Thursday, September 30, 2010

Struggle of Faith--The Incarnation

The Incarnation

We who have come to Christ by faith believe in the Incarnation, of course, as a matter of orthodoxy. We don’t believe, as Arianism teaches, that the Christ was a creation of the Father and so Jesus Christ as “Son of God” was a special creation of God for man’s salvation; we don’t believe that Jesus was just an exalted man as do the Socinians and Moralists; and we don’t believe, as the Modalists do, that God is one unitary Person who wears the “masks” of Father, Son and Spirit at any given time and who only assumed the “role” of the “Son” at the incarnation. We who bear the name and fragrance of Christ believe that God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, became a man, a real live in-the-flesh human being, without relinquishing His deity.

But do we really understand what this means? Do we understand the implications of Christ becoming human? We typically view the Incarnation as simply a necessary mechanism by which God saves us. In other words, “the flesh” (humanity, as such) is simply the “vehicle”, a contrivance, used by God to affect our salvation. God the Son had to come as a “man” in order to affect our salvation by living a perfect human life in obedience to the Law and thereby qualifying Himself to die for our sins. He had to come as a human being in order to be constituted able to die in our place and on our behalf so that we could have eternal life. But is this the full extent of the meaning of the Incarnation? Is the Incarnation relevant only to His final work and not to the totality of His Person? Does the Incarnation only speak to us with regard to His vicarious death and not also to His vicarious life? Is the importance and purpose of the Incarnation simply that Christ had to “take on flesh”, as it were, so that He was then capable of dying for our sins as atonement on our behalf?

Without necessarily realizing it, I think we typically reduce the atoning work of Christ to the Cross Event (His death, burial and resurrection) and neglect the atoning “work” of His life, thus missing the full glory and implication of the Incarnation. Why is this? Why do we so readily look to the Cross when we consider the “work” of Christ on our behalf without also recognizing the “work” of His life on our behalf? I’m not referring to a few miraculous things He did throughout His life that bore witness to who He was (which we all acknowledge), but His actual existence as a man that He lived on our behalf. We so easily separate or divide Christ into two, His Person (as the promised Messiah) and His work (of atonement upon the cross), that we miss, I believe, the point of the Incarnation: that the Person of Jesus is Christ’s work! Contra James Denney (The Death of Christ, 1973), the Incarnation is the very heart of Atonement which culminates in The Cross and Ascension. Jesus the Christ is our atonement in His very Person as the Incarnate Son.

Christ’s “work” of atonement (of redemption) is His entire life as a human being (the true and faithful “son”) lived out in our place and on our behalf in the power of the indwelling Spirit culminating in the Cross Event as He makes expiation for our sins; and although atonement has been made in full (as our Lord said, “It is finished”), nevertheless, He continues to work for us and on our behalf as our Ascended High Priest who has taken humanity into the Holy Place, into the very presence of God, in Himself where He mediates on our behalf as our representative. Humanity is seated with Jesus at the Father’s right hand because Christ has joined Himself to us irrevocably and forever; He is forever the God-Man, the Incarnate Son, who “ever lives to make intercession for us” as our Great High Priest.

Christ’s “work” of atonement is that He took on our humanity (our real, sin-cursed humanity) and cleansed it from the disease of sin and guilt (overthrowing the curse) by living the life of perfect, obedient “sonship” in true faith, prayer and worship to the Father in our place and on our behalf. His “work” of atonement is His entire life as a man (as the true and faithful “son”) lived out in our place and on our behalf culminating in the Cross where He died, was buried, rose again and ascended to God’s right hand. Christ’s “work” of atonement is taking our sin-diseased and alienated humanity upon Himself, overcoming it through a life of perfect, obedient sonship in true faith, prayer and worship, killing it by judging sinful humanity on the cross and raising it to newness of life as a new humanity (a New Creation) in Him. Humanity has been “born again”, as-it-were, in Him in objective reality. The “work” of Christ is His continued existence as the Incarnate Son who has ascended to the Father’s right hand and has taken our now cleansed and purified humanity into the very life of the Trinity in Himself.

