Friday, April 17, 2009

Neo-Calvinism? I can live with this

Before finishing off my series "How Are We To Live?" (and because I've been too busy lately to complete it), I wanted to share some more encouraging articles from my friends at Vangaurd Church and The Vossed World.

Bob, over at Vanguard Church, has some more excellent material (as usual). In these posts, he uses recent articles by Time and Newsweek to help us see what is taking place within the resurgent Calvinism movement in Evangelical Christianity. The distinction he sees between the two main strands of this "new" Calvinsim ("Neo-Puritianism" and "Neo-Calvinsim") is not just interesting, but helpful in understanding our Biblical roles as "culture-makers" (a term I borrow from the excellent book by Andy Crouch, "Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling") and the inherent dignity that still resides within God's created order, including Man, that should direct our thinking about how we're to engage the world in this life.

Once you check this out (and the related posts), stay there and search for these terms in the "search box": shalom, creation and redemption (to name just a few). You'll be blessed with some wonderful material that has been a great encouragement to me and very helpful in my ever-progressing walk with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Some more excellent posts can be found over at The Vossed World. As I've said before, Chad has a high grasp of Vos' thought and understands the progress of Redemptive History. His post on "Christ, the new Torah" is excellent! Also check out this short post reminding us that Christ is our Covenant.

I've been blessed by both of these sites in sometimes different ways and they remain high on my list of must-reads!

...conclusion coming soon!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Are We To Live? Part-4 (Consummation)

In considering the topic “How are we to live?”, I’ve attempted to show that:

  1. God created Man with a certain design for a certain function. Man was created as “image-bearer” (image-son) to be in intimate communion with his “Father/Creator” while “tending the Garden” (cultivating the earth) as God’s vice-regent, ruling over the works of His hands. Man’s “image-bearing” quality was his “humanness”. Adam was a “perfect” human-being in his typological role and he was expected by God to live into the authenticity of his created nature.
  2. But Man rebelled against God and took it upon himself to redefine what it means to be “image-son”. In the process, sin entered God’s “good” creation bringing with it God’s curse upon all of creation—including Man. The estrangement that the Bible calls “death” now marks all of creation and Man’s “humanness” has been “vandalized”; Man has become less than what he was created to be (what I’ve previously called “sub-human” or “less than human”). All of creation, including Man, needs to be Redeemed (recovered to its original design and purpose).
  3. And God has provided this Redemption through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Redemption was not an after-thought brought about as a result of Adam’s sin, but was purposed “from the foundation of the world” as the means by which all of creation, including Man, would reach its destiny and purpose. Adam, like the Garden itself, was typological pointing to Christ and His consummative work.

As an aside, in the above point two I referred to my previous use of the term “sub-human” (and also “less than human”) in reference to the effect of The Fall on Man, specifically in regard to his “humanness”. For the sake of clarity and continuity I will continue using the same terms as I close out this series, but please see my friend Russ’ aversion to and caution with regard to my use of these terms in his comments on my previous post here. I appreciate his comments and generally agree with his points on the matter, but I believe that the phrase “less than human” speaks to the reality of what the Bible portrays as the predicament that faces Man still in his unredeemed “sinful” nature apart from Christ (for all the reasons previously mentioned in this series).

My point in using such terminology is to stress that the Bible speaks of the New Birth as more than simply a forensic change that takes place with regard to our standing with God—it speaks of transformation. There is an ontological change associated with the New Birth and our transformation in Christ. And there must be because there was an ontological change that occurred at The Fall. "Original sin" is not simply a legal pronouncement on the human race--it's not just words that speak to our standing condemned before God. Original sin speaks to a change that has taken place in our very nature as human beings. The “sin nature” has infected all of humanity so that we’re “not the way we’re supposed to be” (see previous posts). We recover our full humanity only in Christ as we are joined to Him by the Spirit in the New Birth. We are transformed back into our created design and purpose as “image-bearers” (image-sons) through the continuing work of the Spirit in us as He conforms us to Christ-likeness. And when Christ returns, this transformation will be complete as we enter into the eternal state in our resurrected physical nature. Christ has ushered in the New Creation and we are a part of it now—all we (and the rest of Creation) await is the final fruit of this New Creation in the consummation to come at Christ's return.

The “natural man” (the person that is not joined to Christ by the Spirit in the New Birth) is simply not the same kind of Man as the “spiritual man” (the person who partakes of the Spirit by being joined to Christ in the New Birth). The Bible is clear on this. One kind of human being is incomplete because he lacks the Spirit; the other kind of human being is being made complete because he has the Spirit. This isn’t a “state of mind” or simply a “positional” reality. This is an ontological change as the “sin nature” is replaced by, as Peter calls it, the “divine nature”. This is not to say that the person joined to Christ has become divine; just that in regeneration a fundamental change has taken place within a person such that he has now become in essence what he was originally created to be—fully (truly) human! Of course, this is a process…a work of the indwelling Spirit in a person that will culminate with his resurrected body. But the truth of what God has done is always spoken of as a present reality even when aspects of its completion in time/space have not yet been realized; just as we can speak of the present reality of the Kingdom of God, yet we await its consummation at Christ’s return.

