Martin Luther and the Inauguration

On this historic day (as is every other day that transpires), I think that words from a man who undoubtedly altered the course of Western civilization are appropriate.

No, I do not refer to our current president, Barack Obama, but rather to a foul-mouthed, hard-headed, recovering monk, one Martin Luther (1483-1546, below).

martin-luther

It can be safely said that Luther can be grouped with Paul in the category of men “who have upset the world.”

Luther’s commentary of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a classic which I am currently reading and enjoying immensely. Not coincidentally, I read these words today:

In matters of politics, God wishes us to honor and respect those outward veils or persons as His instruments by whom He governs and preserves the world.

But when the question concerns religion, conscience, the fear of God, faith, and the service of God, we must not fear these outward persons; we must not put our trust in them or look for comfort from them or hope for deliverance from them, either physically or spiritually.

I should neither fear nor trust the judge but God alone, who is the true judge.

Yes, as followers of Christ we are commanded to pray for our leaders, but this in no way gives us leeway to descend into a mindless and idolatrous treatment of our political leaders.

Exhibit A comes from someone who commented on today’s events as described in a story from the Daily Mail,

Today’s momentous occasion is a time for celebration for all world citizens. It perhaps marks the rights of passage into a more tolerant and mature phase in humanity and highlights further evolution of our species into a less barbaric and hopefully more egalitarian society.

Exhibit B can be seen in stories like this one.

So, pray and pray hard for President Obama (see Dr. Mohler’s prayer), but let us not fool ourselves into thinking that perhaps today’s inauguration wasn’t complete because of the absence of a donkey, her colt, palm branches and the crowds laying down their coats before the presidential limo.

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John Chrysostom Helps a Brother Out

This is a mosaic of Eastern church father John Chrysostom. It resides in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

John Chrysostom lived from 347-407 and from the sixth century on he was glossed Chrysostom (Gk. Golden Mouth) for he was a master preacher. What’s more, St. John has kept up with the times and even has his own website.

In Knowing God, J.I. Packer says,

John Chrysostom had [Paul’s letter to the Romans] read aloud to him once a week; you and I could do a lot worse than that.

Yes I suppose Dr. Packer is right, we could do a lot worse than that. So this prompted me to mirror Chrysostom’s practice though I’m doing my own reading.

I’ve read Romans a few times, successively learning something new. I’m not sure where God will take me as I embark on this new journey through (IMHO) the best of Paul’s epistles.

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Unanswered Prayers and the Prosperity Gospel

So I’m sitting on the bus on the way to work when a woman sits next to me. Turns out she is a sister-in-Christ. After identifying one another as Christians, she revealed to me that she was in seminary.

Go Metro!

She was telling me about the things she was learning there and how blessed she had been by them. It’s good to hear testimony like this, I thought. One of the things she learned was that if you need something (in her case a car) all you have to do is ask God for it and He’ll give it to you.

Of course, the implication is clear that if He doesn’t then you don’t have enough faith (a favorite text is Matthew 17:20). A lack of faith is the cause of unanswered prayer.

It became evident that she was being instructed by a seminary awash in the so-called Prosperity Gospel.

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Charles Barkley and Fake Christians

The following quote is from this story,

And I think these Christians, first of all, they’re not supposed to judge other people. But they’re the most hypocritical judge of people we have in the country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like they’re Christians. They’re not forgiving at all. — NBA legend Charles Barkley

Sir Charles was a great basketball player who is always good for a sound bite. As for his theological chops, well, his comments are reflective of someone who doesn’t know much about Christianity.

Christians are not supposed to judge those outside of the church, as the Apostle Paul makes clear,

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?

But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

If unbelievers (“outsiders” as Paul calls them) want to engage in behavior which is clearly in violation of God’s Law it is not up to us to judge them, God will take care of that as Paul makes clear.

If this is what Sir Charles means when he says “judge other people”, fine and good. However, the problem lies when so-called Christians proudly engage in the type of behavior one finds prevalent amongst unbelievers.

Not only are we as members of the Body of Christ (the Church) supposed to judge, if such “Christians” remain unrepentant, then it is the church’s responsibility to disfellowship them.

To the unbeliever (and admittedly to some Christians) this may sound harsh and may even tempt him to judgmentally call Christians all sorts of unflattering names, but frankly it is a family matter and it does not concern them.