The glorious truth of the Incarnation should inform and fill out our doctrine of atonement and should help us eliminate not only any bifurcation with regard to the Person and Work of Christ, but also any notion of a bifurcation within the category of humanity that Jesus died for. We too easily forget Paul’s words that “one died for all, therefore all died…that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them….”

The Incarnation as the ground of our Union with Christ

Christ’s union with us in the Incarnation, therefore, forms the very ground of our union with Him, though, as I mentioned in the first post, it is still a matter of faith. Why? It is still a matter of faith because we weren’t there to witness the life of Jesus Christ. But others were! The Scripture is clear and John tells us plainly that the Incarnate Son was heard, seen, beheld and handled. We believe in the Incarnation by faith, but it is a faith that is not without historical, empirical evidence. The Incarnation, because it is the basis of our union with Christ, tells us how it is that we are “in Christ”! The Incarnation tells us what it means that “we have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.” The Incarnation shows us how our spiritual or mystical union with Christ is relevant to us today. The Incarnation is the ground of our union with Christ because it is He who has united Himself with us forever! The tangible, ontological relevance of our union with Christ is found in His union with us in the Incarnation and the vicariousness of His life as a human being for us and on our behalf. Now when we read about our union with Christ, as those who have been joined to Him by the Spirit, we can have a tangible, ontological basis for understanding what this means and how it becomes relevant to us as we seek to live as Children of God. Our spiritual union with Christ as “sons” of God is an ontological reality because Christ has truly united Himself with us in our humanity!

The Incarnation speaks to the totality or wholeness of Christ on our behalf—His existence—not just toward His specific “work” on the cross. We do not simply have a new “standing” before God as those who have now been “forgiven”; we have truly been transformed into “new creations” by virtue of our participation in the One who has taken us into Himself! So what’s the point? As Jesus lived a life of ontological reality by simply being who He was, so we too, by virtue of our union with Him by the Spirit (our “in Christness”, as Paul refers to it), are called to freely live out the ontological reality of who we now are as Children of God in Him by the power of the Spirit. As Jesus didn’t have to purpose to do anything to live in conformity to who He was, so we, because we have truly been joined to Him by the Spirit, do not (and cannot) purpose to do anything to obtain or secure our place as “sons of God”; we simply come to Him by faith. As with Jesus, and in His power by the Spirit, we are to simply be who we are in the confidence that, because we have been united in Him by the Spirit, we are truly “sons” of God who are even now continuing to have the life of Christ formed in us by the Spirit.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”

James B. Torrance’s little book, “Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace” is an excellent, easy-to-read introduction to the vicarious humanity of Christ and the ontological basis for our faith, confidence and life in this world.

The Vicarious life of Christ

We have no problem speaking about the vicarious death of Christ in His humanity as the One who died in our place and on our behalf. Why do we not also recognize the vicarious life of Christ in His humanity as the One who lived in our place and on our behalf? Christ is the “second Adam” not only because He died vicariously (in our place and on our behalf) as our representative, but because, as Adam, Christ is actually a human being who lived vicariously a true human life in perfect “sonship” to the Father (in our place and on our behalf) as our representative.

This "vicariousness" of Jesus is what Paul is trying to explain to us as he draws parallels between the two representative human beings—Adam and Jesus. Just as Adam represented us in his humanity, and we were found in him “in Adam” with respect to sin and death (the curse of alienation), in the same way Jesus now represents us in His humanity and we are found in Him “in Christ” with respect to righteousness and life (the blessedness of communion)! The sin-diseased humanity of Adam (of which we share) has been cleansed by Christ in and through His Incarnation such that as Adam was our representative and head with regard to sin and death (the curse), so Jesus is now our representative and head with regard to righteousness and life (the New Creation). In other words, as Adam lived out his humanity (and by extension and representation—our humanity) as “son of God” in sin and disobedience in our place and on our behalf as our representative and head (the “first” Adam), so Jesus as the true human being has and continues to live out His authentic humanity (and by extension and representation—our humanity) as “son of God” in righteousness in our place and on our behalf as our representative and head (the “second” Adam). Jesus in His Person “undoes”, as it were, the “work” of Adam. As Adam corrupted humanity in his falleness and so brought estrangement and death (the curse), so Jesus cleanses humanity in His righteousness and so brings communion and life (the overthrow of the curse). This is what the Incarnation speaks to—not simply the impending death of Jesus on the cross, but the whole existence of Jesus as the man who lives, responds and acts as a human being in our place and on our behalf.

