Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Husbands Should Treat Their Wives

Whenever you give your wife advice, always begin by telling her how much you love her.  Nothing will persuade her so well to admit the wisdom of your words as her assurance that you are speaking to her with sincere affection.  Tell her that you are convinced that money is not important, that only thieves thirst for it constantly, that you love her more than gold; and indeed an intelligent, discreet, and pious young woman is worth more than all the money in the world.  Tell her that you love her more than your own life, because this present life is nothing, and that your only help is that the two of you pass through this life in such a way that in the world to come you will be united in perfect love.…Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out.  Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children.  Praise and show admiration for her good acts; and if she ever does anything foolish, advise her patiently.…Remind one another that nothing in life is to be feared, except offending God.

John Chrysostom,"Homily 20: On Ephesians 5:22-23," On Marriage and Family Life, (Crestwood:SVS Press, 1986), 60.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Antioch - Canon 9

It behooves the bishops in every province to acknowledge the bishop who presides in the metropolis, and who has to take thought for the whole province; because all men of business come together from every quarter to the metropolis.  Wherefore it is decreed that he have precedence in rank, and that the other bishops do nothing extraordinary without him, (according to the ancient canon which prevailed from our Fathers) or such things only as pertain to their own particular parishes and the districts subject to them.  For each bishop has authority over his own parish, both to manage it with the piety which is incumbent on every one, and to make provision for the whole district which is dependent on his city; to ordain presbyters and deacons; and to settle everything with judgment.  But let him undertake nothing further without the bishop of the metropolis; neither the latter without the consent of the others.

This canon specified the sphere of authority within the ecclesiastical hierarchy for a country overseer in relation to the metropolitan or in metropolitan overseers to one another.  At the top was not one above all as Rome purported but a college of oversight for the guidance of the church.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Evagrius on Psalmody and Prayer

Teachers will tell you that there is joy by unearthing a gem in a previously untapped source.  The following is one of those.  Evagrius Ponticus was a desert monk in the late fourth century.  This portion reflects some of his thoughts on the benefit from a healthy mix of prayer and psalm-singing.

Pray gently and undisturbed;
Sing psalms with understanding and good rhythm
then you will be like the young eagle that soars in the heights.

Psalmody calms the passions and puts to rest the body’s disharmony;
Prayer arouses the mind to activate its own proper activity.

Prayer is the power befitting the dignity of the mind;
it is the mind's highest and purest power and function.

Psalmody pertains to multiform wisdom;
Prayer is the prelude to immaterial and uniform knowledge.

Knowledge has great beauty: it is the co-worker of prayer,
awakening the intellectual power of the intellect to contemplation of divine knowledge.

If you have not yet received the gift of Prayer or Psalmody,
persevere and you will receive it.

De Oratione, 82-87

Sharing Hymns

I am thankful to Glenn Chatfield at The Watchman's Bagpipes for a post concerning the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul," because he shed light on two additional verses.  Most hymnals have verses 1-3, and 6, which are loved and sung heartily by every person I know.  Now I know there is more to love.  My thanks go out to Glenn for sharing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NIV 2011: Reaping the Whirlwind

Roger Pearse has years of experience in translating ancient texts.  His qualifications give credence to issues he expresses with the latest efforts to revise the NIV which includes greater gender-inclusivity in the grammar.  No punches are pulled as he states:
The editing of the NIV for “gender-inclusivity” — to conform to the political demands of those who have power today, in more honest language – would be disgusting and dishonest whichever text was involved.  But to do it to what purports to be the Word of God is an appalling blasphemy.
He goes on to note that PETA is now seeking to have animals no longer be referred as "it" but "he" or "she" in this revision.  I recommend the brief comments and link to the main article.

The translation committee was warned some years ago about this "sowing to the wind."  Certainly there will be a political response to assuage both PETA and the Christian community, but why be in a position that necessitates this action?  My general dislike for this translation is now more a disdain.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Antioch - Canon 8

Let not country presbyters give letters canonical, or let them send such letters only to the neighboring bishops.  But the chorepiscopi of good report may give letters pacifical.

