand all that he tells me, I would feel sure that he had either left something out of his revelation, or that there must be some mistake somewhere, for the infinite things of God cannot be grasped by finite beings. There, then, is our infallibility.

Some have gone off to bold blatant infidelity in order to get something sure; and others have turned to Popery in the attempt to get something sure; but as for us, we cast our anchor down where the cross stands above the surging billows; and there we rest. Christ says, “I am the truth.” We believe that, and we take every word he says as being infallibly true, and so we secure absolute certainty.

That is a great thing to have in these unsettled times, and a comfortable thing to have in these disturbed times. It is a very practical benefit, too; for, when we have once made up our mind thoroughly upon any point, we can say, “That is so; now we do not need to keep on bothering and questioning about that matter, and we can go on with our work, and also seek to make advances in the divine life.”

23 July 2015

The proper meaning of the word "church"

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in October 2007. Frank offered his thoughts on the Biblical implications of the word "church."

As usual, the comments are closed.
We have this funny word in our Christian vocabulary that appears in our Bibles – namely "church". Webster's dictionary says this about where we get that word:
Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice, ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon, from Greek, neuter of kyriakos of the lord, from kyrios lord, master
Which, you know, is interesting because we use "church" in the translations of the Bible in English to represent the word "ecclesia," not the word "kyriakon" – that is, it is possible that we mean the same thing by saying "church" when the NT says "ecclesia," but the word "church" doesn't come from the word "ecclesia."

Now, here's what I'm not equipped to do here: I'm not equipped to criticize guys (and women) who have spent their lives studying Greek who all agree that "church" is a fine word in English for the Greek word "ecclesia," I accept that this is the word we are going to use and, frankly, ought to use.

What I'm thinking about today is what we mean by using this word.

The over-arching theme of this series, btw, is that the believer needs the church. You need it. Part of that, of course, is that it needs you, and I have beaten that almost to death. But I was reminded of this theme this weekend as I listened to Dr. MacArthur preach broadly and enthusiastically at DGM's national conference on the theme "Stand," meaning a call to the perseverance of the saints.

At the end of his life, from a prison cell, probably through some kind of amanuensis, Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy a letter which we receive in Scripture as 2 Timothy. So this letter, whatever else we want to make of it, is Paul's last word to a young man he loved dearly and had discipled in the faith apparently from the start of the young man's faith.

Paul knew Timothy's family – his mother and grandmother, who were themselves Jewish women who had accepted Christ. And if we read Timothy at all, Paul has the highest confidence and love for Timothy – like Titus, Timothy is called Paul's "true son" in the faith.

And in that, Paul's last words to Timothy are important to us as we have to believe that he wrote these things as a farewell.

But as Paul writes, we find some very troubling things in his words. All of Asia, he says, has forsaken him for false teachers; Demas has decided that the world looks pretty good and the Gospel not so much. So in that environment, you'd think Paul would give Timothy the advice any wise man would give: run away from the bad guys and go find someplace else to start a new church – because we have to run away from false teachers, and a church with false teachers is a church where it is necessary to leave.

You'd think.

Instead, Paul calls Timothy to stand firm in the truth and preach and teach what is right in spite of fads and the tastes of men.

He didn't tell Timothy, "Dude, my method landed me in jail, so you have to try something different. Check with Demas as he has found a nice job in the world -- obviously he knows something I don't." He told Timothy to not change and not adapt and not go his own way, but instead to "endure suffering" and "continue in what you have learned" and "depart from iniquity" and so on -- but not to leave the church.

We are not called out of the church to preach the Gospel – we are called out of the world and into the "ecclesia" to preach the Gospel. Standing firm for the truth is standing where? Whatever "ecclesia" means, and whatever "church" is supposed to mean in its place in English, it is something we are called into in order that we may demonstrate who God is and what He has done.

21 July 2015

The Planned Parenthood fiasco: a few questions only we would ask

by Dan Phillips

I take it you're all familiar with the Planned Parenthood should-be PR nightmare. (If not, you could for instance check out Denny Burk's site, such as here and here and here.)

I won't add to or rehash all that. I just have a few observations presented as questions.
  1. Have pro-aborts shifted the threshold of abortability from viability to marketability?
  2. If what Planned Parenthood is selling is sold as human parts, then what was it that they killed?
  3. Given Planned Parenthood's presence in the body-marketing industry, should it be renamed "Planned Igorhood"?
  4. Or, since (A) the still-heard rationalization for abortion is "It's her body," and (B) Planned Parenthood is marketing the part of "her body" that they extracted, so that (C) Planned Parenthood, by its "logic" (?!) is selling women's bodies, should they be renamed "Planned Pimphood"?
  5. Since they are selling these poor victims as humans (even intact, God grant us repentance) does that signal a shift? That is, abortion was always premised on "It's not a human being until it's  born." Is it now, "It's not a human being until it's born...or aborted?"

Ponder those, and feel free to share profligately.

Notesee here, for a Biblical study regarding abortion.