And this brings us to The Consummation! As I’ve already mentioned, what God has accomplished in the Person and Work of Christ is complete—in a sense. We live in the paradigm of the already/not yet aspect of the fulfillment of all things in Christ. When on the cross our Lord said, “It is finished”…He meant it! All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. There is nothing left for Him to do to accomplish His purpose in redemptive history. The curse is broken and Christ’s redemption is complete. In the mind of God, His goal has been realized…we just see this realization being worked out in time/space (as we must being dimensional creatures) as Christ’s redemption is applied to all those who are called. And at His return, this already completed work of God will be finalized in time/space with the ushering in of the consummative state—the Eternal Sabbath of God’s rest in the New Heavens and New Earth.

Much can be said and volumes written about The Consummation, but for my purposes it is enough to say that at Christ’s return, the New Creation that has already dawned with His first coming will set for eternity with the “fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” In The Consummation, all things will be as they were originally purposed from the beginning. To Paraphrase Plantinga again, “Things will finally be as they are supposed to be”. What “Eden” as a type spoke of or foreshadowed, will be realized in the consummation that God promised through the prophets—the New Heavens and New Earth. The Creation itself will finally realize its own redemption upon the revealing of the “sons of God” at the return of the Son of God! The curse is (even now) overthrown and the Shalom that reigns even now in our hearts through the Spirit (Jesus is our “shalom”) will reign over all of Creation as we enter into the eternal Shabbat of God’s Rest!

So how does all of this answer the question, “How are we to live”? Stay tuned for the conclusion….

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When Tomorrow Never Comes

I just stumbled across this poem the other day as I was preparing my computer for an operating system reinstallation. I remember my Dad sending it to me shortly after my wife and I returned from my Mom's funeral, but I was in no mood at that particular time to give it much thought or contemplation. Poetry is a genre that I've never really care for, unless it's supplemented by an infectious beat, luscious chords, a righteous "low" end and delightful vocals--you know, everything that makes Metallica worth listening to! Or is that James Brown?! :-)

Although I do find myself enjoying the writings of my friend "The Righteous Rapper", poetry simply as poetry usually doesn't hold my interest. But reading this poem again made me think afresh about the loss that was experienced in our families with the passing of my mother, my aunt and my close cousin within last few years. When my mother died, this was my first real experience with the loss of a loved one. I vaguely remember as a child my grandmothers dying; and a little later, while still a "youth", my uncle died. But these events didn't affect me very much at the time and I moved on without much thought about it. I also lost a friend when I was in High School; but again, I was sad for awhile and then...nothing.

It wasn't until someone very close to me passed away that I realized the impact of "death"; of course, by the time my mom died I had been a Christian for some time. Maybe this is why this particular poem has struck a chord? I don't know. When I read this I also think about a young couple who have been friends of SGCC since before its inception. Pete and Jen were young and married only a few years before the Lord called her home just a few months ago. I know that Pete and the family are still grieving. And yet...

As Christians, we can grieve not only in hope but also in joy. Not joy because we're happy to lose them, but joy because we're happy for their joy...their gain. I know that it's difficult in the midst of grief to consider the joy that our departed loved ones are experiencing; but even as we're called in this life to "weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice", I think we can also "rejoice" with our departed loves ones who at the moment they leave us are "rejoicing" in the presence of our Lord and His Saints. It is good to grieve because we minister to one another as we share with others the sorrow of loss. But let's follow the call of the Spirit to be ever rejoicing--for those for whom we weep are also rejoicing "at home with the Lord".

When Tomorrow Never Comes
(author unknown)
When tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things we didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you;
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready
In Heaven far above,
And that I had to leave behind
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away
A tear fell from my eye;
For all my life I'd always thought
I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for,
So much yet to do;
It seem almost impossible
That I was leaving you.
But when I walked through Heven's gates,
I felt so much at home;
When God looked down and smiled at me,
from His great golden throne.
He said, "This is eternity
And all I promise you.
Today your life on earth is past,
But here it starts anew.
This is but one Eternal Now,
no future and no past;
For in My Presence, precious child,
This day will always last."
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart;
For everytime you think of me,
I'm right there near your heart.
And I, knowing now as God knows me
Will joyfully watch you serving Him,
'Till we are joined together in this wonderful place,
For all eternity.