As a safeguard of communicating canonical decisions, authoritative letters required a person of proper position.  At Nicaea the council proceedings were marked with Π. Υ. A. Π. (i.e. Father, Son, Holy Spirit) attesting to their authenticity similar to a royal seal from a monarch.  Letters of commendation, however, did not require the same level of authority, but the sender needed to be in a position of responsibility.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spiritual Warfare - Discerning Spirits

A great deal of spiritual warfare is understanding the input we receive.  The source can be the daily reception of data from media, coworkers, and acquaintances; or it may be an unexpected reception of a sporadic impulse, a spiritual message intentional directed toward us a "word from the Lord," or something a church leader said recently in public or private.  Any and all of these should be weighed as to their true source: God giving it for our good, another person who shares simply because he or she can whether intended for good or harm, or the evil one intent on our ruin.  This fourth set covered some rules for discerning spirits—or possibly better stated discerning the spirit of the messenger.

Notes – adapted from



Spritual Warfare - Satan

Here are links to the materials for the third set in our study of Spiritual Warfare.

Notes –Again taken largely from W. Robert Cook.

MP3 referenced in notes – A clip from the July 15, 2009 episode of the radio program Issues, Etc.  The person being interviewed is Bryan Wolfmueller, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, CO.

Handouts – 2-up copies of the PowerPoint slides

PowerPoint – Self-explanatory

Friday, March 18, 2011

Antioch - Canon 7

No stranger shall be received without letters pacifical.

This was another expression for the type of letter mentioned by Paul (2 Cor 3:1-3) as typical of the churches to introduce a brother or sister to a receiving church.  These letters were useful in that they acknowledged the carrier as an attested believer, and the receiving church felt they could trust the stranger.  This procedure retains its practical nature today though the method of transmission may vary.

Antioch - Canon 6

If any one has been excommunicated by his own bishop, let him not be received by others until he has either been restored by his own bishop, or until, when a synod is held, he shall have appeared and made his defense, and, having convinced the synod, shall have received a different sentence.  And let this decree apply to the laity, and to presbyters and deacons, and all who are enrolled in the clergy-list.

This canon accords with scripture: deal with the outcast with the idea of reconciliation and restoration.  The formal defense after excommunication seems peculiar, since the logical step in the United States would be to have the tribunal before dismissal.  This may be a case of cultural application since the American judicial system assumes innocence.  Within the church of this era, the approach may have been to deal with questionable doctrine or impiety until a synod could be formed to gain collective wisdom on the matter.  This would protect the church though the outcast would be in a hopeless position until the synod could be convened.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Antioch - Canon 5

If any presbyter or deacon, despising this own bishop, has separated himself from the Church, and gathered a private assembly, and set up an altar; and if, when summoned by his bishop, he shall refuse to be persuaded and will not obey, even though he summon him a first and a second time, let such an one be wholly deposed and have no further remedy, neither be capable of regaining his rank.  And if he persist in troubling and disturbing the Church, let him be corrected, as a seditious person, by the civil power.

This canon matched up with the previous to stop banished leaders from continuing their work.  Her, those deposed were setting up rival churches and refusing to respect the authority that had cast him out in the first place.  If the leader refused multiple attempts to cease and bring him back into regular church fellowship, he was completely cut off from the church.  As a last measure, the civil authority was to be allowed to correct this wayward person and group.

This may be the first mention of using civil authority to bolster discipline within the church. The church would have been better served to heed Paul who told the church in Corinth:
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?  Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels?  How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!  So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?  I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?  (1 Cor 6:1-6)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As the Worm Squirms

I think very little of the media but this MSNBC interview via speaks volumes.  Martin Bashir confronts Rob Bell on what he is actually doing to the gospel—changing it.

So tell me again why the unbelieving interviewer is more honest than the professing Christian here?

Antioch - Canon 4

If any bishop who has been deposed by a synod, or any presbyter or deacon who has been deposed by his bishop shall presume to execute any part of the ministry, whether it be a bishop according to his former custom, or a presbyter, or a deacon, he shall no longer have any prospect of restoration in another Synod; nor any opportunity of making his defense; but they who communicate with him shall all be cast out of the Church, and particularly if they have presumed to communicate with the persons aforementioned, knowing the sentence pronounced against them.