Christ’s Humanity

But Paul is not suggesting that Adam and Jesus had two different human natures—one fallen and one exalted. No, Christ came and assumed our condition; our fallen, sinful nature. Christ’s humanity was identical to our humanity—and it must be this way if the creation is to be reconciled.

We will pick up here the next time (as…well…time permits).

Friday, August 13, 2010

The "Struggle of Faith"

This will be a multi-part post concerning the Christian’s continuing “struggle of faith”. This may not be a struggle that we knowingly engage in everyday, but as we live our lives in this world we will inevitably (and probably often) encounter opposition in some form or other (opposition from within and/or opposition from without) that brings opportunity for us to either exercise our faith and experience the presence of Christ by the Spirit, or to allow our “flesh” to influence us and thereby experience the doubts and worry that cause us to question God and His goodness to us—the “struggle of faith”. I hope that in examining this paradigm we will see in Christ the victory of faith that produces contentment and confidence as we live out the reality of who we are—Children of God in Christ.

The “Struggle of Faith”

Although always present in my life to some degree, I have recently gone through a spell where the “struggle of Faith” seemed more difficult than in times past and I’d like to share an insight that has helped me immensely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this truth is essential for our progress in maturity as Children of God and in our struggle to “live by faith and not by sight”. What is this truth?

Union With Christ

The concept of union with Christ is nothing new to us, of course; the Bible speaks of it often. We have been joined to Christ by the Spirit. We have been baptized into Christ. We have died and have been buried with Christ and have been raised up in Him to new life. We are (presently) seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Everything about this Gospel and our lives in it is in Christ, in Christ, in Christ. Union with Christ is the fundamental reality of the Gospel. Whatever we think of the Atonement (e.g. ransom, penal substitution, Christus Victor, etc.), the fundamental purpose of God underlying the Gospel is the reconciliation of humanity in Christ attested by the sending of the Spirit to join us to Christ. “Union with Christ is our destiny”, as Philip E. Hughes explains in his excellent book, The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ.

However, in our consideration of this Union with Christ we often understand it in the positional sense, as simply our new standing before God: God the Father places us and then “seals” us in His Son by the Spirit thereby securing our blessed fate. We have been declared righteous because we’ve been joined to Christ in His righteousness by the Spirit who now works to transform us into His image and likeness. And this is certainly true; and it is certainly our sure hope. And we even, on occasion, believe that we recognize the work of the Spirit in us and through us.

But what does this Union with Christ really mean to us? How is our “position” in Christ relevant to us in our daily lives? It all seems so…ethereal (dare we say mystical?). Somehow, in some way unknown and even extraneous and contrary to us as sinful human beings, we’ve been joined to Christ by the Spirit. So what? How does that affect us in the “here and now”? There doesn’t seem to be any real tangible quality to our union with Christ, no measureable ontological difference about us. We don’t look any different. We don’t necessarily feel any different. We don’t always act any different—though we know that we ought to see the fruit of the transformational work of the Spirit in us however slowly and to whatever degree.
There is no empirical evidence of our union with Christ (we can’t actually see it or touch it), but we nevertheless believe it to be true. We exercise our faith in God that what He says is true and thereby we gain a sense of security and confidence. To be sure, we are called to live by faith and not by sight; but the concept of our union with Christ still seems overly psychological, like we have to force our minds to believe it in spite of the reality of our daily lives and lingering doubt (the “struggle with faith”). Are we really called to believe something that is only a declaration of truth but not a demonstrable ontological reality? The ontology of our union with Christ is lacking a concrete, tangible expression that is not satisfactorily expressed or explicit in the idea of our “being joined to Christ by the Spirit”; and this, I believe, contributes to our overall sense of “struggle” as we seek to live by faith. Without a certain and demonstrable ontology, we only have our own faith (weak as it is) to fall back on—and this is the problem!