Yes, Sir Charles, the Christian is commanded to forgive but Jesus (you know the Son of God and all) laid out the way that the unrepentant “Christian” is to be dealt with, a cursory read of the process, as outlined in Matthew 18:15-20, might be of some use to you before you find doing the very same thing that makes you sick, a “hypocritical judge”.

Postmodernism, the “Coming Apostasy”?

Interesting article titled “The Coming Apostasy” by Greg Stier, President and Founder of Dare2Share.

He bases the article on a text from 1 Timothy 4,

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron… (verses 1 and 2)

Stier thinks that “we are beginning to see the firstfruits of the coming apostasy that Jesus promised and Paul predicted would mark the end of days. To be honest I think we are seeing it more within the church than outside it. Here are some reasons I think the Great Day (of Christ’s return) may be on it’s way and the bad days of apostasy may be closing in on us”

He gives 6 reasons why he believes this, and here they are:

  1. A growing emphasis on quasi or full on universalism.
  2. A tendency to de-emphasize, question or outright attack core theological truths.
  3. An overemphasis on “the red letters” of the Bible.
  4. An increasing skepticism toward certainty about anything.
  5. An overwhelming focus on conversations rather than conclusions.
  6. A redefining of the gospel without propositions.

It seems like he’s critiquing the postmodernism that is seen in some Christian circles, do you agree with his reasoning?

Christianity Brings out the Worst in People

“Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. — GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

I was recently privy to an elucidation of what Chesterton alludes to. A complaint was made that a certain charitable Christian woman was “too nice” to her fellow congregants. So much so, that the congregants, filthy quislings that they are, were portrayed as folks who took advantage of the woman’s charity.

Oh the outrage that this venerable woman would, at the drop of a hat, stop what she was doing and rush to the aid of her brothers and sisters of Christ. As a recipient of such actions, though not coming from this woman, I most appreciate this example of faithworks.

Ironically enough, the plaintiff above also showed displeasure when people did not lend her a helping hand in an hour of need.

The episode brought Lucian’s The Death of Peregrinus (to mind. I have not read this work but learned about it as it was referenced to in Fanning the Flames: Probing the issues in the Acts within a chapter having to do with the way the first Christians were perceived by their Greek and Roman critics.

Lucian’s mid-second century unflattering description of Christians is in part, as follows,

The activity of these people, in dealing with any matter that affects their community, is something extraordinary; they spare no trouble, no expense.

Peregrine, all this time, was making quite an income on the strength of his bondage; money came pouring in. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.

All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. Now an adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get among these simple souls, and his fortune is pretty soon made; he plays with them.

What certain unbelievers see as “stupid” and “misguided” is actually service to the Lord. To the Lord because by serving His body, the Church, one serves Him.

That this requires denial of self (not as its own end of course) is paramount not to mention counter-intuitive to the deep-rooted selfishness natural to us after Adam’s sin.

That this is not, can not, be understood by those who willfully remain outside merely gives testimony to the truth in the Apostle’s words,

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

May we go forth and tell those still in darkness about this “crucified sage” and show the love He teaches us.

Self-Righteousness: A Pillar of Unbelief

Often the charge is levied at religious people (in America it’s Christians since it is, on the surface, the prevalent faith) that they are self-righteous prigs who like nothing better than to impose their morality on everyone else and sapping the “fun” of out of everything. Sometimes the accusation is justified albeit for the wrong reasons.

It’s somewhat comical to watch religious people lob this label on one another. Among Christians much of this brotherly bickering could be curtailed with a cursory look at Romans 14, but I digress.

Currently reading Gene Edward Veith’s, “Loving God with All Your Mind” and are finding it to be a stimulating read.

In one of the chapters he talks about self-righteousness and the way he explains it shed some light on the fact that this disease is not limited to religious folk.

Veith writes,

The most dangerous illusion of them all is self-righteousness. This is the true barrier to Jesus Christ. All rejection of God’s grace takes this form. Those who refuse the free forgiveness of God through Christ do so because they do not see themselves as needing that forgiveness. They do no admit that they are sinners. They deny that they are desperately lost.

God’s Law in its purity works not only to shape society and to show us how we are to live, but also reveals our sinfulness and awakens in us our need of a Savior (Romans 7, Galatians 3).

And yet we try to convince ourselves, even in the midst of our sins, that we are basically good, in fact better than most people. We justify ourselves, and in our complacency and self-sufficient pride we shut out the grace of God.