If a person in recognized church leadership was deposed for whatever reason, he was forbidden from practicing normal ministerial functions.  Should he do so, he should forfeit any possibility of restoration to position.  Furthermore, if someone else attempts to communicate with that leader, they also were cast out of the church.  This action would certainly quell insurrectionist attempts against the church, but there is the nagging question: what if the leader was put out for political reasons as was (and is) wont to happen?  Sadly, a brief survey of church history is replete with examples.  For instance some have asserted that this canon conceived to oppose Athanasius and used later against John Chrysostom.1  The issue was doctrine, but the heterodox were holding the keys to reconciliation.  Arianism was untenable to Athanasius, therefore his banishment.

Properly used, this canon was beneficial as heeding the apostle John's admonition:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.  (2 John 1:10-11)
However, if the wicked are in authority, God is to be obeyed rather than men.  Conversely, we do not want to receive back or encourage the following of one who is leading the sheep astray and possibly feeding on them.  Those leaders are to be noted and avoided.  How do we know the difference? First and foremost, be in the Word of God and in active discipleship with a believer more mature in the Lord; and second, there is a helpful guide I found here that is useful for discerning what type of spirit is behind what we are hearing and reading.

1See notes on Canon IV, NPNF2, 110.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bell for Whom Richard Mouw Tolls

Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary has recently commented on Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins and the divergent rhetoric about the ideas posited.  I have not read it, but from internet chatter Bell's position is that anyone who is not openly hostile to God and his revelation will be accepted when brought before the judgment seat.  This thinking has been promulgated over many years, especially recently within the effort for making the gospel relevant to a sin-filled world through postmodern paradigms and seems to be have become a mark of the emerging/emergent church movement of which Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are fixtures.

President Mouw himself supports the book and told a USA Today reporter
I basically agree with his theology.  I knew that the book was being widely criticized for having crossed the theological bridge from evangelical orthodoxy into universalism.  Not true, I told the reporter.  Rob Bell is calling us away from a stingy orthodoxy to a generous orthodoxy.
This seems innocuous enough, and one might naturally ask how Mouw sees Bell adhering to the scriptures.  Sadly, that never occurs.  Mouw's defense is built on C. S. Lewis' understanding of heaven and hell.  In other words, human philosophy is given authority over divine revelation.  As much as I enjoy Lewis' work, the use of faulty, limited, sinful understanding to trump what came through the apostles and prophets by God's command is disastrous and self-defeating.  Mouw also goes on to give statements of a rabbi and Billy Graham that seemed to agree with the basic tenet of Bell—only really bad people like Hitler will go to hell.

Where was Mouw's biblical defense of Rob Bell?  It was nonexistent.  I did not hope for a fully formed outline: just give us something.  What was served up was a plateful of philosophy with a side of straw man.  My Lone Star Steakhouse hamburger and salad at lunch were far more satisfying and beneficial.  I expected more from the president of a seminary.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Antioch - Canon 3

If any presbyter or deacon, or any one whatever belonging to the priesthood, shall forsake his own parish, and shall depart, and, having wholly changed his residence, shall set himself to remain for a long time in another parish, let him no longer officiate; especially if his own bishop shall summon and urge him to return to his own parish and he shall disobey.  And if he persist in his disorder, let him be wholly deposed from his ministry, so that no further room be left for his restoration.  And if another bishop shall receive a man deposed for this cause, let him be punished by the Common Synod as one who nullifies the ecclesiastical laws.

Elders, deacons, and those recognized spiritual leaders were bound to the church which had ordained them.  This was not a restriction as much as an understanding that the Lord raises up qualified spiritual men from within a local gathering to lead that church.  For one to go off to another area and begin a work without being sent was disrespecting both those for whom Christ died and brought together in fellowship in the departed church, but he also has disregarded the Lord's sovereign work in supplying knowledge, giftedness, and a place in which to minister.  This canon did not address the proper leading of the Holy Spirit to go out as a missionary endeavor, since that was accomplished with the blessing of the church.