Christ’s Union With Us

But union with Christ is so much more than this unknown (secret) and unapprehended work of the Spirit in joining us to Christ. Union with Christ is more than merely positional and spiritual, a truth that we accept by faith but is unperceived by us. Union with Christ really is ontological: though not necessarily perceived by us, our very being has been affected by the Spirit who now indwells us. Union with Christ really does speak to our lives in the here and now, in the joys and struggles of this life that we continue to live “under the sun”. Union with Christ is not just the psychological believing (a matter of faith) that our position has changed (from a “guilty criminal” to a “legal son”), or even the unperceived (but true) reality that we have been joined to Christ by the Spirit; it’s a tangible reality that we can "see" and “touch” (though still a matter of “faith”, which I’ll explain). This “union” is a reality that goes beyond the positional or mystical to the actual. Union with Christ does speak to a real, ontological change and therefore is of real, tangible relevance to us as we seek to live day by day as sons and daughters of God.

This ontological change, however, is not to be understood primarily within us (though because the Spirit really does indwell us we truly are “new creations”) but within Christ Himself (the “first fruit and first born of the New Creation” the “firstborn from the dead”). Our new ontology is derivative: the reason we can speak of a change at all in our very “being” (the ontological reality of our being “joined to Christ” by the Spirit) is because of Christ first joining Himself to us in our humanity! I think we lose sight of the relevance of our union with Christ and the power that is inherent in the Gospel toward us because we neglect the other side this union—the Incarnation: Christ’s union with us! This is the paradigm for understanding our union with Him. And I believe it is this aspect of our union with Christ, the ontological aspect of the Son of God becoming the Son of Man (a true human being), that is so important for us to understand as we struggle to live our lives in this world “by faith” as “sons” of God in Him. be continued.

Next…The Incarnation

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Must Read

Even though I've been away for a while, I've still been trying to keep up with my reading (if not my "commenting"). Bob, over at continues to write important, provocative and encouraging pieces covering various topics (his posts on Glenn Beck are particularly interesting). I think everyone would be well-served by reading and meditating on his material, especially his theological-specific material on redemption. Bob truly understands the cosmic scope of redemption--for this creation--and the thorough-going transformation that has come in Christ by the Spirit for all of His people. As I've stated before, use the search box and type in shalom for some excellent reading.

His latest post is a continuation of a series of posts commenting on the published articles in Comment Magazine on the Biblical story of Creation-Fall-Redemption. I recommend reading all of Bob's posts on in this series as well as the articles themselves. We need to have a more biblical understanding of the Person and Work of Christ and I think Bob's contribution serves the Body well. I don't think he goes as far as the Torrance's with regard to the scope of the Atonement, but I won't hold that against him! :-)

Check it out!

Coming soon--GGM's thoughts on "faith".

Addition: I just discovered Bob's other site which is devoted to the "neo-calvinist" tradition associated with Abraham Kuyper. This looks to be a rich resource for understanding the implications of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation as set forth in the biblical storyline. I look forward to much blessed reading over there!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From the dust of the ground

Wow! Has it really been this long? Where has the time gone?

I'm sure the two or three people who actually read this thing have gone bye-bye by now, but since I'll be starting school in a few weeks I thought I'd try to get back into it--for my own benefit if nothing else. Who knows...I may even be able to visit some of my friends' sites now and then!
So, for me and anyone who cares....

I was sent the following quote (among others) in an email and felt compelled to say a quick something in response:

"The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason--and that is, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us. Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with creation."--Prince Charles of England

Prince Charles, I believe, understands what many "christians" do not--that we are to be responsible with God's creation. Ignoring his reference to Islam and his language of "contract with creation", his point about the importance of "balance" with the Created Order is spot-on. The Bible speaks of this "balance" as Shalom, which I've defined elsewhere something like this: the state of harmony within the created order in which every created thing finds itself in perfect conformity to itself and its created function, and therefore relates with integrity (in truth) to every other created thing thereby bringing about the mutual flourishing of all things. This is the fulness of the Biblical meaning of "Peace".