Dan Phillips's signature

19 July 2015

What we want

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 42, sermon number 2,469, "The incomparable bridegroom and His bride."
"We do hope that we have something Christ-like about us; but oh, how little it is! How many imperfections there are! How much is there of the old Adam, and how little of the new creature in Christ Jesus!" 

Archbishop Usher was once asked to write a treatise upon Sanctification; this he promised to do, but six months rolled away, and the good Archbishop had not written a sentence. He said to a friend, “I have not begun the treatise, yet I cannot confess to a breach of my promise, for, to tell you the truth, I have done my best to write upon the subject; but when I came to look into my own heart, I saw so little of sanctification there, and found that so much which I could have written would have been merely by rote as a parrot might have talked, that I had not the courage to write it.”

Yet, if ever there was a man renowned for holiness, it was Archbishop Usher; if ever there was a saintly man who seemed to be one of the seraphic spirits permitted to stray beyond the companionship of his kind among poor earth-worms here, it was Usher; yet this is the confession that he makes concerning himself! Where, then, shall we hide our diminished heads?

I am sure we may all say, with good Mr. Fletcher, of Madeley, who was another bright example of seraphic holiness, that what we want is more grace. He had written a pamphlet on some political matter and Lord North wrote to know what he could give him in return. His answer was, “I need what your lordship cannot give me,—more grace.”

That is also true of us, we want more grace. It is to be had; and if we had it, and it transformed us into what we should be, oh, what lives of happiness and of holiness we might lead here below, and what mighty workers should we be for our Lord Jesus Christ! How would his dear name be made to sound to the utmost ends of the earth!

I fear it is but a dream; but just conceive that all of you, the members of this church, were made to be truly saintly, saints of the first water, saints who had cast off the sloth of worldliness and had come out in the full glory of newness of life in Christ Jesus, oh, what a power might this church become in London, and what a power to be felt the wide world over!

Let us seek it, let us strive after it, recollecting that it is a truth never to be denied, that only in proportion to the sanctity and spirituality of our character will our influence be for good amongst the sons of men.

15 July 2015

A Humiliating Death

by F. X. Turk

Back in 2008, Newsweek published an atrocious hack-job against Christian ethics for the sake of villainizing (of all things) traditional marriage.  Of course, we covered it here.  From my perspective, everybody wringing their hands about the current state of "marriage" in the laws of the United States ought to re-read that post, and all the comments which followed, for the sake of hitting their own reset button on this topic.

But because I am taking a little summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I have a few more thoughts on this topic not-quite-a-decade-but-more-than-an-epoch later.

The first thought is this: it's critical to keep in mind that the facts of the matter are that those who express serious judeo-christian fidelity are still the least likely to divorce.  From a merely-sociological standpoint, that item is constantly eroded by false declarations by biased advocates who are trying to poison the well against the strongest advocates for the view of marriage which made Western Civilization possible.  And let's be clear: I list among those detractors the Barna Group, which is the worst wolf among the sheep when it comes to understanding who Christians really are.

But the follow-up to that note is critical: "divorce" is a terrible measure of whether or not people are doing what they ought to do in marriage.  It's like measuring the competency of drivers by how few people they kill while driving.  Since a lot of people lately have been worried about what Jesus might have said about this subject, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce he said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."  If what we're trying to measure is hard hearts, maybe divorce is a good key indicator.  A measure for great marriages ought to be looking for something else.

Let me suggest something to you which will make everyone angry -- which is the only good reason to take a break from hiatus anyway.  The proper measure of whether or not there are good marriages in the ranks of actual Christians ought to be whether or not husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the Church.  The rest of this post is for our primarily-male readership.  I have 4 good reasons for this, so if you're not already rolling your eyes you can at least hear me out.

First, the idea in Christian thought that the good of the marriage is the responsibility of the husband is not any kind of new idea.  That's actually the problem: it's an old idea which is somehow out of vogue, and those trying to rehabilitate it are, if I may say so, doing it wrong.  The prototype in Scripture for what we ought to mean is, of course, Jesus -- but before He did what He does, Hosea was out there doing it Old Testament style.  Let me tell you something, fellas: it doesn't matter what sort of woman your wife is.  Your marriage is not ruined because of what kind of wife your wife is.  It can only be ruined by what kind of husband you are to her.  And to put a fine point on it, it is also made into something else by the kind of husband you are.