This synod recognized the place of the priesthood as something distinct from the typical congregant. The priesthood of all believers was taking a backseat to a resurgence of the Levitical priesthood which requires certain appointed individuals were allowed to bring spiritual sacrifices before Lord and the heavenly mercy seat in direct contradiction to God's intended desires.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Antioch - Canon 2

All who enter the church of God and hear the Holy Scriptures, but do not communicate with the people in prayers, or who turn away, by reason of some disorder, from the holy partaking of the Eucharist, are to be cast out of the Church, until, after they shall have made confession, and having brought forth the fruits of penance, and made earnest entreaty, they shall have obtained forgiveness; and it is unlawful to communicate with excommunicated persons, or to assemble in private houses and pray with those who do not pray in the Church; or to receive in one Church those who do not assemble with another Church.  And, if any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any one in the Canon shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated, as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church.

This canon dealt with those who would go to participate in the assembly of the church but leave for no reason before the Lord's Supper was shared.  While some today might consider this much ado about nothing, the early church considered the Lord's Supper to be paramount for the assembly of God's people.  Remembering the Lord was a unique privilege given only to an elect company (i.e. believers).  To disregard this was tantamount to holding Christ in contempt (Heb 6:4-6).  With this in mind, we can understand the severe action taken to depose leaders and cast any who held or taught this out of fellowship.

Should the Lord's Supper have that same status today?  Absolutely.  This has been trivialized in almost every part of Protestantism.  What once was a grand and necessary part of communal life became an afterthought.  Part of the downgrade would stem from the theological shift from sacramental to memorial.  Another factor would be rote without reason.  No longer being a means of grace with actual or perceived active work of God through the elements nor emblems used to reflect on the greatest of sacrifices for the most undeserving, the trend is to consider a work once completed but relegating God to a passive position: he is an observer rather than a participant.  The thought process in the local church, though not affirmed publicly, becomes one of performing a periodic duty to complete the task list for that Sunday morning.

The problem is not the act of remembrance, which we are commanded to do (1 Cor 11:23-26).  Rather the issue is falling short in who and what we remember.  At this point the reader may be thinking, "But we remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins."  That is true enough, but if one stops there, the grandeur of the gospel is missed.  First, consider the person of Christ.  The one agonizing prior to and while on the cross is the Lord of glory, sovereign and creator over all things, who willingly set aside that glory for a time in order to be made like his brethren.  After rising victorious over death and the grave because our justification, he ascended where he is seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, having received a name above every name.  This same one will return in righteousness and judgment upon the earth.  Second, consider the work.  In his incarnation, God took on himself humanity that he might walk among his own to call to repentance, disciple those who would later go out, and willing suffer and die in our stead.  He took captivity captive, gave gifts to men, and now is before the throne ever living to make intercession for us.

How is the situation remedied, then?  The secret is in meditating on the person and work of Christ and the fullness of grace and mercy bestowed on those who confess him.  King David often took time to meditate on God's revelation of himself through his word and nature.  How much more we have the fullness of that revelation in the Lord Jesus being manifest to us and the Holy Spirit abiding and teaching if we simply had ears to hear.  The trick is not so much getting into a spiritual state of mind to think on the Savior but thinking on what is revealed of the Savior and his work in you for your sin and his glory.  The spiritual state of mind will surely follow.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Taking Refuge

To the choirmaster according to Do Not Destroy.
A miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
     for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.    Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
David is writing out of distress to God.  From the title we know it is one of two occasions when David had to seek shelter in caves from the man who seeks to kill him, Saul, his king and father-in-law—once in Adullam, the other in Engedi.  From there David cries out for deliverance.  To whom does he turn?  Caves look secure but can collapse, and they will not fight for you.  David has a number of men fight for his cause, but friends can turn on you.  God is the only one faithful.  He is the only sure refuge.  As a bird cover's its brood and takes the brunt of a storm on itself, so David is seeking for God's protection.  Only in that place can he feel safe.