As I've stated elsewhere in this blog, Shalom is the state of creation that was only typified in Eden. But since the purpose of God (Father, Son and Spirit) from the beginning (from before the beginning, actually) was to have the creation (all things) consummated (or brought into ultimate being) in the person of Christ (through His incarnation), shalom is a reality that is fulfilled only in Christ. As the "state-of-being" for the Christian, shalom is fulfilled in principle now in our union with Him. Shalom will be fully established existentially within the entire Cosmos at His return with the "new heavens and new earth" (which I've previously stated is a reference, I believe, to the ultimate redemption and recovery of this creation).

In our use of creation, therefore, we (all of humanity, but especially, I would argue, Christians) are to be responsible stewards of creation as those who bear God's image and seek to live in this world with integrity (in truth); as those who understand the goodness of this "balance" within the created order and seek to honor God by honoring His creation. We don't "worship Mother Earth", as some religious naturalists speak, but we recognize and live in the reality that we as human beings, though the pinnacle of creation as "image-bearers", are nonetheless a part of creation who, like the animals, were also created "from the dust of the ground".

Would that all Christians recognize what Prince Charles does and be better stewards of God's "good" creation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Avatar: what's not to like...seriously!?

After watching this movie in 3D at the IMAX Theater I had planned on writing a long, comprehensive review. I wanted to speak to the political and religious themes as well as the movie itself. There has been so much negative press from the right-wing, religio/political fanatics concerning this movie that I thought I’d throw my nickel-and-a-half into the mix. But the more I thought about it the more I realized…it’s a MOVIE stupid! And it’s a Sci-Fi movie at that! Sometimes I get so aggravated with these people who believe that they are commissioned by God to be the conscience of America, who think they know what’s best for the world (Pat Robertson anyone? How about Rush Limbaugh?). For a long time now I’ve been of the opinion that there is a real “dumbing down” of America; but I’m not so sure anymore that it is the “liberal” Democrats that are the guilty party.

Anyway, I better stop that rant before I get too “into it”, as they say. A very nice synopsis of the plot of movie can be found at Wikipedia, so I won’t bore you with it. I will just give you a personal review of what I liked about it.

I found Avatar to be quite exciting and moving. A friend of mine (thanks Roozer) likened the overall story to Star Wars: it is what it is. The evil empire seeks to destroy (for its own reasons) a peaceful people who have not offended their enemy in any way. The story is fairly predictable and the writing and acting are pedestrian at best. We have here the age-old epic battle of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, the Titanic vs. the Iceberg, Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason (Friday the 13th) and Freddy (Nightmare…) vs. death (or, as we all know by now: Republicans vs. Democrats or Christianity vs. well…everything else) with villains and heroes/heroines, weird-looking creatures and strange “alien” humanoid figures all fighting it out over…something; we have moral conundrums and deep, heartfelt “soul-searching” that brings a tear to your eye (well, someone’s eye…not mine!); and we have (drum roll please)…action: lots and lots of glorious, sci-fi, in-your-face ACTION!

So, what’s not to like besides the lame writing and acting? Absolutely nothing! This was a great ride! And seeing it in 3D at the IMAX was truly a ride, indeed! There was nothing that I did not like about this movie. I do wish they would make wrap-around 3D glasses so that we wouldn’t have so much peripheral viewing wasted, but since the action is mainly in your face the whole time it’s nothing to complain about. I could go on and on about the special effects and the 3D technology, but I won’t. You have to see it to really appreciate it. What I liked the best about the 3D viewing (you can see this movie as a regular movie without the 3D) was that the entire movie was 3D, not just some random moments of stuff flying at you—it really felt like I was there in the action. When I think of 3D movies I think of the cheesy sequences where something is coming at you every now and then and it surprises you…sometimes. This movie, however, doesn’t employ those cheesy tricks. The 3D technology in this movie actually brings the audience into the film itself and doesn’t release them until it’s over. It’s fantastic.