In the example of Hosea, God tells the prophet (which, btw, this is a great object lesson for people who want God to give them a word of knowledge: if you really want to know what God knows, you are bound not to be made famous and well-regarded by it; you are likely to wind up doing something everyone else will see as a terrible idea) to "Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom."  From God's perspective, His wife -- that is, his chosen people with whom he has a covenant -- is not merely a bad housekeeper or a lousy cook.  God's covenant partner has sold what belongs uniquely to Him to everyone for money and nice dinners.  And in that circumstance, God doesn't pretend that His wife has done nothing wrong -- but He also does not pretend it is her problem to make it right.  It is His problem to make it right.  And when He makes it right, it will be Right:
I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.
You may not like this example because God actually promises to punish Israel for what they have done, and that's fine -- I understand we are all squeemish about Old Testament modes of Justice.  But Hosea doesn't punish Gomer: he buys her out of slavery, and when she returns to her old life, he goes and does it again.  And when God tells the prophet how to reflect on this, here's what he says:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
    How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
    my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
    I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
    the Holy One in your midst,
    and I will not come in wrath.
Look: faithfulness has to come from someplace.  The foundation of the promises your marriage is based on have to come from someplace.  In an original sense, they come from God.  In the immediate sense, somebody right here and now has to start by being the ordinary means God intended for marriage.

But look at this, fellas: this is what it means in the Old Testament for God to love his people.

When we turn to the New Testament for our second example, it doesn't actually get any easier for you -- because the model of Hosea is multiplied by the moral perfection of the bridegroom.  The example of Jesus (as we read Ephesians 5) is of the perfect bridegroom who makes his bride his own flesh.  And the example Jesus sets is this: while we (the church) were yet sinners, He died for us.  At the right time, Jesus (the holy and righteous one) died for the ungodly.  Certainly: Jesus died for our sins and in that condemned our sins.  He made it clear that what we were doing was wrong -- but therefore paid the price for our sins so that we would not be put to death for them.  He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  And in case you missed it, we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Mercy and Love are the way Jesus sanctifies the church, nurtures her, takes her out of sin.

What if, in your family, you were the guy who humbled himself in obedience to God to the point of humiliating death for the sake of your wife?  Do you think your family would look and act differently, or would they just be the same ol' people just like the folks down the street who are closet egalitarians (or maybe open egalitarians) who have nice, middle class economic goals and cut their grass twice a week?

Third, if we are measuring how good our marriages are, or we want to gauge them in some way, measuring the other people in our family is a fine form of legalism.  It is not a fine form of faith.  Reforming other people is for Politicians and other Charletans.  It also is a great way to create enemies.  We have a saying at our house: "You" is a full-time job.  Stick to your full-time job, and I suspect that what will happen is what God expected to happen when husbands love their wives the way Christ loves the church.  Everything else aside, the husband's job is to love his wife the way Christ loves the church.  Like his own body.  Not like a contractor.

Last, one of the most sickening things that has happened in the last 4 weeks is the way marriage has, again, been watered down in order to make sense of what has apparently happened by force of legal caveat.  Back in 2012, I was trying to help to think through what we were talking about when we said "marriage."  A highlight was this:
Now fire up your imagination for a second.  Imagine you are at dinner with some other person, and you've been thinking about this for a long time.  As the waiter leaves with your order of eats for the evening, you clench up a little, and then screw your courage to the sticking place.  You take a deep breath and you begin, "What I really want is to avoid incest, and embrace endogamy.  I want some rights and duties regarding sexual intercourse and property, and to establish a nominal division of labor.  I want a visible household economy.  And you seem like exactly the right person to do that with, at least for now.  Will you marry me?" 
Is there anyone who would really say that, or really want that?
The answer is apparently "yes" right now, except for the endogamy part.  Maybe the re-write from the script of the victors in this skirmish would be, "What I really want is for other people to celebrate all my urges, all the things I think I deserve including sexual pleasure.  I wants rights over property and to make sure someone doesn't cheat me out of it.  I also want someone to share my living expenses with in a way that the law will enforce, and a way to make them settle up like any contractor if they don't live up to their end of the bargain."

I bring it up as my last reason here because let's face it: what we ought to have makes that look like the corrupt and morally-blighted trap it is obviously intended to be.  If husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the church, when some famous idiot goes on TV and tries to make anything else look like that, what it really is gets painted with neon colors and stands out like an Easter egg on a putting green.

We ought to want to do that, gents.  We ought to want to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, exposing them to the light with the light which is Christ in us.

14 July 2015

Opportunity to help a faithful brother: Ed Komoszewski

by Dan Phillips

You may or may not instantly recognize — much less be able to vocalize — the name Ed Komozsewski. As to the latter, it is pronounced comm-ah-CHEFF-skee.

As to the former, Ed has brought us several books including his byline, of which I reviewed and recommended one called Reinventing Jesus some time ago. If you read it, you profited by it; it's quite a good book.

But also if you have read and profited from The World-Tilting Gospel, published by Kregel, you have Ed to thank. Ed is the man who sold Kregel on taking a chance on unpublished me and my baby, and helped nurse it and me through the process. Valerie and I have had the pleasure of meeting and dining with him, as well as a continued occasional correspondence.

What you pretty surely do not know is that Ed has been very, very ill for some time. His medical bills have become unmanageable, his health continues to decline, and his needs deepen.

I'd like to encourage you to help the brother out at this GoFundMe site. You will find there much more explanation from scholars Dan Wallace and Rob Bowman.

I'll let you read the details at that site. Ed's a good brother, and I hope you'll help him and his family out.

Dan Phillips's signature