David knows there is a purpose yet to be fulfilled in his life.  Samuel had anointed him the next king of Israel.  That promise is probably in the forefront of his mind.  If the Lord of glory had selected him, that promise will definitely be fulfilled.  The only question is how and when.  Until then David must rest on that sure promise.  Consider David's condition:
My soul is in the midst of lions;
     I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Ferocious beasts surround him: men acting animal-like in their regard against David.  The situation is difficult and the resolution uncertain.  Not only are his enemies speaking against him, but his friends goad to take Saul's life and end the madness.  David takes no heed to either.  Rather what does he do, but worship?
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
How remarkable that in the midst of dreadful circumstance, that we find one rejoicing in the supreme Lord of all; and yet here David is doing that very thing.  In spite of the unfounded and undeserved hardships, there is a joy that stems from the certainty of the Lord's sure word.  Twice David is within inches of his adversary, and both times he has the opportunity to slay Saul, yet he refuses.  In the end he allows God to take care of matters his own way in his own time.  He waits for Saul to fall into his own trap.
They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves.    Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
David can no longer hold back.  Not only does the circumstance not lead to despair but instead there is music and joy.  David, the musician and psalmist, seeks to begin the day praising the God who is faithful.  He even looks forward to that time when he will be making the Lord's name known to all nations.  All this from knowing that there is a God in heaven who loves and will never forsake.

David took refuge in God and his promises which are enough, but may I say that the Lord has done even more?  As certain as those promises are being established in himself, yet in abounding grace and mercy to us, he visually demonstrated it in Christ Jesus who went to the cross to fulfill the Father's demands concerning sin and atonement.  And so it is that "we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf" (Heb 6:18-20).

As surely as David knew God would complete in him all that had been promised, so we might know that nothing can prevent our Lord from bringing us to our ultimate place, to be with him in resurrection life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Antioch - Canon 1

The Synod of Antioch convened in 341 and was attended only by those from the eastern church most of whom were opposing Athanasius and formed canons that rivaled Nicaea.  As a result, the canons are a challenge: how does one correctly understand and accept the rulings of those holding to a measure of heterodoxy?  Two of the canons were read at Chalcedon and acknowledged as "canons of the holy fathers."  In the same manner, Hillary of Poitiers wrote on the councils and termed this a "synod of saints" (synodus sanctorum).  One might only conclude that the overriding concern in both cases was to reïterate church unity firmly espoused at Nicaea.1

Whosoever shall presume to set aside the decree of the holy and great Synod which was assembled at Nicaea in the presence of the pious Emperor Constantine, beloved of God, concerning the holy and salutary feast of Easter; if they shall obstinately persist in opposing what was rightly ordained, let them be excommunicated and cast out of the Church; this is said concerning the laity.  But if any one of those who preside in the Church, whether he be bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall presume, after this decree, to exercise his own private judgment to the subversion of the people and to the disturbance of the churches, by observing Easter [at the same time] with the Jews, the holy Synod decrees that he shall thenceforth be an alien from the Church, as one who not only heaps sins upon himself, but who is also the cause of destruction and subversion to many; and it deposes not only such persons themselves from their ministry, but those also who after their deposition shall presume to communicate with them.  And the deposed shall be deprived even of that external honor, of which the holy Canon and God’s priesthood partake.

The thesis of the canon was to address those who "obstinately persist in opposing what was rightfully ordained" whether congregant or spiritual leader.  In this case the issue was the date of Easter.  At Nicaea, the observance had been moved from Jewish Passover to the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  This allowed all the churches using the Julian calendar to celebrate on the same day.  Those cities using other calendars (e.g., Antioch used the Jewish calendar) did their best to coïncide.2  Acting or teaching contrary to a canon was tantamount to rebellion against Christ and the authority placed within his body, the church.  The synod felt there was no choice but to cast out the sinners with a view to their ultimate restoration (1 Cor 5:4-5).  Church authorities especially were under a greater condemnation for leading not just themselves but others astray (1 Tim 3:6; James 3:1).

1 For more historical background, see entries in the Catholic Encyclopedia—Church of Antioch and Eusebius of Nicomedia—as well as NPNF2, 14:105.
2 The overriding concern was to avoid Passover because of the great sin perpetrated against Christ on that day.  When the Gregorian calendar was accepted, the alignment of Passover and Easter could no longer be avoided, thus nullifying the occasion but not the underlying attitude being addressed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spiritual Warfare - Demons

My Sunday School class is taking longer than first planned, which only means that I am a poor planner.  Below are the links to the materials for the Demonology unit.

Notes – Again the material is mostly from W. Robert Cook's work mentioned in the first post of the series.
PowerPoint – Self-explanatory
Handout – Basically, these are the PowerPoint slides 2-up on a page.