I also really enjoyed the color of the movie and what I believe this signifies. The planet of Pandora itself (well, technically it’s a moon of the planet Polyphemus), all the creatures, and the indigenous “humanoid” population called the Na’vi were drenched in vivid colors throughout. I think the filmmaker purposefully used these vibrant colors for Pandora and its creatures in juxtaposition with the rather dull, gray colors of the “earthlings” and their habitation to intensify our sense of the nature of the conflict. I believe that the movie is telling us something very important with this color juxtaposition: there is no LIFE, no vitality or authenticity of “being” in the kind of self-referential thinking that sees value only in profit or personal utility. The earthlings were rightly portrayed as evil in their raping and pillaging of the land for profit; and as I said there is no life, no vitality of “being” in that kind of thinking. The Na’vi, on the other hand, were shown to be full of life and authenticity of “being” as they lived in harmony with one another and their surroundings; they portrayed, in a sense, the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1:28-30.

Throughout the movie, we’re confronted with two very different paradigms: Life and Death. And I think these two paradigms are captured by the juxtaposition of color between the earthlings and Pandora. The paradigm of life is depicted with vibrant color. “Life” sees value in all things and seeks to live in harmony with one another and the creation. The paradigm of death is depicted by drab colorlessness. “Death” sees value only in personal utility and cares not what harm or damage is done to others or the creation. Cameron’s pantheism aside, I think this movie has much to say about humanity (as Image-bearers) and our responsibility to one another and the creation of which we are a part. In this way, Avatar is “Christian” in so many ways that contemporary, “Christianity” is not. Rather than simply criticizing this movie as anit-Christian and anti-American (the standard “party line” we’ve come to expect from the religio/political right), the church could learn a few things from Avatar.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the color “thing”; but I really believe it conveys in a powerful way the two different sensibilities we see throughout the movie. At any rate, those who criticize Avatar as excessively political or religious need to lighten up: it’s Hollywood! What do you expect? And if you give it a chance and watch it with an open mind you will be able to enjoy a great movie that also actually speaks to the heart. Forgot about who direct it or wrote it. Forget about what the Religious Right or Sean Hannity might have said about it either religiously or politically. Just watch it and tell me if you don’t feel moved by the Spirit to “love one another” (whoever they are!) and to also care for the earth as we’ve been called to do from the time of the Garden of Eden.

I could say more about other aspects of the movie, but I’ll save that for some other time.

In case I wasn’t clear: I loved this movie!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God...and The Shack

As I continue to undergo a paradigm shift in my thinking (which has been occupying most of my time for the past few months), I've decided to begin posting some links to material that I've been enjoying lately. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze some of my own material in here now and then, but for the moment (or longer) I'm focused on continuing my investigation into Trinitarian Theology. I'm not sure exactly where this will take me, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the ride so far!

In the meantime, as I said, I'll be posting links to some interesting reading and I'll also continue to post quotes from some of my favorite books and authors.

These first two links are complimentary. One is from theologian Baxter Kruger's blog (Baxter's Ongoing Thoughts) where he says that he is in the process of writing a book on The Shack. He loves The Shack. Our church had a bible study on The Shack a while back and I came into the study expecting to hate it based on all the critical reviews from "scholarly" Reformed ministries (I even re-named my copy of the book to The Swill, complete with actually re-wording the title in white magic marker--and it looks great!); but rather than hating it, I found myself both appalled by some of the ideas put forth and yet, at the same time, strangly encouraged and comforted.

The fact that Paul Young's treatment of the relationship between the Father, Son and the Spirit could elicit such outrage from critics (and, at times, dismay within my own thinking) suggests how far we've distanced ourselves from the revelation of the Triune God of the Scriptures. We in the "western" Christian tradition have created our own "God" that looks very little like the God revealed in the Scripture and worshipped in the early church. This is the subject that Martin Davis deals with over at his blog God for Us! and is the second link below.

Martin has written a few prior posts concerning the dichotomy that we in the West have established between the Triune God as expressed or understood in Jesus Christ and revealed or disclosed by the Spirit and the ogre "God" that "stands behind the back" of Jesus. Our theology doesn't begin with the Trinity and the relationship of Father, Son and Spirit but with the one-substance, "Omni-god" who is "out there" (alone) waiting to be appeased before He can show His affection (if this "impassable" god even has affection). We give lip-service to the Trinity because we want to maintain our orthodoxy, but the Trinity should be our starting point in theology! I encourage you to continue reading back posts on Martin's blog for more illuminating material on how we've been influenced away from the true God as revealed in Christ.

We've gone a long way away from the early church's undestanding of God. I thank God that a Trinitarian revival is upon us! Enjoy these two links.

Two Gods--Dr. C. Baxter Kruger

Two God: An Historical Overview--Martin M. Davis

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

God With Us

This was one of my “blurbs” during our Sacred Space series (entitled God With Us on Sermonaudio). I believe we were preparing to consider the Exodus (the event, not the book) and how it contributes to the purpose of God in Christ to redeem and restore all things to Himself. Based on my notes, I suppose I was giving a review/overview of our Sacred Space series and I believe it went something like this:

Our study of Sacred Space is the study of God’s habitation or dwelling place—commonly understood as “Heaven”. But as we know, it’s not a “place”, per say; it’s not a geographical location. The Bible tells us that God is everywhere and that not even the heavens can contain Him. God’s dwelling place or Heaven, if you prefer, is the realm in which God is present in relation to His creation. It’s not simply where God is, but how God is with respect to His creation. We could say that “Heaven” is the place, so-to-speak, of relationship, of intimacy between God and His creation focused primarily toward Man as image-bearer (image-son), but then flowing out from Man to the entire created order.

(For those of you who’ve been reading my drivel for a while, this idea is not unfamiliar)

Eden, the Garden of God (also called, importantly for typological reasons, the Mountain of God) typified the intimacy of relationship of which Sacred Space speaks—God With Us! In the beginning, in Eden, God dwelt in intimate communion with His image-bearers. Adam and Eve freely and unashamedly walked with God and talked with God in intimate, joyful fellowship—as Children with their Father! And Shalom was the reality that was typified in Eden, the reality in which creation was to always exist.

(And we defined Shalom in this way)

Shalom is the state of Harmony within the created order in which every created thing finds itself in perfect conformity to itself and its created function and therefore relates with integrity (in truth) to every other created thing…and to God Himself.

(Again, for those of you who’ve been reading this stuff for a while, this is nothing new)

…and this Shalomic State was to be forever—the Perpetual Shabbat of the 7th day “rest” of God.

And God’s dwelling place (or Sacred Space) in this Shalomic State was to be comprehensive—it was to cover the entire earth. As His image-bearers were to multiply and subdue the earth, Eden, as-it-were, was to extend over the entire created order.

But as we’ve seen in our study so far, with the Fall there has come a separation, a distance between God and Man; and this new paradigm of alienation has affected the whole Cosmos. Sin has brought the curse and with it…estrangement (“death”). Eden typifies Life; the Curse typifies Death. To borrow from Cornelius Plantinga: Shalom has been vandalized. As we’ve seen, Sacred Space has been lost.

The recovery of Sacred Space, then, is the overturning of the Curse, the restoration of Life out of Death, the removal of this distance between God and Man, the removal of this alienation and estrangement that marks the created order. The recovery of Sacred Space is the reality of God dwelling in intimate communion with His people once again! It’s the return to Eden, so-to-speak, only in its fullness through the reality of the incarnation of Christ and the fulfillment of all things in Him! By His incarnation (and all that this means), humanity, as well as the entire Cosmos, has been taken up in Jesus, the Christ. The New Creation has come in Him! Christ is the one who establishes the everlasting Shalom because it’s in Him that the New Creation (of which we are now a part) enters into the Perpetual Shabbat of God “rest”. AMEN!

Monday, January 4, 2010

GGM is Back...

...and ready for the new year. To all my blogging friends (and my one or two occasional readers!), I want to say thanks for a wonderful 2009. I've been quite busy the past couple of months (as shown by my own lack of posting and lack of commenting on other blogs), but I'm excited about getting back into the swing of things in 2010. I don't think I'll be any less busy (I've added learning to ski on my list), but I plan on being more regular here and "out there" on the blogoshpere. I'm also planning on a small redesign of Sacred Space & All That Jazz (and and more variety of least, that's what I'm planning.

As busy I had been late in the 2009 calendar year, I did manage to find some interesting blogs that have a subtle (yet profound) difference of opinion in the meaning and scope of the Gospel. By engaging in some good "conversation" with some of those from this different perspective, I've made some new blogging friends and have found that I'm currently undergoing my own paradigm shift as I continue my consideration of these things. My initial introduction with those from this new perspective was a bit rocky at first (and I can take most of the blame for that), but I've discovered that they share with me a desire to know and love the Lord. I also discovered that I've been saying very much the same things as they are but from a different (and incompatible) vantage point. I look forward to continuing my investigation and enjoying more edifying correspondence in this direction.

In the meantime, here's a little something to start the new year.

As I look back on the past few years of ministry as "worship leader" (a term that I'm not crazy about, as I've said before here), I thought I'd reformulate a selection of some of my Sunday notes (what I typically call "blurbs") into short posts. I hope these can be not only informative but also encouraging and edifying (as much as short, little "blurbs" can be).

Back in 2006 we had a sermon series on the book of Esther. My last "blurb" went something like this:

We've come to the end of the book of Esther, but certainly not to the end of the Story. And that's because, as throughout the whole Bible, the Story is and continues to be God's Great Faithfulness in the Person and Work of Christ: the Story of Redemption! The Story is about Him! From the beginning of Creation (really, from before the Creation), the Scripture has been telling this Story. The Story is about who Christ is and what He came to (and did!) accomplish in His incarnation. Esther is another "mini-story" within the larger story that paints this portrait of the Person and Work of Christ.

Though the events of Esther are so far removed from us historically, we can relate very much to the Jews of this period because we also participate in the Story. The written word of the Scripture is complete, but God is not finished working. We still participate in redemptive history as He continues to show His faithfulness to His people and as He continues to call human beings to enter His Kingdom. The events of Esther aren't so far removed from us as we may think.

I believe that the main point of the book of Esther is God and His faithfulness. And I would go so far as to say that their experience of God and His faithfulness not only mirrors our own but actually anticipates (foreshadows or prefigures) our own experience.

* They experienced the faithfulness of God in the context of His promise of a Seed who was yet to come. We too experience the faithfulness of God in the context of His promise of a Seed who has come.

* They were helpless, hopeless and weak and seemingly forsaken by God because of their sin and rebellion. They were not only living in captivity, but they were destined to die by the hands of their enemies. Yet, they experienced the grace of God (according to promise). They witnessed God not only deliver them from the hand of their enemies but also give them a great victory so that their enemies were "no more". Likewise, we too are witnesses of God's faithfulness as He has delivered us out of the bondage of our enemies--sin and death! While we also were helpless and hopeless, even "enemies of God" destined to remain dead in our trespasses and sins, God graciously granted us repentance and by the power of the Gospel He has granted us Life and Victory in Jesus. By God's faithfulness, we have also been delivered--our enemeis are "no more".

* They witnessed God's faithfulness and victory--but with their eyes. Our witness is stronger and made more sure because God has given us His Spirit who continually testifies to our hearts concerning His Great Faithfulness and Deliverance in and through Jesus Christ!

* And as they regularly celebrate this great story of God's faithfulness in the festival of Purim, we regularly celebrate the Story of God's faithfulness in partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord at His Table.

So as we can see, their experience is not altogether unlike our own. And He has left us plenty of witness and testimony in the Scripture that He is the ever Holy, Sovereign, Powerful and Faithful "Father" who by His grace call us His Children in the Beloved! Amen!